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Engaging with the ODA research agenda; playing the long game

2 February 2018

​Cast your mind back to 2013 - if someone had asked you whether your research or activity was "ODA-compliant" or better still "ODA-able", would you have understood? Or would you have politely asked if they were feeling alright, whilst simultaneously edging cautiously towards the door….

I think I would have done the latter.

Although Official Development Assistance (ODA) compliance has always been 'a thing', unless you were applying for a Department for International Development (DFID) funded grant, the likelihood is that you probably didn't come across it then nearly half as much as you do now.

With the arrival of the Newton Fund, the term 'ODA' has almost become mainstream; it is no longer confined to the language of DFID devotees, but is something which is woven into an increasing number of UK government departmental budgets and strategies. In 2015, 14% of UK aid budget was spent outside of DFID, by 2020, it is expected that more than 25% will be spent by departments or funds outside of DFID, with particularly significant tranches being given to the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, the Department of Health and Social Care and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

But how do you engage with these new opportunities? Or is your institution already engaging with the ODA funding portfolio, but could perhaps adopt a more strategic approach? Taking into consideration the additional due diligence involved, coupled with the numerous cultural, financial and procedural obstacles thrown into the path of collaboration- some might ask, is it even worth it…?

No one would deny that there are almost always more strings attached to ODA funding, or that keeping up with the constantly evolving array of ODA funded schemes being announced by government is infinitely more challenging than 'Keeping up with the Kardashians'. (Important note: if you disagree on that last point, maybe keep that to yourself….)

There seems to be a constant tension to sustain the balance between keeping up with the pace of calls so as not to risk missing out - but then taking heed of Aesop's 'Tortoise and the Hare' parable, where "slow and steady wins the race". Both seem necessary, but aren't always compatible. ​​

On 14 March, we'll be hearing from four ODA- experienced individuals in their capacity as funders, university leaders, practitioners and academics to get their perspectives on the value of engaging with the ODA agenda. ​They'll be discussing the various ODA funded schemes, how the UK aid research funding landscape has changed in recent years and perhaps most importantly, how universities can derive maximum value when choosing to engage with the ODA agenda. Join the discussion at the sixth annual International Higher Education Forum - both tortoises and hares welcome.

Our team

Annie Bell

Communications Manager
Universities UK International

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