Students chat outside Kabul University Medical School, which is being fixed up with U.S. and other international aid.
Students chat outside Kabul University Medical School, which is being fixed up with U.S. and other international aid.
Photo Credit: Ben Barber

USAID has a long-tradition of working with universities to harness their intellectual, research, community engagement and capacity building expertise to address some of the toughest development challenges.

A strong higher education system builds human capital and advances scientific and technological knowledge critical to economic, social, and political development. Higher education institutions can be models of good governance, beacons of hope for marginalized populations, and pillars of stability in times of rapid change, conflict, or crises. Development organizations like USAID depend heavily on higher education for deep regional and technical expertise, well-resourced laboratories, rigorous research and fresh perspectives to both deliver assistance and improve our policies and practice. Mutually responsive and supportive partnerships between USAID and higher education communities in the United States and abroad are vital to achieving broad and ambitious global development objectives.

In recent years, USAID has sought to increase its engagement with institutions of higher education and their partners as part of a renewed commitment to evidence-based programs; an elevated focus on science and technology; an imperative to broaden our partner base; and an interest in developing the next generation of development professionals. Examples of that work include:

  • The Higher Education Solutions Network (HESN), a global interdisciplinary network of labs designed to solve distinct development challenges. These labs are helping USAID and the development community discover more innovative, results-driven, efficient, cost effective and accessible solutions to global development challenges in areas such as global health, food security and chronic conflict.
  • Partnerships for Enhanced Engagement in Research (PEER) is helping to level the playing field by directly funding scientists and engineers in developing countries who have formed collaborations with high-caliber researchers funded through other U.S. federal research agencies, like the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.
  • The Collaborative Research Support Programs address hunger and agriculture through a network of over 500 collaborating institutions with projects implemented in more than 55 host countries. This long-term collaborative research aims to improve agricultural productivity and marketing systems and to enhance food security. These programs have trained over 3,700 students in the agricultural sciences.
  • The American Schools and Hospitals Abroad (ASHA) program has been expanding educational and medical opportunities across all regions that USAID works for more than 50 years by supporting institutions that demonstrate U.S. educational and medical standards. Since its inception, ASHA has assisted 257 institutions in over 76 countries.

These central mechanisms and initiatives build on decades of strong partnerships with and support for higher education institutions in a wide range of partner countries. For example:

  • In Vietnam, universities and the private sector have joined together to build policies, practices, curriculum and regional centers of excellence to support the Government of Vietnam's plans to hire 30,000 social workers by 2020.
  • University researchers contributed to the training of Haitian small-scale farmers-40 percent of whom were women-on conservation agriculture techniques that increased soil health and yielded more food for both the farmers' families and commercial sale.
  • Under the Africa Education Initiative, five U.S. universities worked with partner countries in Africa to improve primary grade learning. The program provided training for 165,000 teachers, developed 500 new books in 13 languages, and printed over 25 million textbooks and learning materials.

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