In order to achieve rapid industrialization and development after independence, Nigeria needed to invest in the training of a professional workforce. The indispensable need to create more universities to reach this goal was facilitated by the establishment of the University of Lagos in 1962. The Eric Ashby Commission on Post School Certificate and Higher Education was established by the Nigerian Government in May 1959.

The Ashby Commission’s report, titled Investment in Education, recommended the establishment of a new university in Lagos, the then Federal Capital, to provide education for students in Economics, Commerce, Business Administration, and Higher Management Studies. In 1961, UNESCO Advisory Commission was assigned the detailed planning of the new university by the Federal Government. However, whereas the Ashby Commission had envisaged a non-residential institution which would be cited in the business district of Central Lagos, the UNESCO Commission opted for a traditional university, “a complete all encompassing institution” with residential accommodation on a large campus. Following the acceptance of the UNESCO Commission’s report, the University of Lagos was established on 22 October 1962 on the authority of the University of Lagos Act of 1962.

The University has remained one of the most competitive in the country in terms of admissions. Notwithstanding, with approximately 45,000 students as of 2010, the University of Lagos has one of the largest student populations of any University in the country. The University of Lagos is among the first generation of universities in Nigeria and also one of the twenty-five federal universities which are overseen and accredited by the National Universities Commission. The University has also built a legacy of academic excellence[citation needed] and is now acclaimed publicly as “the University of First Choice and the Nation’s Pride.” The University of Lagos is a Centre for academic research. The University research activity was one of the major criteria used by the National Universities Commission (NUC) in adjudging the University as the Best University in Nigeria at the Nigerian University System Annual Merit Award (NUSAMA) in 2008.