The National University Commission (NUC) is the statutory body regulating the procedure to open a private university in Nigeria. The NUC is empowered by the provisions of National Universities Commission Act 1974 and Education (National Minimum Standards and Establishment of Institutions) Act of 1993 (as amended). The Companies and Allied Matters Act 2020 (CAMA) provides for different type of incorporations in Nigeria. While every institutions of higher learning must be registered in accordance with the provisions of CAMA, for any private university to commence operation, it must be licensed by the Federal Government through the NUC and the Federal Executive Council.

Any person who intends to start a private institution in Nigeria must see to complying with the laid-down requirements for obtaining the necessary license to operate.

This write up will briefly highlight the step-by-step procedures for establishing a private university in Nigeria.

Registration of the University with CAC

The Companies and Allied Matters requires all businesses to be registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC). The promoters of the proposed university must first register the university with CAC as required under Companies and Allied Matters Act, 2020 (CAMA).

Section 26 of CAMA provides for the category in which a private university is to be registered with CAC if all the income of the school is to be entirely dedicated towards promotion of it. Section 26 of CAMA provides thus;

"Where a company is to be formed for the promotion of commerce, art, science, religion, sports, culture, education, research, charity, or other similar objects, and the income and property of the company are to be applied solely towards the promotion of its objects and no portion thereof is to be paid or transferred directly to the members of the company except as permitted by this Act, the company shall not be registered as accompany limited by shares, but may be registered as a company limited by guarantee".

However, a private university may also be registered as a private limited liability company, if it is to be run for profit by the owners. Another form of incorporation that may be used to establish a private university is through incorporated trustees, otherwise known as non-governmental organization (NGO).

Registration with National University Commission (NUC)

The National University Commission as empowered by Education (National Minimum Standards and Establishment of Institutions) Act of 1993 (as amended) provides for the following steps to be complied with in opening a private university in Nigeria:

  1. Application for establishment of institution is made in writing, to the Executive Secretary of NUC, stating the intent for the establishment of the university.
  2. Interview of Promoters to ascertain their seriousness.
  3. Collection of application forms.
  4. Submission of application forms and relevant documents like; draft academic brief; draft of physical masterplan; draft university law; counterpart deed of assignment; certificate of incorporation (accompanied with Articles and Memorandum of Association); deed of assignment or certificate of occupancy; letter of available liquid cash; and bank guarantee of funds to the tune of N200 Million from a reputable Bank.

NB: Submission should be at the instance of the Directorate of Establishment of Private Universities (DEPU).

  1. Interactive meeting of DEPU with the proposed university.
  2. Completion of submission of outstanding relevant documents.
  3. Intensive review or analysis of documents by experts in relevant NUC Departments.
  4. First verification visit.
  5. Revision of documentation by proprietors based on report by DEPU of NUC.
  6. Second verification visit.
  7. Security screening of the Proprietors & Board of Trustees.
  8. Approval by NUC Management.
  9. Approval by NUC Board.
  10. Approval by Federal Executive Council (FEC), for a three-year provisional license and after probationary period issue a substantive license.

In conclusion, the above listed steps must be strictly complied with before an approval can be given in establishing a private university in Nigeria. Upon the registration, the NUC is also empowered to accredit courses a private university can offer to students.

The purpose of the school, whether as profit-oriented venture or charitable organization, is what will determine the appropriate incorporation suitable to be used for the establishment of such a private university.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.