Development of Educational Links and Professional Higher Education Initiatives - Three scientists working in a lab

British Council

Clients Department for International Development (DFID)
Value £15 million
2006 to 2013
Country Multiple

Through Development Partnerships in Higher Education (DelPHE) we supported the Department for International Development (DFID) to use higher education institutions to support developing countries meet Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). DelPHE helped to increase the capacity of higher education institutions in developing countries to contribute to sustainable development and to also work horizontally with other academic institutions and vertically with policy makers.  We supported partnerships between institutions in different countries to enable them to undertake joint research, develop improved teaching programmes and share relevant ideas and expertise.

Goals and legacy

The overarching aim of the programme was to contribute to achieving the UN’s MDGs, including those related to gender. Through DelPHE, higher education institutions were able to act as catalysts within developing countries to stimulate research and develop products to support the achievement of the goals. Each DelPHE partnership focused on one or more MDG, with the majority of funding being allocated to projects related to the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger; combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases; and ensuring environmental sustainability. The project left a legacy of strengthened institutional capacity, community engagement and crucially important links between higher education and policy makers, in relation to these goals. 

Project management

Tasked with the overall project management of DelPHE we facilitated, promoted, established, managed and reported on 200 higher education partnerships in 22 DFID Public Service Agreement countries. The majority of these partnerships were between northern and southern higher education institutions, with the Association of Commonwealth Universities facilitating the development of south-south partnerships that were unique to this project. 

Sustainable solutions

Sustainability was built into each partnership by: 

  • the development of quality assurance systems 
  • the advancement of research expertise 
  • the provision of ‘seed corn’ funding and outreach strategies that attracted other funds if partnerships were successful. 
  • effective communication strategies between partners
  • local ownership of partnerships. 

Of the 200 partnerships, 198 continued for the full three year duration, and 114 continued after project funding had ceased. Of these, 69 partnerships attracted a total of nearly £32 million in additional funding – meaning that for every £1 spent by DFID, a further £2.77 was generated from other donors, local and international bodies, as well as in kind support.


DelPHE promoted more complex partnerships than the traditional one-to-one links of previous linking schemes, and it also facilitated the development of multilateral and ‘south-south’ partnerships. 

South-South partnerships were unique in that there was a mutual understanding between partners of the challenges in developing countries faced. These were built into partnerships and outcomes in a way that is not always easily understandable to Northern partners, thus producing an outcome tailored to the needs of the South. 

Impact in figures

  • 66 per cent of southern partners are conducting more research than before their DelPHE partnership. 
  • 136 partnerships have undertaken joint research that has been published or presented at conferences. 
  • More than 650 research papers have been published in peer-reviewed national and international journals. 
  • More than 300 research papers have been presented at conferences. 
  • 25 per cent of projects have had dialogue with policy makers and 5.5 per cent indicate that they have already had some direct influence in actual or planned policy change. 
  • 792 new or revised courses and modules have been developed in 161 institutions, of which 79 per cent are in development areas of science and technology. 
  • 28,835 individuals (17,700 male and 11,135 female) have directly benefited from DelPHE professional development opportunities and courses. 
  • Over 58,000 external beneficiaries have been positively affected by DelPHE activities.


'With the work we started with the DelPHE project we were able to provide leadership in the country in terms of up-skilling labour, which reduced poverty. We were able to present our own research and teaching methods to the government, which they have taken on board in terms of policy recommendations.'

Partnership Co-ordinator, South Africa.