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Nigeria has a federal system of government with 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory of Abuja. Within the states, there are 744 local governments in total.

Education is administered by the federal, state and local governments. The Federal Ministry of Education is responsible for overall policy formation and ensuring quality control, but is primarily involved with tertiary education. School education is largely the responsibility of state (secondary) and local (elementary) governments.

The country is multilingual, and home to more than 250 different ethnic groups. The languages of the three largest groups, the Yoruba, the Ibo, and the Hausa, are the language of instruction in the earliest years of basic instruction; they are replaced by English in Grade 4.

Overall Structure

Nigeria’s education system encompasses three different sectors: basic education (nine years), post-basic/senior secondary education (three years), and tertiary education (four to six years, depending on the program of study).

According to Nigeria’s latest National Policy on Education (2004), basic education covers nine years of formal (compulsory) schooling consisting of six years of elementary and three years of junior secondary education. Post-basic education includes three years of senior secondary education.

At the tertiary level, the system consists of a university sector and a non-university sector. The latter is composed of polytechnics, monotechnics, and colleges of education. The tertiary sector as a whole offers opportunities for undergraduate, graduate, and vocational and technical education.

The academic year typically runs from September to July. Most universities use a semester system of 18 – 20 weeks. Others run from January to December, divided into 3 terms of 10 -12 weeks.

Basic Education

Elementary education covers grades one through six. As per the most recent Universal Basic Education guidelines implemented in 2014, the curriculum includes: English, Mathematics, Nigerian language, basic science and technology, religion and national values, and cultural and creative arts, Arabic language (optional). Pre-vocational studies (home economics, agriculture, and entrepreneurship) and French language are introduced in grade 4.

Nigeria’s national policy on education stipulates that the language of instruction for the first three years should be the “indigenous language of the child or the language of his/her immediate environment”, most commonly Hausa, Ibo, or Yoruba. This policy may, however, not always be followed at schools throughout the country, and instruction may instead be delivered in English.

Senior Secondary Education

Senior Secondary Education lasts three years and covers grades 10 through 12. In 2010, Nigeria reportedly had a total 7,104 secondary schools with 4,448,981 pupils and a teacher to pupil ratio of about 32:1.

Reforms implemented in 2014 have led to a restructuring of the national curriculum. Students are currently required to study four compulsory “cross-cutting” core subjects, and to choose additional electives in four available areas of concentration. Compulsory subjects are: English language, mathematics, civic education, and one trade/entrepreneurship subject. The available concentration subjects are: Humanities, science and mathematics, technology, and business studies. The new curriculum has a stronger focus on vocational training than previous curricula, and is intended to increase employability of high school graduates in light of high youth unemployment in Nigeria.

At the end of the 12th grade in May/June, students sit for the Senior School CertificateExamination(SSCE). They are examined in a minimum of seven and a maximum of nine subjects, including mathematics and English, which are mandatory. Successful candidates are awarded the Senior Secondary Certificate (SSC), which lists all subjects successfully taken. Students can sit for a second SSC annual exam if interested or if they need to improve on poor results in the May/June exams. 

SSC examinations are offered by two different examination boards: the West AfricanExamination Council and the National Examination Council (NECO). The examination is open to students currently enrolled in the final year of secondary school, as well external private candidates (in the November/December session only).


The National University Commission (NUC), the government umbrella organization that oversees the administration of higher education in Nigeria, listed 4o federal universities, 44 state universities and 68 private universities as accredited degree-granting institutions on its website as of 2017.

Many of these institutions are relatively new. In response to demographic pressures Nigeria’s higher education sector expanded over a relatively short period. In 1948, there was only one university-level institution in the country, the University College of Ibadan, which was originally an affiliate of the University of London. By 1962, the number of federal universities had increased to five: the University of Ibadan, the University of Ife, the University of Nigeria, Ahmadu Bello University, and the University of Lagos. 

Amongst numerous universities in the country, here are some of the Federal universities:

    1. Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, Bauchi
    2. Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria
    3. Bayero University,Kano
    4. Federal University Gashua
    5. Federal University of Petroleum Resources, Effurun
    6. Federal University of Technology, Akure
    7. Federal University of Technology, Minna.
    8. Federal University of Technology, Owerri
    9. Federal University, Dutse, Jigawa State
    10. Federal University, Dutsin-Ma, Katsina
    11. Federal University, Kashere, Gombe State
    12. Federal University, Lafia, Nasarawa State
    13. Federal University, Lokoja, Kogi State
    14. Federal University, Ndufu-Alike, Ebonyi State
    15. Federal University, Otuoke, Bayelsa
    16. Federal University, Oye-Ekiti, Ekiti State
    17. Federal University, Wukari, Taraba State
    18. Federal University, Birnin Kebbi.
    19. Federal University, Gusau.
    20. Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike
    21. Modibbo Adama University of Technology, Yola
    22. National Open University of Nigeria, Lagos.
    23. Nigerian Defence Academy,Kaduna
    24. Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka
    25. Obafemi Awolowo University,Ile-Ife
    26. Police Academy Wudil
    27. University of Abuja, Gwagwalada
    28. University of Agriculture, Abeokuta.
    29. University of Agriculture, Makurdi.
    30. University of Benin
    31. University of Calabar
    32. University of Ibadan
    33. University of Ilorin
    34. University of Jos
    35. University of Lagos
    36. University of Maiduguri
    37. University of Nigeria, Nsukka
    38. University of Port-Harcourt
    39. University of Uyo
    40. Usumanu Danfodiyo University


Nigeria’s 40 federal universities as well as dozens of teaching hospitals and colleges are under the direct purview of the NUC. State governments have responsibility for the administration and financing of the 44 state universities.

In addition to granting institutional accreditation, the NUC approves and accredits all university programs. Accreditation is granted for an initial three-year period and subsequent five-year periods. (For a detailed overview of the process see the NUCs 2012 accreditation manual).  The suspension of accreditation for programs is not uncommon. In 2016, for example, the NUC publicized a list of 150 unaccredited degree programs at 37 universities.