Cheikh Anta Diop University, Dakar, Senegal | CruiseBe
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Cheikh Anta Diop University

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Cheikh Anta Diop University (French: Université Cheikh Anta Diop or UCAD), also known as the University of Dakar, is a university in Dakar, Senegal. It is named after the Senegalese physicist, historian and anthropologist Cheikh Anta Diop and has an enrollment of over 60,000.


Cheikh Anta Diop University predates Senegalese independence and grew out of several French institutions set up by the colonial administration. In 1918, the French created the "école africaine de médecine" (African medical school), mostly to serve white and Métis students but also open to the small educated elite of the four free towns of Senegal with nominal French citizenship. In 1936, under the Popular Front government in France, Dakar became home to the Institut Fondamental d'Afrique Noire (IFAN), an institute for the study of African culture.

In 1950s, with decolonisation already looming, the French administration expanded these schools, added science faculties, and combined the schools into the "Institut des Hautes Etudes de Dakar". In 1957, a new campus was constructed as the 18th French Public University, attached to the University of Paris and the University of Bordeaux. This became the University of Dakar the largest and most prestigious university in French West Africa. In 1987, its name was changed to honor the Senegalese philosopher and anthropologist, Cheikh Anta Diop.

Enrollment growth

At independence in 1960, enrollment was 1,018 students, only 39% Senegalese, with most of the rest from other former French colonies. By 1976, this number grew to 8,014.

The 1970s, a time of state financial crisis, saw a cut in funding to higher education, with international agencies stepping in over the next decade. Most of this funding, though, went to meet the needs of primary schools. The 1990s and 2000s saw a huge boom in Senegalese primary and secondary education, much of it funded through international projects. In 1984 around 50% of Senegalese children received primary education and by 2004 more than 90% did.

In the mid-1980s around 20% of World Bank funding to Senegalese education went to higher education, but this figure dropped to 7% by the mid-1990s. With these projects came severe World Bank restrictions, dramatically cutting domestic funding available to university programs. As students who have benefited from primary and secondary education age, Cheikh Anta Diop University has had its already stretched resources stretched further. Nine thousand Senegalese students received a Baccalaureate degree in 2000, while total registration shot above 40,000, for a campus built with only 5,000 dorm rooms.

Despite these pressures Cheikh Anta Diop University maintains a reputation as one of Africa's most prestigious institutions. Most of the post-independence generation of Senegalese leaders are graduates of the university, and its alumni teach in universities around the world.


The education system follows the French pattern, with oral and/or written final exams administered at the end of the year. All courses at the university are taught in French, except those in language departments other than French.

Schools and institutes

UCAD offers courses of study in Humanities, Sciences, Engineering, Medicine, Finance, Accounting, and Law. The university awards the following degrees: B.A., B.S., Ph.D., and D.M.A.

The School of Medicine includes departments of Pharmacy, Research, and Surgery. The university also encompasses the Institute of Sciences of the Environment (ISE) and the Institute of Sciences of Earth (ISE).

The Institut Fondamental d'Afrique Noire (IFAN), originally founded in 1936, remains one of the world centers of African Studies. The IFAN Museum of African Arts' Musée d'Art africain, attached to IFAN, displays and conserves a world-renowned collection of African arts.

The Centre de linguistique appliquée de Dakar (Center of Applied Linguistics of Dakar) at CADU is the regulatory body for the Wolof language.

Language studies are divided into the following disciplines:

  • Philosophy: Mr. Ousseynou Kane
  • Sociology: Mr. Moustapha Tamba
  • History: Mrs Rokhaya Fall Sokhna
  • Geography: Mrs Aminata Ndiaye
  • Letters: Mrs. Mame Sow Diouf
  • Arabic: Mr. Cheikh Ahmed Tidiane Diallo
  • Russian: Mr. Cheikh Sougou Fara
  • Languages and Civilizations: Mr. Mamadou Ndiaye
  • English, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Latin: Mamadou Gaye
  • German: Daha Deme
  • Linguistics: Mamadou Ndiaye

The university oversees a language school: Institut de Français pour Etrangers (IFE). The IFE specializes in French language studies aimed at foreign students in preparation for regular courses taught in French.

Foreign programs

UCAD hosts a number of foreign study abroad programs, including ones administered by Wells College, Indiana University, and the University of Oregon in the United States and numerous European universities. Participants in the program typically take a required course in Introductory Wolof and a French language (if applicable) course through the IFE in addition to regular university courses taught in French.

A division of the university offers courses for foreign students in Senegalese and African studies, including African literature, history, politics, philosophy, and sociology.

CADU is a member of the Federation of the Universities of the Islamic World.

Special requirements

For foreign students, UCAD requires a minimum age of 18 to enroll in studies in Pharmacy and a minimum age of 22 to enroll in studies relating to oral surgery.

Student life

UCAD has a diverse student body drawn from many countries including Senegal, Burkina-Faso, Ivory Coast, France, Togo, Benin, Nigeria, the United States, Mauritania, Mali, Rwanda, Cameroon, Belgium, and the United Kingdom.

As with a number of other African universities, UCAD occasionally experiences student strikes protesting government or university policies. These strikes generally last not more than one or two weeks but may be longer, as occurred during the 1993 presidential election.

With over 60,000 students and only 5,000 dormitory rooms, most students from outside Dakar must look for other accommodations. Many students live in the Cité Aline Sitoe Diatta, near the university campus, and those who can't afford Dakar's often high rents often share rooms.

Notable alumni and professors

Notable instructors

  • Professor Oumar Kane, specialist in Fouta-Toro history, African Studies
  • Khady Sylla, Senegalese novelist
  • Sékéné Mody Cissoko, Malian historian.
  • Ndeye Thioro Diaw, Professor of Biology, and wife of politician Abdou Aziz Sow.
  • Abdoulaye Bathily, former government minister and President candidate, Professor of History.
  • Roger Decottignies, head of Law faculty (1958–1968)
  • Abdoulaye Wade, Former President of Senegal, former dean of the law and economics faculty.
  • Louis-Vincent Thomas, French sociologist, anthropologist, ethnologist, former professor.
  • Souleymane Bachir Diagne, Senegalese philosopher, former Vice-dean of the College of Humanities and Professor of Philosophy.

Notable students

  • Abdou Diouf, 2nd President of Senegal, (Law)
  • Ousmane Tanor Dieng:, International Relations, Law; first Secretary of the Socialist Party of Senegal, vice-president of the Socialist International.
  • Yayi Boni, President of Benin.
  • Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, former Prime Minister of Mali.
  • Simeon Aké, former Ivorian Foreign Minister and UN Ambassador.
  • Sokhna Benga, Senegalese novelist.
  • Sangaré Niamoto Ba, Minister of Mali
  • Ousmane Camara, former Senegalese Chief Justice.
  • Ibrahima Fall (politician): former Foreign Minister and professor of Law
  • Mamadou Diouf, historian of Cayor, former CADU professor, and director of African Studies at Columbia University.
  • Doudou Ndoye, Senegalese politician (Law)
  • Talla Sylla, Senegalese politician, leader of APJ (sociology)
  • Souleymane Bachir Diagne (Philosophy), professor at Columbia University.
  • Adebayo Faleti, Nigerian writer and actor.
  • Molly Melching, Human rights activist.
  • Mbaye Diagne, Senegalese Army officer and a United Nations military observer credited with saving many lives during the 1994 Rwandan Genocide.
  • Awa Marie Coll-Seck, former Senegalese Minister of Health.
  • Adebayo Faleti, Nigerian Poet, Writer, Actor.
  • Salif Diallo, Master of Law, Burkinabé political leader.
  • Teguest Guerma, Medical Post-Doctorate, Associate Director of the HIV/AIDS Department, of the World Health Organisation.
  • Kanidoua Naboho, Doctor of Medicine, Burkinabé political leader.
  • Cheick Sidi Diarra, United Nations Special Adviser on Africa and High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (OSAA/OHRLLS), Master's degree in international public law and international relations.
  • Sokhna Benga, Senegalese novelist and poet, Business Law Master's degree.
  • Théodore-Adrien Sarr, Archbishop of Dakar, licentiate in Greek & Latin.
  • Jean Pliya, Beninois playwright and short story writer.
  • Barthélémy Attisso, guitarist and lawyer.
  • Emmanuel Bombande, cofounder and executive director of the West Africa Network for Peacebuilding, Chair of the Board of the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict
  • Sékou Ba, former Burkina Faso Minister of Animal Resources​

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