The Asqwith/Elliot and Sir Eric Ashby's Commissions on behalf of the British Government made recommendations in the 1940s and 1950s to bring about higher education in Nigeria. The Nigerian College of Arts Science and Technology, a Federal institution with branches in Enugu, Ibadan and Zaria was established in 1950 with Mr. W.H. Thorp as the first principal of the college. Work commenced in Ibadan in that same year and the first college council meeting was held on the 25th June 1953. The Department of Fine Arts, which started at the Ibadan branch of the Nigerian College of Arts Science and Technology in 1953, was moved to the Zaria Branch in 1955. The Diploma in Fine Art and in Commercial Design was a four-year residential course and comprised.
- A two-year general course leading to the College Intermediate Certificate. In the first year students took the Advanced Level examination in Art - the General Certificate of Education. The general course comprised of Drawing, Painting, Sculpture, Pottery, Fabric-Printing, History of Art and English.
- During the third and fourth years the students studied Ceramics, Painting, Sculpture, Commercial Design, Textile Design, and in addition, took a course in the History of Nigerian and European Art. At the end of the course, students were examined for the award of the Diploma in Fine Art or in Commercial Design or Textile Design, or Ceramics.
The Diploma course, which was designed to be equivalent in standard to those courses in United Kingdom Colleges of Art, which were recognized as conferring graduate status, were assessed by visiting examiners to ensure maintenance of standards. The professor of Sculpture of the Slade School of Art in the University of London acted as Visiting Moderator in the Intermediate examination of 1959 and 1962. In 1960 when the Ahmadu Bello University was started, it took over the assets of the Nigerian College and the four-year Bachelor of Arts course. The pioneering graduate of the Ahmadu Bello University emerged in June 1963. In 1971, one-year certificate courses in Art and Design as well as a three-year Diploma in Fine Arts were designed. Owing to the existence of such programmes in Polytechnics and Colleges of Education, they were phased out in 1986. In 1978, the Department of Fine Arts was split into two Departments: the Department of Fine Arts and the Department of Industrial Design so as to cater for the industrial needs of the nation and to ensure future smooth technological take-off.