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The Higher Education Links Scheme


The Higher Education Links (HE Links) scheme currently facilitates more than 400 links between higher education institutions (HEIs) in the UK and in 47 largely developing countries. The purpose of the links programme is to contribute to the sustainable development of the countries in which it operates by enhancing the research and training capacity of their higher education institutions. The ultimate objective is to reduce poverty and suffering through the application of knowledge and skills.


The HE Links scheme is open to any institution whose core function is education at either undergraduate or postgraduate levels. Links are generally between departments, rather than whole institutions or individuals, but may involve more than one partner at each end. It is anticipated that most links will be supported for six years providing there has been significant progress towards and/or achievement of outputs during the initial three years of funding.

Links mainly support staff exchange, there are usually two or three short visits by appropriate staff members in each direction every year. Collaborative work is undertaken to produce outputs such as staff and curriculum development, technology transfer or promoting relevant research. There are also limited funds available for workshops, conferences, equipment purchase and in-country research to enhance the impact of the link.

As the Department for International Development (DFID) funds the HE Links scheme it is essential that links can demonstrate positive impact on the lives of the poorest groups. It is expected that impact will be sustained after link funding has ended and that findings will be widely disseminated to target groups and policy makers.


DFID provides the funding for the HE Links scheme, in the form of the Fund for International Co-operation in Higher Education (FICHE). Participating countries have an individual allocation, which allows them, to operate a number of links each year. The average cost of each link to FICHE is 10,000 per year. In some countries local funding agencies make additional financial contributions that greatly enhance the impact of the scheme and reduce the cost to FICHE.

FICHE funds are allocated on a regional basis as follows:

Sub-Saharan Africa 40% 
South Asia & China 25% 
South East Asia 15% 
South America 10% 
Other countries 10% 


Partnership is at the heart of the programme. All players contribute in kind. Institutions on both sides provide staff time free of charge, access to facilities and generally provide local transport. The British Council contributes by providing the overseas management of the scheme at no cost to FICHE.

What elements of activity does the scheme fund?

The scheme provides travel costs for the majority of link visitors and full subsistence payments for those travelling to the UK. Some overseas institutions pay the airfares for staff going to the UK and accommodation /meal costs of visitors to their country. However, this does vary a great deal from country to country according to available resources. The scheme does not cover staff replacement costs or pay tuition, bench or other course fees. There is also a small amount of funding available for a number of projects specifically targeted at gender issues. These operate as one-year stand-alone projects and the deadline for applications to the Gender & Development (GAD) small projects fund is February each year.

Benefits of participating in the HE Links scheme

There are mutual benefits to be gained from collaboration in terms of staff development, conducting joint research and the opportunity of accessing other donor funded projects. Overseas institutions not only gain exposure to the facilities in the UK but also benefit from curriculum improvement and development. Institutions in the UK also benefit through raising their international profile.

Subject areas for links

The scheme supports links in a wide variety of subject areas but they must demonstrate how they will contribute to poverty alleviation and sustainable development in the overseas country. Whilst those in education, health and natural resources may have fairly direct applications, links in gender, human rights, good governance, economics, management, science / technology, information communications technology and other areas are also encouraged if they can demonstrate a pro-poor focus. All links must have clear objectives that are achievable within the agreed time frame and be able to demonstrate how the outputs will benefit a developing country.


The management of FICHE funds is the responsibility of the HE Links section at the British Council, Manchester. Their use is monitored by the HE Links Steering Committee which comprises of representatives from DFID, the British Council and UK HEIs. The committee makes decisions on all link applications and sets individual country budgets. The management of individual country allocations and link activity is devolved to the individual British Council overseas offices participating in the scheme.

Each of the link partners nominate link co-ordinators that are jointly responsible for organising and administering the activities of the link, in consultation with the local British Council office. Every link visitor is expected to submit a report following a visit and the link co-ordinators must submit end of year and end of link reports to the British Council.

Applying for a link

Links are demand driven and must be initiated by the overseas HE Institution and not the UK institution. There are two deadlines for HE Link applications in each year. Applications should be completed jointly by prospective link partners and submitted before November for links that will start in the following April or June for links that will start in October to the relevant British Council office.

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Download our annual report 2001-02 (pictured left - PDF 1.5 MB)

Frequently asked questions about the Higher Education Links scheme

View the annexes, for additional information about the scheme.

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