Established in May 1992 by the Government of Ghana to “blend the academic world with that of the community in order to provide constructive interaction between the two for the total development of Northern Ghana, in particular, and the country as a whole” (PNDC Law 279, Section 279).“The UDS was borne out of the new thinking in higher education which emphasizes the need for universities to play a more active role in addressing problems of the society, particularly in the rural areas” (Effah, 1998).
The University by its mandate and constituency has a pro-poor focus. This is reflected in its methodology of teaching, research and outreach services. The specific emphasis on practically-oriented, research and field-based training is aimed at contributing towards poverty reduction in order to accelerate national development:
It began academic work in September 1993 with the admission of forty (40) students into the Faculty of Agriculture, (FoA), Nyankpala.
The Faculty of Integrated Development Studies, (FIDS), Faculty of Planning and Land Management (FPLM), School of Business and Law, Wa, Faculty of Education (FoE), and School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS), Tamale, Faculty of Renewable Natural Resources (FRNR), Faculty of Agriculture (FoA) and the Faculty of Agribusiness and Communication Sciences (FACS), Nyankpala, Faculty of Applied Sciences (FAS), Faculty of Mathematical Sciences(FMS), Navrongo and the Graduate School now in Tamale were phased in from 1994 to date.
UDS is unique compared to other public universities in the following ways:
- Its location and multi campuses are spread out in rural northern Ghana where the incidence and depth of poverty is high.
- Its vision is pro-poor aimed at addressing the conditions and structural causes of poverty.
- The UDS has four (4) campuses, Eight (8) Faculties, a Business School, one Medical School, one Graduate School, one Institute and three (3) centres.
- The UDS also runs a community-technical interface programme. This is a combination of the academic and community-based field practical work known as the Third Trimester Field Practical Programme (TTFPP).