University of Calabar grew out of the Calabar campus of University of Nigeria (UNN), Nigeria which began functioning during the 1973 academic session with 154 students and a small cadre of academic, administration and professional staff. In April 1975, the Federal Military Government of Nigeria announced that as part of the National Development Plan, seven new Universities were to be established at various locations in the country. The University of Calabar was one of the seven Universities set up under this programme.
Located in Calabar Municipal, an ancient city with a long tradition of culture and contact with western civilization, the already developed area of the University occupies a 17-hectare site on the eastern side of the town, between the Great Qua River and the Calabar River. Additional land has been acquired on both sides of the Great Qua River for the development of the University.