The size of a university is often measured in terms of the total number of undergraduate and post graduate students it accommodates. Data obtained from the Nigerian University System Statistical Digest shows that the largest university in Nigeria has an overall population of nearly six hundred thousand students. The next four largest universities have above fifty thousand students each. Let us now take a look at these highly populated universities.
The largest university in Nigeria going by the total number of students is the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN). This university was originally established by the Federal Government during the second republic. The succeeding military government however suspended the operations of the university. Following the return to civilian rule in 1999, NOUN was re-established in 2002 by the government of Olusegun Obasanjo. The total enrolment in the university according to the National Universities Commission (NUC) is five hundred and sixty five thousand thre3 hundred and eighty five students (565385).
The university with second largest enrolment in Nigeria is the University of Maiduguri (UNIMAID). This institution (which is the first in the North East) was established in 1975. UNIMAID currently has an enrolment of seventy four thousand five hundred and twenty two students (74,522). This makes it the largest conventional university in Nigeria.
Next on the list is the University of Ilorin (UNILORIN). Like UNIMAID, this school is a second generation university being one of the seven universities founded in 1975 by the Government of General Murtala Ramat Mohammed. It was originally established as a campus of the University of Ibadan but became autonomous two years later. Today, UNILORIN has a total enrolment of nearly fifty four thousand students according to the NUC.
Another university with a total student population above fifty thousand students is Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria. It is the third university in Nigeria and the first in the Northern Region. Interestingly, ABU is the first university in Nigeria to be named after a living person. It currently has a total enrolment of about fifty two thousand students.
University of Benin (UNIBEN) is one of the five universities with a total enrolment that is greater than fifty thousand. According to its website, UNIBEN began as an Institute of Technology in 1970 but was elevated to the status of a university one year later. It is currently one of the few universities with female vice chancellors. This school presently has an enrolment of more than fifty one thousand students.