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Higher Education partnership proposals for Low Income Countries

The Strategic Partnerships for Higher Education Innovation and Reform (SPHEIR) programme is a new competitive grant scheme established by the UK Department for International Development (DFID). It is designed to catalyse innovative ‘partnerships’ in low-income countries (LICs) to improve the performance, governance and influence of higher education systems and institutions. SPHEIR is managed on behalf of DFID by a consortium led by the British Council that includes PwC and Universities UK International (UUKi).


SPHEIR partnership proposals can address higher education transformation on two levels:

  1. Higher education delivery – the design and delivery of degree programmes that embed new and more effective content and/or apply innovative delivery models and teaching strategies to achieve learning outcomes that respond to market needs.
  2. Higher education enabling systems – initiatives intended to enhance higher education systems and institutions, by changing the culture and practices that affect the performance of public or private universities, higher education governance bodies, and national or regional quality assurance and/or accreditation bodies.

SPHEIR funding is focused on partnerships – a formal collaboration among a group of organisations that can address higher education issues in ways, and at a scale, that a single organisation cannot. SPHEIR partnerships can include organisations from across the higher education, private, government and civil society sectors.

Key information: – Grants of £1 million and £5 million will be available. – Partnerships can last between two and four years. – Proposals must focus primarily on beneficiaries in one or more of 24 low-income countries – SPHEIR aims to engage new actors, such as public and private sector employers, and actively encourages North–South and South–South collaboration.

Applications should be submitted online by the partnership’s lead partner. A Guidance for Applicants document and Reference Application Form are available to download via