Institute for Development Studies (IDS) was established on July 22, 1963 under an agreement between the University of Nigeria Nsukka, Michigan State University USA, the Ford Foundation and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). It was then known as Economic Development Institute (EDI). The Institute’s major mandate at that time was to engage in development economics research which guided her in making input into government policies and programmes of the time.

The initial leadership of the Institute for Development Studies up till the commencement of the early independence political crisis and civil war was provided by Michigan State University. The first Director of the Institute was Professor Johnson Glenn L. (1963-1964), followed by Dr. Eicher, Carl C. (1964-1966).

The Institute had barely settled down with its activities and programmes when the civil war broke out. This resulted in the departure of its mostly expatriate staff, disruption and eventual cessation of her research and training projects. The war induced departure of the expatriates resulted in the appointment of the first indigenous director of the Institute – Dr Sylvester Ugo, (1966-1972).

When the civil war ended in 1970, the immediate preoccupation of the University administration was the reestablishment of the teaching departments and faculties in the university. It was in 1972 that new staff was recruited and some activities commenced at the Institute.

Based on the observed fact that in spite of modest economic growth rates of sub-Saharan African countries, poverty among the people was deepening, coupled with the unsustainable growth path prevailing then, the EDI was renamed Institute for Development Studies (IDS) in January, 1984 following the decision of the senate of the University of Nigeria. This further broadened the mandate and scope of activities of this pioneer Nigerian Development Studies Institute making it more innovative and interdisciplinary. The Institute commenced post graduate studies programme leading to the award of PGD; M.Sc.; and PhD degrees in development studies in 2006.