Like the proverbial mustard seed growing into a gigantic tree, the Faculty of Arts began in 1948 with temporary and make-shift building on the old site in Eleyele, a skeleton staff, and a handful of students reading for the BA General Degree, under the scheme of Special Relationship with the University of London. The original departments were Classics, English (which, from 1954, included a sub-department of Phonetics), Geography, History, Mathematics and Religious Studies. In 1950, Classics, Geography and Mathematics secured recognition for Honours Degree courses under the Special Relationship Scheme. Two years later, the same priviledge was extended to English and History.

In 1953, the Faculty moved to its first permanent buildings on the present campus, and continued to occupy these buildings, located between the Administrative Block and Niger Road, until 1960.

With the coming of University autonomy in 1962, the old Special Relationship courses like History, Religious Studies and Philosophy were radically and systematically modified. A new Ibadan BA Degree structure and programme was designed in response to the peculiarities of the Africanness of the university’s domiciliation and the General Degree was abolished. The Faculty now offered two kinds of Degrees. Single School and Combined School, both being Honours Degrees, but providing also in either case for the award of a Pass Degree. The new structure was designed to meet the need for graduates with a broad educational background, combined with specialization in one or two areas. In addition, Arts Studies, without losing their essential universality, were now more directly related to Africa and more closely centered on the local environment. In the underlying philosophy, the African man culture whom the Faculty sought to produce was seen as neither “an African familiar Machiavelli and unfamiliar with Ibn Khaldun” nor merely “a man of African culture”, but a judicious blend to the two.

The new philosophy was reflected in the creation of a number of new departments and teaching-support units: in 162 came Arabic & Islamic Studies, Linguistics & Nigerian (now African) Languages (based on the old sub-departments of Phonetics), and Modern Languages, but now called, as earlier stated, (European Studies). Mathematics and the sub-department of Geology at last moved to their more natural homes in the Faculty of Science, in the following year (1963). The School of Drama (subsequently the Department of Theatre Arts) was founded around a nucleus of drama specialists hitherto based in the English Department. At the same time serious attention began to be given to the development of Postgraduate Studies and next decades were to witness a progressively increasing output of M.A’s, PhD’s and Postgraduate Diploma holders.

Students are now to specialise either in one of the following disciplines:
  1. Archaeology,
  2. Anthropology,
  3. Arabic,
  4. Classics,
  5. Communication & Language Arts,
  6. English,
  7. French,
  8. German,
  9. Russians,
  10. History,
  11. Islamic Studies,
  12. Linguistics,
  13. Religious Studies,
  14. Theatre Arts,
  15. Yoruba Studies,
  16. Igbo,
  17. Philosophy,
  18. Music,
or in a combination of two disciplines. All students are, however, required, whatever their specialization to take courses in other subject-areas. This evolution has become a continuous process, culminating in 1997/1998, in the present courses and programmes as listed by respective departments.

In its seventy years of existence, the Faculty has produced many illustrious Nigerians and non-Nigerians who have contributed immensely, and continue to contribute, to national development, and to advancing the horizon of scholarship in the Arts and Humanities.