Three Regional Takeaways from the Higher Education Landscape Analysis
The Higher Education Landscape Analysis (HELA)
As a global development organization, we know that USAID’s higher education (HE) engagement has a far and wide reach. But what does the Agency’s HE engagement look like across regions or across countries within a region? USAID’s Higher Education Landscape Analysis (HELA), published in September 2019, answers this and many more questions about the breadth and depth of the Agency’s HE portfolio. The analysis involved document reviews, key informant interviews, and focused on USAID’s HE engagement over a five-year period, from fiscal years 2014-2018.
In this blog, second in a series of six, we apply a regional lens to the HELA to take stock of USAID’s HE engagement across the Agency’s regional bureaus.
What are USAID’s regional bureaus?
USAID has six regional bureaus:
- Africa (AFR)
- Europe and Eurasia (E&E)
- Latin America and Caribbean (LAC)
- Middle East and North Africa (MENA)
- Offices of Afghanistan and Pakistan (OAPA)
Each of these regions play an individual and collective role in understanding the geographical landscape of HE engagement within the Agency.
Three Takeaways from the Regional Analysis
The HELA highlighted both similarities and unique aspects of HE engagement across and within the USAID regions during 2014-2018. Here are three takeaways:
1. Alignment with regional and country strategies
With the exception of Africa, the type of HE engagement in each region was driven by and aligned with specific goals laid out in the USAID regional and/or country development cooperation strategies (R/CDCS). For example, in Asia, the HE activities implemented aligned with the Asia RDCS (2004-2018), which focused on fostering academic networks and partnerships with higher education institutions (HEIs) to increase scientific research and technological capacity. In E&E, country strategies primarily focused on workforce development and strengthening civil society through capacity strengthening of media and legal institutions. In the OAPA, USAID-funded HE activities in Pakistan aligned with the Government’s Pakistan 2025 One Nation-One Vision, with a focus on workforce development, education support, and strengthening research capacity.
Although the three USAID regional development cooperation strategies in Africa (East Africa, Southern Africa, and West Africa) did not list HE as a priority or goal, the region experienced significant HE engagement during the HELA period of analysis. The HE activities in Africa were diverse and ranged from improving teacher training to agricultural research.
2. Similar activities, varying purposes, and strategies
Every bureau implemented similar types of HE activities, which were partnerships, scholarships, institutional capacity development, workforce development, or policy reform. However, the purpose of engagement and the strategies used varied based on the regional context. For example, although workforce development activities were a priority in E&E and MENA, the concern for E&E was high unemployment rates resulting from HEIs in the region failing to provide practical knowledge and skills that were relevant to labor market demands. In the case of MENA, the workforce development programs were responding to concerns that youth lack the soft skills needed to bridge education to employment gaps. The strategies employed also varied. While programs in E&E relied on partnerships with HEIs in the U.S., MENA programs commonly partnered with the private sector to improve employment outcomes for university students.
Another strategy utilized by both the Africa and Asia bureaus was to build on the increasing strength of HEIs within their regions and the networking abilities of these institutions to build cross-sectoral partnerships to achieve a range of strategic priorities beyond the education sector. For example, the Asia bureau collaborated with industry and research and education institutions to achieve food security, economic development, and health outcomes.
3. Intensity varies by location
A third of all activities reviewed for the HELA were in Asia. In two regions, a majority of the HE activities took place in a handful of countries. For example, half of the activities reviewed in Asia were in Indonesia, Vietnam, Philippines, and India. In MENA, the focal countries for HE engagement were Lebanon, Morocco, Jordan, Tunisia, Egypt, and West Bank/Gaza. It was unclear if the E&E and LAC regions also experienced a similar clustering of HE activities in a few countries within that region.