Strategic Partnerships for Higher Education Innovation and Reform

Strategic Partnerships for Higher Education Innovation and Reform (SPHEIR) is a new programme set up to support up to 12 innovative partnerships which support systemic change in higher education systems in low-income countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and the Middle East. 

It was established as a result of Universities UK International's participation in the Department for International Development's (DFID) Higher Education Taskforce, where we represent higher education sector interests in influencing plans for increasing investment in higher education.  

We have been part of the SPHEIR programme's fund management team, alongside the British Council and PricewaterhouseCoopers, since January 2016. 

The call for proposals has now closed. Grants will be available for partnership projects that can improve the performance, governance and influence of higher education systems and institutions in low-income countries.

For more information please visit the SPHEIR website. 

What type of partnerships will SPHEIR fund? 

Through a competitive grant application scheme, SPHEIR will provide funding and support to a maximum of 12 partnerships. Grants will range from £1 to £5 million per partnership, for projects of varying sizes lasting three to five years. 

SPHEIR aims to transform the quality, relevance, accessibility and affordability of higher education by catalysing and funding diverse, multifaceted and large-scale partnerships. These collaborations will work across different sectors and countries to create new solutions to key higher education challenges, delivering systemic and sustainable change. 

This could be through transforming higher education systems to enable them to meet labour market needs and generate job-ready graduates, by supporting entrepreneurial graduates to accelerate development, or by helping build more inclusive societies and promoting strong economic growth. 

Partnerships should have an international dimension, drawing on UK and international expertise. Involving organisations and institutions with experience of higher education reform in middle-income countries, for example, can offer the potential for replication and collaboration. 

Sustainability is a key feature of SPHEIR, and partnerships will work to ensure that project impact extends beyond the SPHEIR lifecycle. 

Partners can include, but are not restricted to: 

  • public and non-state universities, colleges and higher education providers

  • private sector employers, investors and suppliers of relevant goods or services

  • civil society groups and foundations

  • regional, national and transnational government and higher education authorities, bodies and associations

  • higher education sector specialists

 Visit the SPHEIR website