University course timetabling is concerned with assigning a set of courses to a set of rooms and timeslots according to a set of constraints. This problem has been tackled using metaheuristics techniques. Artificial bee colony (ABC) algorithm has been successfully used for tackling uncapaciated examination and course timetabling problems. In this paper, a novel hybrid ABC algorithm based on the integrated technique is proposed for tackling the university course timetabling problem. First of all, initial feasible solutions are generated using the combination of saturation degree (SD) and backtracking algorithm (BA). Secondly, a hill climbing optimizer is embedded within the employed bee operator to enhance the local exploitation ability of the original ABC algorithm while tackling the problem. Hill climbing iteratively navigates the search space of each population member in order to reach a local optima. The proposed hybrid ABC technique is evaluated using the dataset established by Socha including five small, five medium and one large problem instances. Empirical results on these problem instances validate the effectiveness and efficiency of the proposed algorithm. Our work also shows that a well-designed hybrid technique is a competitive alternative for addressing the university course timetabling problem. © 2014 Elsevier B.V.