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Higher education

Approaches, actors and instruments

Team of scientists at the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology in Nairobi, which Germany is supporting

The German government departments involved in promoting higher education under Germany's development cooperation programme are the Federal Foreign Office, the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, and the Federal Ministry for Education and Research. The federal states (laender) also engage in extensive activities in this field.

Of the 1.3 billion euros made available in 2011 by Germany under its development programme for the purpose of promoting education, 892 million euros went on higher education, the bulk of this (670 million euros) towards the cost of enabling students from developing countries to study in Germany. These costs are met by the federal states (Länder). The Federal Foreign Office made available 124 million euros to fund educational and cultural policy abroad. The Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) made 51 million euros available.

There are various approaches to promoting higher education within development cooperation:

  • Individual support for technical experts and management executives, for example in the form of scholarship programmes and alumni networks
  • Inter-university cooperation programmes, for example for setting up and developing teaching and research programmes, and setting up quality assurance systems
  • Policy advice to government departments and educational institutions
  • Building infrastructure, for example constructing or equipping higher education institutions.

Actors, cooperation and instruments

In addition to the classic procedures and instruments of financial and technical cooperation, the BMZ works closely with organisations that for many decades have been successfully organising and supporting international cooperation between scholars, scientists and academics. The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation (AvH) are two such partners. The aim is to interlink their activities closely with the work of the governmental implementing organisations.

Among other activities, the DAAD arranges fellowships for scholars and scientists from developing countries. It assists in setting up discipline-specific partnerships between institutions of higher education and supports academic exchange through student and alumni networks. It also offers training courses in the field of higher education management and is active in the development of teaching and research in developmental fields. The BMZ is currently supporting eight DAAD programmes in the form of annual grants. Under intergovernmental technical cooperation, the DAAD also implements single components of GIZ projects.

The Alexander von Humboldt foundation awards, inter alia, the Georg Forster research fellowships, which are BMZ-funded (see below: Promoting excellence). The Georg Forster Research Award, introduced in 2012 and also funded by the BMZ, is granted to outstanding academics from developing countries in recognition of their entire achievements to date.

The BMZ also promotes the scholarship programmes of the Protestant and Catholic Churches and the cooperation programmes and networking activities of the political foundations.


Multilateral cooperation

Many international organisations have recognised the importance of science and research for development and are actively promoting higher education. For example, the European Union's Bologna Process to create a European Higher Education Area is serving as a model for similar initiatives in Africa.

Within the United Nations system, UNESCO and the World Bank actively support the promotion of higher education. Regionally, the Asian and African Development Banks are active in this area. International cooperation partners include private foundations such as the Aga Khan Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation and the Carnegie Foundation.


Promoting excellence

Maize kernels in a test tube

Promoting excellence is a recent addition to German development cooperation and it is proving to be a highly relevant instrument. Excellence is promoted at individual and institutional level.

Where the individual promotion of academics is concerned, the significance of their research for development and their outstanding qualifications are important criteria. Applicants must be highly motivated and demonstrate social commitment.

The Georg Forster fellowship programme of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, which is funded by the BMZ, is an example of a developmentally orientated scheme to promote excellence. The programme is aimed at high-calibre scholars and scientists from developing and emerging countries in all disciplines who are conducting developmentally relevant research projects in Germany. Forty-one research fellowships were awarded in 2012 at a total cost of 5.52 million euros to the BMZ.

Germany also supports selected programmes of cooperation between higher education institutions. One of these is the DAAD's programme Higher Education Excellence in Development Cooperation ("exceed"). "exceed" is the first excellence initiative to support the developmental activities of German institutions of higher education. Support is provided to five centres of excellence, in Braunschweig, Hohenheim, Kassel, Cologne and Munich, with their partner institutions in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

The aim is to improve teaching and research in developing countries. Technical experts and management executives receive training, innovative concepts are promoted and scientific networks established. The five centres of excellence will also serve as think-tanks, tying teaching and research more closely to development cooperation.

In the first phase of "exceed", from 2009 to 2014, the BMZ provided 1 million euros annually to each of the five participating institutions, a total of 25 million euros. An evaluation of the programme was carried out in 2012-13. The external peer reviewers concluded that the excellence initiative is in line with the BMZ's developmental objectives and should be promoted over the longer term. The DAAD plans to apply to the BMZ for funding for a second phase of promotion from 2015 to 2019.


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