Higher education and science

Training tomorrow's leaders, strengthening scientific expertise on the ground

Reading room at a library in Quito, Ecuador

Education, science and research are essential for a country's social and economic development. In the globalisation process, knowledge is increasingly becoming a crucial advantage in international competition – the need for well-trained specialists and executives in developing and emerging countries is growing steadily.

The great challenges facing development policymakers involve complex problems in the areas of science, social science and engineering, such as climate action and resource protection, the promotion of innovative technologies and the development of social protection systems. So it is not enough to support primary and secondary education in developing countries. Our partners will only be able to develop their own practice-oriented answers to local problems if they also have the requisite higher education programmes.

This requires improved access to tertiary education for all population groups and the development of top-quality institutions of higher education and research.

Higher education in the 2030 Agenda

Female student listening to a lecture at Hanoi Law University, Viet Nam

In the 2030 Agenda adopted in 2015, higher education is explicitly mentioned as part of the Sustainable Development Goal on education (SDG 4). Higher education and support for the development of the science sector also function as levers for all the other development goals.

Here are a few examples: providing teacher training at higher education institutions is a prerequisite for reaching the target of universal primary education (SDG 4.1). Higher education for women empowers them (SDG 5). This also improves their health status, and it reduces child mortality (SDG 3). Scientific research helps achieve Goals 13 to 15 (climate action, life below water and life on land). Goals 7 (clean energy), 9 (infrastructure) and 11 (sustainable cities and communities) cannot be reached unless a country has well-trained engineers.

And the global partnership for the goals that is envisaged under Goal 17 will only succeed if poor countries, too, have well-educated experts who are able to chart the course for political, social and economic development.

Situation in developing countries

Researchers at the Centre of Research in Energy and Energy Conservation in Kampala, Uganda, testing the energy efficiency of wood-fired stoves

The positive gains achieved in primary and secondary education in Germany's partner countries mean that more and more young adults, having completed secondary school, aspire to go on to achieve higher education qualifications.

In many poorer countries, however, colleges and universities are not in a position to make use of internationally available knowledge or to generate and disseminate knowledge of their own. Colleges and universities do not have the capacity to absorb the growing number of students, and many curricula are outdated and not very practice-oriented. In some cases, teachers are inadequately trained and underpaid.

Support for higher education and the science sector directly benefits our partner countries' political and economic development. People with good qualifications find it easier to launch processes of political, economic and social change, identify innovative answers to global and local problems, work for good governance, and exert democratic control. Close cooperation between institutions of higher education and research and local business and civil society players facilitates the kind of knowledge transfer that is necessary for technical and social innovations.

German activities

At the Energy Research Centre of Strathmore University in Nairobi (Kenya), a student is working on a patch panel.

In its education strategy of 2015, the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) has laid down a holistic approach to support for education. It includes primary and secondary education and vocational training, and also higher education. Support for the higher education sector is not only provided in countries where education is a priority area of bilateral cooperation. It can also be part of other priority areas of German development cooperation, for instance climate, energy, sustainable economic development, health, agriculture, and good governance.

Germany is working to improve the quality and status of higher education in developing and emerging economies and to help ensure fair and non-discriminatory access to institutions of higher education. In order to enable students from disadvantaged backgrounds to benefit from higher education, Germany supports scholarship programmes, for example, and invests in expanding the use of digital tools. Targeted support is also provided to training and research sectors that are relevant for development, such as climate action, water management, renewable energy, sustainable urban development and land use.

The BMZ supports its partner countries both through Technical and Financial Cooperation, and it relies on partners specialising in international cooperation in the field of higher education and research. These partners include, in particular, the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation (AvH). In 2015, the BMZ provided the two organisations with nearly 60 million euros for the implementation of development-related programmes.

In addition, the DAAD received almost 25 million euros from the BMZ special initiatives 'One World – No Hunger' and 'Tackling the root causes of displacement, reintegrating refugees'. This funding is to be used for additional scholarships for African students.

BMZ glossary

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