Criteria for establishing tertiary institutions in Nigeria


Tertiary institutions are otherwise known as institutions of higher education. They exist to cater for post-secondary education. After students leave secondary schools, they proceed to any of polytechnics, colleges of education and universities. In this article, presents you the criteria for establishing tertiary institutions in Nigeria.

For a tertiary institution to operate in Nigeria, it must be approved by specific agencies of government under the Ministry of Education. We have had previous posts detailing the list of accredited universities, polytechnics and colleges of education in Nigeria. You may want to check those out.

An advantage of a tertiary institution being government approved is that it gets to benefit from the proceeds of the education tax usually channeled through the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund). Currently, only government-owned institutions benefit from the funds for infrastructure and research. Agitations are still ongoing to make sure that such funding is extended to private institutions too. In the meantime, this information is veritable to anyone with the resources to establish a tertiary institution in Nigeria.

Ownership and regulation of Tertiary Institutions in Nigeria

According to the National Minimum Standards and Establishment of Institutions (Amendment Decree No. 9 of 1993), tertiary institutions may be owned by governments, corporate organisations and individuals. Excerpts from Section 19 is presented below:

19A.  An institution of  Higher Education may be sponsored or owned by the Government of the Federation or of a State or Local Government or by any of the following, that is:-

  1. By a Company incorporated in Nigeria: or
  2. By an individual or association of individuals who are citizens of Nigeria, and who satisfy the criteria set out in the Schedule to this Act for establishment of institutions.
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On the regulation of the tertiary institutions, they are variously regulated by established agencies of government. The following are the regulatory agencies of tertiary or higher education in Nigeria.

Institution type Regulatory Agency
Universities National Universities Commission (NUC)
Polytechnics, Colleges of Agriculture National Board for Technical Education (NBTE)
Colleges of Education National Commission for Colleges of Education (NCCE)

For any institution in any of the category to be established, it must follow current guidelines set by the NUC, NBTE or the NCCE, as the case may be.

Criteria for establishing tertiary institutions in Nigeria

According to the policy document on National Minimum Standards and Establishment of Institutions, the following are necessary to be in place before tertiary institutions can be established in Nigeria. It is produced verbatim below.

(1) The academic structure and spread of discipline of the institution shall be such as would cater for areas of felt needs.

(2) 1. Evidence shall be produced to show that the institution would be provided with adequate:-

(a) Funding, both Capital and Recurrent;

(b) Academic and Support Staff.

  1. The proposed staffing guidelines shall meet with current guidelines of :-

(a) The National Universities Commission; or

(b) The National Board for Technical Education; or

(c) The National Commission for Colleges of Education, as the case may be.

(3) The Federal Government must be satisfied that, on approval being given, the sources of funding and necessary funds will be available.

(4) The Federal Government or its accredited agency shall ascertain and be satisfied itself that:-

(a) The fixed and enabling assets, that is, funds, land, movable and immovable assets, are appropriate for establishing the institution in the light of such factors as:-

  1. The type of institution envisaged,
  2. Its philosophy and objectives,
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iii. The cost of goods and services prevailing at the time;

(b) The assets shall be assigned to the institution on approval being given for the institution to be established; and

(c) That the applicant has supplied a concrete and guaranteed source of financial support for the University to the tune of N200 million, N100 million for Polytechnic or Mono technic, and N50 million for a College of Education, over a period of 5 years.

(5) (1) A proposed institution shall have clearly spelt out master plan for infrastructural and programme development for at least 20 to 25 years which shall make adequate provision for:-

(a) Plan space, aesthetic beauty and fixed final assets;

(b) Minimum land area of 100 hectares for a University, 50 hectares for a Polytechnic or Monotechnic and 25 hectares for a College of Education, in a salutary site.

(2)  The site distance from an urban complex shall take into account availability of municipal services, including water, transportation, private accommodation, communication and other consequential inadequate in its Community.

(6) (1) A proposed institution shall have an adequate environment base and shall be open to all Nigerians irrespective of ethnic derivation, social status, religious or political persuasion.

(2) Accordingly, its laws and status shall not conflict with the conventional responsibilities in academia or interfere with avowed traditional institutional autonomy.

(7) To pre-empt problems of inadequate municipal facilities, the proposed institution shall have a clear policy on student and staff accommodation and catering services.

(8) The proposed institution shall have a well-articulated mission and set of objectives which may be original and innovative but unequivocally in consonance with the socio-economic and political aspirations of Nigeria.

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(9) To create and sustain credibility and confidence from the start, the administrative structure of the proposed institution shall not depart too radically from established norms.

(10) The library, laboratory and workshop facilities including instructional tools and consumables, shall be adequate and there shall be long-range plans for sustaining them.

(11) The planning and feasibility report of the proposed institution include proposed contracts and affiliation with existing similar institutions and plans for cooperation and interaction.

(12) The criteria set out in this Schedule shall also apply to a proposed institution which is an Open University except that:-

(a)The minimum land area requirement shall not apply; and

(b) Guidelines prescribed by the appropriate authority as regard technical infrastructure for functional and effective operation shall be satisfied

Getting approval to run the institutions in Nigeria

To secure government approval for the establishment of the tertiary institutions, they must meet the above stated criteria.

The institution’s proprietors need to apply to the Minister of Education through the NUC, the NBTE, or the NCCE as the case may be for universities, polytechnics and colleges of education. Once they are deemed to have satisfied the stated criteria by the specific regulatory body, degrees, diplomas and certificates from them become legally acceptable in Nigeria.

Please, note that only approved institutions can have their certificates presentable for employment and their products eligible for the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC). If you have the resources to establish a tertiary institution, do so. wishes you all the best with that.


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