Western Mindanao State University (WMSU) is the premier and only state university in Zamboanga City. It has two campuses: the main campus of 79,000 square metres and 9,147 square metres is in the city (Barangay Baliwasan) and the satellite campus of 200,000 square metres occupied by the College of Agriculture and the College of Forestry lin San Ramon, 20 kilometers from the city. Campuses comprising the external studies units are in the provinces of Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga del Norte and Zamboanga Sibugay, including the newly integrated formerly CHED-supervised institutions in Molave and Tampilisan. It has a student population of over 22,000, regular faculty members of over 600 and over 150 administrative personnel.
It has 12 colleges, three institutes and two autonomous campuses offering undergraduate and postgraduate courses specializing in education, engineering, nursing, arts and humanities, social work, science and mathematics. Along with these major fields of concentration, WMSU offers courses in agriculture, architecture, forestry, home economics, nutrition and dietetics, social work, criminology, Asian and Islamic Studies and special degree courses for foreign students. It also offers external studies and non-formal education courses.
WMSU ranked sixth among 68 universities all over the country, according to a survey on the Top Academic Institutions in the Philippines conducted by the Commission on Higher Education. The university's College of Education is a Center for Development; the College of Architecture is a Center of Development; and the College of Social Work and Community Development was awarded the Best School for Social Work in the Philippines.
With the cessation of the hostilities that marked the end of the Spanish–American War in 1898, Filipino and American educators agreed that the best way to rebuild a devastated nation was through the establishment of a sound education system. Eight Normal schools were then established in the Philippines by the Americans. One of them was the Zamboanga Normal School established in 1904. As a secondary school, the ZNS offered a general academic curriculum under the Department of Mindanao and Sulu primarily designed to cater to the needs of cultural minorities in the provinces of Cotabato, Davao, Lanao, Sulu, and Zamboanga.
In June 1921, the secondary normal curriculum of the Zamboanga Normal School had to be phased out for lack of enrollees. It was re-opened the following year and produced its first batch of graduates in 1926. Until the end of school year 1939-40, the general secondary academic and normal curricula continued to be simultaneously offered. As a result of the opening of the Zamboanga City High School in 1939, the general secondary academic curriculum was discontinued but was offered at the college level. It was briefly disrupted with the outbreak of the Second World War.
After the war, the school resumed operations enabling those who started first year in the two-year collegiate normal curriculum before the war to continue as sophomore students. In April 1946 they were awarded the Elementary Teacher's Certificate (E.T.C.). The secondary normal curriculum was offered only during the summer term until 1952.
Upon its conversion to the Zamboanga Normal College on June 17, 1961 by virtue of Republic Act (RA) No. 3272, the ZNC was placed under the direct supervision of the Bureau of Public Schools (BPS) until its autonomy in 1963. Gradually, it started to offer new degree programs.
Zamboanga del Norte Agricultural College' was the former name of the Tampilisan campus of Western Mindanao State University. The passage of Republic Act No. 3889 on June 18, 1964, caused the conversion of Zamboanga del Norte National Agricultural School in Liloy, Zamboanga del Norte to become a college known as Zamboanga del Norte Agricultural College.
The amendment of RA 3272 on June 26, 1969 by RA 5492 resulted in the conversion of the Zamboanga Normal School into the Zamboanga State College (ZSC). Considering the demands of a growing population in a rapidly changing society, President Ferdinand E. Marcos signed P.D. No. 1427 on June 10, 1978, marking the birth of the Western Mindanao State University.
Since its conversion into a state university, three university presidents have taken its leadership: Dr. Juanito A. Bruno, in an acting capacity from 1977 to 1986; Dr. Bernabela L. Ko as first full-pledged president from 1986 to 1991; and Dr. Erdulfo B. Fernando, who served from 1991 to 1997. Dr. Eldigario D. Gonzales, DPA, CSEE had served as university president from 1997 to 2007. Today, WMSU has a total of 1,000 teaching and administrative support staff catering to over 20,000 students.
WMSU now has 12 colleges and three institutes. It has become the Center of Excellence (COE) and for Teacher Education and Project for Basic Education (PROBE) Center.
WMSU's OIC-University and Board Secretary is Dr. Ricardo Danilo E. Corteza, who was a former College Dean, Graduate Chair and Technical Assistant to then Vice-President for Research Development and Extension (RDE) and the current WMSU President Dr. Milabel Enriquez-Ho,and has served as a full-time employee since June 1985.
Evangeline Macaraeg-Macapagal, the former First Lady of the Republic of the Philippines and mother of the President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. She is an alumna of the College of Education of the University.