In Nigeria, educational institutions established for university, technological, or professional education are classified as Institutions of Higher Learning. There are various types of Institutions of Higher Learning, such as polytechnics, colleges of education, colleges of agriculture, and universities, which may be owned by the government or privately owned. This article will focus on the procedure and requirements for establishing a private university in Nigeria.

The National University Commission (NUC) is a regulatory body in Nigeria that oversees the establishment of both private and public universities. The Commission is empowered by the National Universities Commission Act of 1974 and the Education (National Minimum Standards and Establishment of Institutions) Act of 1993, which have been amended over time. In Nigeria, every institution of higher learning must be registered in accordance with the provisions of the Companies and Allied Matters Act 2020 (CAMA). Private universities, in particular, must obtain a license from the Federal Government through the National University Commission and the Federal Executive Council before they can commence operations. Anyone looking to start a private institution in Nigeria must comply with the laid-down requirements and guidelines for obtaining the necessary license to operate and carry out business.


According to Section 20 of the Education (National Minimum Standards and Establishment of Institutions) Act, the following persons;

1. The Federal, State or Local Government

2. A company Incorporated in Nigeria

3. Individuals or association of individuals who are citizens of Nigeria so long as they satisfy the laid out criteria for establishing a university in Nigeria.


To establish a privately owned university in Nigeria, the following procedure must be followed;


According to the Companies and Allied Matters Act, it is mandatory for all entities, whether profit-making or non-profit-making, to register with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC). Therefore, those who plan to establish a university must first register it with the CAC, as required by the Act. At present, the guidelines for registering a company that runs university education in Nigeria necessitate that such universities must be registered as a company limited by guarantee.


To operate a private university in Nigeria, an application must be submitted to the National University Commission to obtain the necessary approval. The Commission will consider approving only if certain criteria are met. Some of these criteria include:

1. The institution’s academic structure and disciplinary spread should cater to areas of identified needs.

2. Demonstrate compliance with NUC guidelines by providing required funding and staffing.

3. Proof that the sources of funding and necessary funds will be available once approval is given

4. The proposed institution shall have a comprehensive master plan for infrastructure and program development spanning 20 to 25 years.

5. The proposed institution shall be open to all Nigerians, regardless of ethnicity, social status, religion, or political affiliation, and must have sufficient enrolment.

6. The proposed institution must have clear policies regarding student and staff accommodation and catering services to avoid issues with inadequate municipal facilities.

7. The proposed institution must have a clear mission that aligns with Nigeria’s aspirations.

8. The proposed institution’s administrative structure should be in line with established norms to build confidence and credibility from the beginning.

9. The facilities for the library, laboratory, and workshop, including instructional materials and consumables, must be adequate, with long-term plans for their maintenance.

10. The planning and feasibility report of the proposed institution should include proposed contacts and affiliations with existing similar institutions, as well as plans for cooperation and interaction.


The National Universities Commission provides guidelines for obtaining approval to establish a university in Nigeria:

1. Submit a written application to the Executive Secretary of the National University Commission expressing the intention to establish the proposed University.

2. Interviews are being conducted with the promoters of the proposed University to determine their level of seriousness.

3. Collection of application forms after payment of the requisite fee

4. Completed application forms are submitted alongside a non-refundable processing fee and one or more of the following documents; draft academic brief, draft of physical masterplan, draft of University law, counterpart deed of assignment, incorporation documents, deed of assignment/certificate of occupancy, letter of available liquid cash, bank guarantee of funds to the tune of N200,000,000 (two hundred million naira) from a reputable bank.

5. An interactive meeting of the Directorate of Establishment of Private Universities (DEPU) is held with members of the planning and implementation committee of the proposed university.

6. Completion of submission of all outstanding relevant documents

7. Review and analysis of documents is carried out by experts in various NUC departments

8. The first verification visit is carried out by DEPU to review their documents with them on a one-on-one basis and to assess the level of preparedness in terms of documentation

9. Revision of documents by promoters of the proposed university following a report by DEPU of the NUC

10. The second and final verification visit is carried out by DEPU

11. Security screening of promoters and members of the board of Trustees of the proposed university to ensure the latter are not persons of questionable character

12. The final report is written by DEPU to the management of the NUC

13. Approval by the NUC board based on the recommendations of the University Development Committee

14. Approval by the Federal Executive Council based on the recommendations of the NUC board and security report of the promoters and trustees of the proposed university.

15. Where approval is given by the NUC, the proposed university is given a three-year provisional license and upon satisfactory performance, a substantive license is issued.


According to Section 20 of the Education (National Minimum Standards and Establishment of Institutions) Act, it is not allowed for a foreign individual or group of foreigners to establish a private university in Nigeria as promoters. However, there are other legal ways through which a foreigner can establish a private university in Nigeria. It is important to note that the criteria and procedures for registration and license approval may vary significantly depending on the chosen method.


Upon registration, the National University Commission accredits courses for students.

Based on the procedures and requirements outlined above, it is evident that starting a privately owned university in Nigeria is a complex process compared to other business sectors. As a result, the founders of a proposed university must take proper measures to ensure that they meet all compliance requirements and ensure a successful venture.

For legal advice and professional assistance with setting up a private university in Nigeria, please contact us here or through the WhatsApp icon on the lower right page and we will respond.







Cynthia Tishion
Cynthia is a lawyer and currently serves as Head of Corporate / Commercial Services at LEX – PRAXIS. With her passion for business and entrepreneurship, she is actively engaged in creating awareness on the legal aspect of businesses through various platforms such as writing, public speaking engagements.

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