The independent US-based MacArthur Foundation has given about $11 million (£5.6 million) support to four Nigerian institutions: the universities of Ibadan and Port Harcourt, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria and Bayero University, Kano.
Kole Shettima, the organisation's country director, said that the support came under its programme on global security and sustainability, which covers higher education alongside issues such as human rights and international justice, migration and peace and security.
The foundation did not dictate to any institution how or on what it should spend the money, Dr Shettima told reporters.
The foundation recently sponsored fellowships for 63 lecturers from the University of Ibadan to train overseas and was gratified that on completion of training every one returned home, Dr Shettima said.
"In Kano, the university told us that despite the fact that the state is known for agriculture, the university did not have a faculty of agriculture and the foundation helped establish one."
He also spoke of the foundation's collaboration with oil companies operating in Rivers and Bayelsa states, to assist the University of Port Harcourt to get better equipment for its petroleum and energy department.
"We have worked in this country for 17 years, awarding $68 million in grants," he said.
A new initiative, the MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions, was launched last year to complement the fellows programme.
"The MacArthur Foundation does not embrace any ideology other than commitment to free expression and reasoned discourse.
"Wherever we work, we try to give good, smart people the chance to exercise their talents and apply their ideals to the benefit of society," Dr Shettima said.