Five Primary Types of USAID-Funded Higher Education Activities FY 2014-2018
The Higher Education Landscape Analysis (HELA)
At USAID, higher education (HE) programming encompasses a wide range of activities, higher education institutions (HEIs), and post-secondary student populations. USAID commissioned the Higher Education Landscape Analysis (HELA) to take stock of the breadth and depth of its HE programming across sectors and regions. The HELA found that during fiscal years 2014-2018, USAID implemented five primary activity types:
3. Institutional capacity building
4. Workforce development
5. Policy reform
These are not discrete in that many activities reviewed for the HELA incorporated more than one type of HE engagement into their design and work. The Innovative Agricultural Research Initiative (iAGRI 2012-2017) in Tanzania, for example, included partnerships, scholarships, and institutional capacity building.
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Let’s take a closer look at each type of HE activity and why they are important to USAID’s development goals.
Types of HE Activities
USAID implemented different types of partnerships across its HE programming during the timeframe of the HELA. These include partnerships between a single U.S. and host-country HEI, single U.S. and many host-country HEIs, and between U.S. and host-country HEIs and other institutions (like workforce development or curriculum improvement programs that partnered with the private sector).
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Across the functional bureaus, the Bureau for Food Security mostly engaged in institutional partnerships through the Feed the Future Innovation Labs. Partnerships offer several advantages to USAID’s programming:
- Leverage the expertise of U.S. HEIs to strengthen the capacity of host-country faculty, students, and institutions;
- Ease the transfer of technical and research knowledge to a host-country institution in a short time;
- Allow for greater financial oversight (for partnerships between U.S. and host-country HEIs, USAID usually gives the award to the U.S. partner).
Payments made to support education at U.S. or host-country HEIs through scholarships, grants, or other forms of support were the second most common type of HE engagement during the HELA period of analysis. For some activities, such as the University Scholarship Program in Lebanon, scholarships were the only component. For other activities, scholarships were a part of larger goals, as was the case for iAGRI in Tanzania.
Like partnerships, scholarships have several advantages and allow USAID to build:
- Goodwill and provide technical support to host countries;
- Important connections for future programming;
- Global alumni networks to sustain research and development.
3. Institutional Capacity
Most activities that contributed to strengthening institutional capacity were in the form of partnerships, making it difficult for the HELA review team to separate the two. For example, curricula reform and faculty professional development were common elements found in most institutional capacity strengthening activities and partnerships.
Fewer HE activities focused on improving institutional administrative capacity. One example is the Partnerships for Enhanced Engagement in Research (PEER) program, which provided financial management training to host country HEIs to improve the management of the faculty research awards the institutions had received under the same activity. According to key informants interviewed for the HELA, the reason fewer capacity building activities go beyond curricula reform and professional development is because the US-based HEIs implementing the partnerships rely on short-term training rather than institutional reform.
4. Workforce Development
The majority of the workforce activities reviewed for the analysis were implemented by the Center for Education in the Bureau for Development, Democracy, and Innovation (DDI), followed by the Global Health Bureau. For the Office of Education, the activities were focused on public-private partnerships, strengthening student soft skills, and improving curriculum within HEIs to align with workforce needs. Global Health activities focused on health workforce development in the context of health systems strengthening.
The workforce activities engaged a wide range of institutions, including traditional universities, community colleges, Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) institutions, and community members outside of institutions.
5. Policy Reform
The least common type of HE activity was policy reform. The activities were varied:
- Using HEI partnerships to meet policy objectives in other sectors, for example, agriculture research and policy analysis;
- Revising entry exams for HEIs;
- Changing HE systems, such as through the establishment of a land-grant type of higher education institution in Sudan.
The HELA activity analysis brings clarity to the rich spectrum of USAID’s HE engagement in over 50 developing countries, with over 700 activities that engaged HE across the breadth and scope of the Agency’s work.