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In meeting the dictates of the Third National Development Plan, which aimed at providing expanded educational opportunities for Nigerians, the then Federal Military Government, in August 1975, established seven new universities to complement the four existing ones. The new universities were to be located in Calabar, Jos, Maiduguri, Sokoto, Kano, Port-Harcourt, and Ilorin.

The University of Ilorin is hosted by the ancient city of Ilorin, Kwara State in the North Central geo-political zone of Nigeria. The historical town is about 451 kilometres by road from Abuja, the nation’s Federal Capital. Ilorin is a transitional zone and a geographical and cultural confluence of the Northern and Southern Nigeria. The University has a large land mass of about 15, 000 hectares.

The University took off in October 1975 as a University College affiliated to the University of Ibadan with the late Professor Tekena Tamuno, as its pioneer Head. Designated as Principal, Professor Tamuno was succeeded, in December 1975, when he became the Vice Chancellor of the University of Ibadan, by Professor Oladipo Akinkugbe.

When the University College became a full-fledged University in October1977, Professor Akinkugbe became its first Vice-Chancellor and he held that position until October 1978.     Other Vice-Chancellors who have administered the University were: Professor A.O. Adesola,1978 -   1981; Professor S.A. Toye, 1981 – 1985;  Professor A. Adeniyi,1985 – 1992; Professor J. O. Oyinloye,1992 -1997; Professor S.O. AbdulRaheem,1997 – 2002; Professor S.O.O. Amali, 2002 –2007; Professor Is-Haq O. Oloyede, 2007 –2012; and Professor AbdulGaniyu Ambali, 2012–2017. The incumbent Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Sulyman Age Abdulkareem, assumed office on October 16, 2017.

At inception, the University of Ilorin started with three Faculties (Arts, Education and Science) at its temporary site, a section of the College of Technology ceded to it by the Kwara State government. Now, it is a 15-Faculty citadel of learning, all housed in its expansive main campus. In addition to the three foundation Faculties, the University now has the following Faculties: Basic Medical Sciences, Clinical Sciences, Engineering and Technology, Social Sciences, Management Sciences, Agriculture, Law, Life Sciences, Physical Sciences, Communication and Information Sciences, Environmental Sciences, Pharmaceutical Sciences, and Veterinary Medicine. And between the 15 Faculties, the University now has a total of 108 academic Departments.

As at 2018/2019 academic session, the University’s student population is about 55, 242 students while its staff strength is 4, 218 consisting of 1,504 academic and 2, 718 non-teaching. Many factors are responsible for this feat. These include the good name the University has made for itself, the high quality of its graduates, its tradition of maintaining a stable academic calendar, high moral standard of its students and graduates coupled with academic excellence and its beautiful and serene environment.

Quite early in its existence, the University realized that its temporary site was inadequate to meet its ever-increasing student and staff population and the requirement of space for administrative, teaching, and learning purposes. It, therefore, embarked on the physical development on the temporary site. Consequently, a new administrative block, lecture halls, students’ hostels, staff offices, clinic, work yard, recreational facilities, students’ cafeteria, staff club, staff quarters were built along with the expansion of an existing library and the construction and upgrading of internal roads.

In the 1977/78 academic session, the University engaged the services of a consortium of professionals to design a master plan for the physical development of its main campus. The turning of the first sod was performed in 1977 by Brigadier George Innih, the then Military Governor of Kwara State, after which the construction of physical structures commenced in earnest. These included blocks of lecture rooms, staff offices, teaching laboratories, lecture theatres, students’ hostels and the access road to the University from the town.

By December 1981, the construction of eight blocks of students’ hostels and the buildings of the Faculties of Sciences, Engineering and Technology (Blocks 1 – 10) on the site had been completed. Consequently, theses Faculties moved to the site in 1982, and the University started operating a dual-campus system. The Faculties of Agriculture and Law were built on the site in 1985 and 1996 respectively.

The University Library was opened in 1976 at the temporary site. Later in 1977, it was restructured and it housed the initial holdings comprising 7, 314 books, 594 journals made up of 1, 500 volumes, and 63 Government publications. The University Library was built on the main campus in 1990.

In order to increase access to higher education, the University, early at inception, introduced Remedial programmes  in its Arts and Science disciplines through which candidates who have potentials for university education  are assisted to remedy the deficiencies in their entry qualifications.

Postgraduate studies commenced in the University in 1978 for the M.Sc. degree programme in the Department of Biological Sciences. Since then, other Departments in the University have been running Postgraduate Diploma, Master and Ph. D degrees in academic and professional disciplines. The Postgraduate School was established on 8th November, 1983 to coordinate all postgraduate activities and ensure the effective training of postgraduate students that would lead to the expansion of the frontiers of knowledge and enhance national development.

  The University attracts both academic and non-academic staff, from virtually every part of Nigeria probably because of its central geographical location and the deliberate efforts of successive Administrations in attracting its workforce. In order to achieve the acclaimed universal concept, the University engaged the services of the Inter-University Council (IUC) London Office to assist in recruiting foreign world-class academics.

The welfare of the students is given priority by the University.  At the beginning of every session, the Student Affairs Unit organizes an orientation programme for new students.  This largely ensures peace and tranquility on the campus.

The University, through its Centre for International Education (CIE), has facilitated students exchange with foreign institutions based on existing Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) with such institutions. This has promoted regional integration, acculturation and enhanced educational research opportunities.

The modest efforts of the University on internationalization have yielded many gains, which include placing the University on the global map of higher institutions of repute, affording the University the opportunity to partner many reputable universities all over the world,

At the University of Ilorin, student unionism is a tool for progressive transformation of the lives and status of the generality of the institution’s student populace.  The sort of synergy that exists between the student body and the University administration is such that engenders mutual trust in a no-hold barred atmosphere of openness.

For three consecutive years, the Ranking Web of Universities, Webometrics, ranked the University the best in Nigeria in 2009, 2010 and 2011. The recent rating of Unilorin as one of the best universities in Nigeria by world universities’ ranking agency, the 4 International Colleges and Universities (4ICU), is a veritable testament to University of Ilorin’s unrelenting drive for excellence and a due recognition of the University’s commitment to uplifting the nation’s sliding academic standard with its stable academic calendar that has never been interrupted by any form of frivolous workers’ strike since the past 17 years.

Since 2011, Unilorin has maintained a steady presence among most preferred educational institutions by prospective students. According to statistics obtained from the National Universities Commission (NUC), the University has since 2014 to date, consistently maintained the 1st position, as the most sought after University by admission seekers in the country.

Also, for two concurrent editions of the Nigerian Universities Doctoral Thesis  Awards Scheme (NUDTAS), the University of Ilorin showed unprecedented class by winning three of the 17 available awards in 2008/2009 and 2010/2011 respectively.

All these achievements did not just come from the blues for the University. They are well-deserved reward of consistent drive for excellence by the University under successive Vice-Chancellors.

The University has recorded many achievements in all spheres of its main mandates: teaching, research and community service. The welfare of staff and students are top priorities; teaching and research are of high standards; infrastructural development is receiving the necessary attention, excellent town and gown relationship is being promoted, internally generated revenue is being enhanced, fiscal discipline, transparency and accountability are getting the necessary fillip and the University is already making a determined move through its oil palm plantation initiative to contribute to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product.

Over the years, the University of Ilorin has blazed the trail in the area of utilitarian researches, innovative seminars and prophylactic workshops that have kick-started solving some identified societal challenges. Example of the efforts by the University at tackling some nagging national issues include the development of speed breaker device, the anti-electricity power theft device, multi-layer amour composite vest and anti-oil spillage device which were fabricated by the current Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Sulyman Age Abdulkareem. These inventions, indeed, signposted the University's commitment to registering its relevance in the nation's sustained effort to overcome some developmental challenges.

Graduates of the University have equally continued to excel in their sphere of influence. For example, an Alumnus of the University, a 34-year-old Mr. Muyiwa Tola Atoyebi, became the youngest-ever Senior Advocate of Nigeria, (SAN).