Types of Tertiary Institutions in Nigeria


Across all nations of the world, the educational system is divided into: lower level, middle level and upper level. In Nigeria, the lower level education is called the primary education, the middle level is called the secondary education, while the upper level education is called the tertiary education. In the primary school, students are taught the basics of education and equipped with the foundation on which other levels of education are built. The secondary education prepares them for the tertiary education, while the tertiary education equip them with knowledge for their chosen careers.

Nigeria operates a 9-3-4 educational system, which means that the lower level of education takes nine years, middle level of education takes three years and the upper level of education takes a minimum of four years. Although some tertiary education courses that take below and above four years.

Types of Tertiary Institutions in Nigeria

Tertiary institutions are institutes of higher learning that provides post secondary education to students. They provide the required knowledge needed for students to begin a career of their choice and have a source of livelihood. Based on the kind of certificate they issue, tertiary institutions are of four different types in Nigeria and they are classified into:

  1. Universities
  2. Polytechnics
  3. Colleges of education
  4. Technical training institutes and vocational schools

1. University

University is an higher institution of learning and research that awards degrees to students in several disciplines. Universities in Nigeria offers both undergraduate and postgraduate programs. Undergraduate programs are undergone by students after a secondary school education, while post graduates programmes are taken by graduates who wish to study further. Nigerian universities are usually state owed, federal government owned or privately owned. These universities are accredited by the National Universities Commission (NUC).

To gain admission into a Nigerian university, you need to have a minimum of five credit in relevant subjects and an average score of 200 in UTME. You can also gain admission through direct entry with certificates from tertiary institutions like polytechnics and colleges of education. There are a total of 170 universities in Nigeria, out of which 79 are private, 43 are federal and 48 are state owned. Among the popular universities in Nigeria are:

  • University of Ibadan
  • University of Lagos
  • Obafemi Awolowo University
  • Afe Babalola University
  • Covenant University
  • Ahmadu Bello University
  • University of Benin
  • Babcock University
  • Bayero University, Kano etc.

2. Polytechnic

Polytechnic is another higher institution of learning that is often regarded as next after universities. It is a technical institution that offers technical education programs. They usually award diploma certificates at the end of the course. The diploma are divided into two; Ordinary National Diploma (OND) and Higher National Diploma (HND), which are awarded upon the completion of each two year course. Although a few polytechnics in Nigeria are beginning to award degrees. With an Ordinary National Diploma (OND), students can be awarded direct entry into the university. The minimum entry requirement in a polytechnic is the SSCE/GCE O’Level credit passes in five relevant subjects. Popular polytechnics in Nigeria include:

  • Abia Sate Polytechnic
  • Benue State Polytechnic
  • Federal Polytechnic, Ilaro
  • Ramat Polytechnic
  • Auchi Polytechnic
  • Lagos State Polytechnic
  • Yaba College of Technology etc.

3. Colleges of Education

Colleges of education is another form of higher institution of learning in Nigeria. They usually train students to become teachers in primary and secondary schools and award certification called Nigeria Certificate in Education (NCE). The colleges of education in Nigeria are responsible for expanding the basic education sector. The courses offered in a college of education takes a duration of three years after which the students becomes a certified teacher. The admission process into a college of education is similar to that of the university and Polytechnic, which is five credit passes in relevant subjects and a little below average UTME score. With a an NCE certificate, graduates can further their academic pursuits in the university through the Direct Entry admission exercise. Popular colleges of education in Nigeria are:

  • Federal College of Education, Asaba
  • Federal College of Education, Abeokuta
  • Federal College of Education, Oyo
  • Zamfara State College of Education
  • Adeyemi College of Education, Ondo
  • Alvan Ikoku College of Education, Owerri.

4. Technical Training Institutes Or Vocational Schools

Technical training institute is a tertiary institution of learning that is focused on research and vocational training. Courses offered in a technical training institute prepares the students for careers that are based on practical applications. Teacher training institutes can also be classified under this type of tertiary education. They help to develop skilled artisans, craftsmen and technicians for the technology industry. Technical training institutes offer courses like: electrical installation and maintenance, mechanical maintenance and machining, auto mechanic works, software and hardware engineering, welding and metal fabrication, plumbing and so on. Some technical training institutes in Nigeria are:

  • Industrial Skill Training Centre, Ikeja
  • Institute For Industrial Technology
  • Cifman Institute Of Technology And Management
  • Brown Technologies
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