|Higher Education Links Scheme|
The Higher Education Links scheme currently facilitates more than 400 academic links between Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in the UK and in 48 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 application of knowledge and skills.
The HE links scheme is open to any institution whose core function is education and training either at undergraduate and postgraduate levels. Links are generally between Departments, rather than whole institutions, but may involve more than one partner at each end. It is anticipated that most links are supported initially for six years providing there are has been significant progress towards and/or achievement of outputs during the initial three years of funding.
Links mainly support staff exchange and there are usually two or three short visits by appropriate staff members in each direction each year. Collaborative work is undertaken in, for example, staff and curriculum development, technology transfer or promoting relevant research based on the needs of the poor. There are limited funds available for workshops, conferences, equipment purchase and in-country research to enhance the impact of the link.
As the Department of International Development (DFID) funds the HE Links scheme it is essential that links can demonstrate some kind of positive impact on the lives of the poorest of 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 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.
Partnership is at the heart of the programme. All partners 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.
Elements of activity funded by link scheme
The scheme provides travel costs for the majority of link visitors and full subsistence payments for those going to the UK. Some overseas institutions pay the airfares for their staff, but this varies from country to country according to resources. The scheme does not cover staff replacement costs or pay bench, course, tuition or other 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 application to the Gender and Development (GAD) small projects is February each year.
Benefits of participating in 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. Ethiopian institutions not only gain exposure to the high quality facilities in the UK but also benefit from curriculum 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 how they will contribute to poverty alleviation and sustainable development in Ethiopia must be demonstrated. While those in health, education, and natural resources may have fairly direct contributions, links in gender, human rights, good governance, economics, management, science, information communication technology and other areas are encouraged if they are demonstrate a focus on poverty. All links must have clear objectives that are achievable within the agreed time frame.
Management and administration
The management of FICHE funds is the responsibility of the HE Links Section at the British Council in Manchester. Their use is monitored by the HEL Steering Committee, which comprises representatives from DFID, the British Council and UK HEIs. This committee makes decisions on all link applications and sets individual country targets. The management of individual country allocations and link activity is devolved to the British Council offices in each country participating in the scheme.
The link partners each 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 (Ethiopian) HEI. Most links originate from existing relationships between the partners but Ethiopian institutions can approach the British Council for advice on suitable UK partners if necessary, and for support on link proposal preparation. Applications should be made jointly by the prospective link partners and submitted to the British Council in Ethiopia, from whom appropriate forms and guidance are available, before November for links that will start in the following April or June for links that will start in October.
Amsalu Abebe: Manager, Educational Links and Training
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