The University College, Ibadan was founded in 1948. At first, it occupied the old site previously used by the 56th Military General Hospital about eight kilometers away from the 'new' or permanent site. The new site covered over 1,032 hectares of land generously leased by the chiefs and people of Ibadan for 999 years. With equipment transferred from Yaba Higher College, the 104 foundation students (including 49 students in teacher training and survey courses) began their courses at Ibadan, on 18 January, 1948; the formal opening took place on 25 March, 1948. In February, 1948, London University allowed Ibadan its special relationship scheme. Arthur Creech Jones, then Secretary of State for the Colonies, and an influential member of the Elliot Commission, turned the first sod at the permanent site of the University College, on 17 November, 1948, which became the Foundation Day.


In the latter half of the nineteenth century, well-to-do Africans in Lagos met the need for higher education by sending their children overseas for professional training. Some of these returned to press for the establishment of institutions of higher learning in Nigeria. Not much progress was made until the 1930s. In Nigeria, the Yaba Higher College (established in 1932, but formally opened in 1934) and the Yaba Medical School (established in 1930), which granted diplomas and certificates in selected subjects, hardly satisfied the aspirations of those who longed for university education.