Strategic Partnerships for Higher Education Innovation and Reform (SPHEIR)

Transforming the quality, relevance, scale, access and affordability of higher education

Strong higher education systems are key for accelerating development, building inclusive societies and promoting sustainable economic growth. SPHEIR was a UK Aid programme (2016-2022) supporting change in higher education to better meet the needs of students, employers and society in focus countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

The programme was managed by a consortium of organisations, led by the British Council in association with PricewaterhouseCoopers and Universities UK International.

The SPHEIR approach

Mutually beneficial partnerships brought together different types of organisations – including higher education institutions, authorities and associations, civil society and private sector organisations – to design and deliver innovative solutions to higher education challenges by focusing on transformative change at individual, institutional and sector-wide levels

SPHEIR’s transformational impact

Quality – In Sierra Leone, a National Qualification Framework for Tertiary Education set new quality standards for higher education institutions. Across East Africa, a new quality review tool was applied in 21 universities to improve institutional blended learning capacity.

Relevance – In Somaliland and Sierra Leone, 13 degree programmes were redesigned with contextualised content and practice-based learning. In Tanzania and Uganda, four universities are engaging public and private sector representatives through new Joint Advisory Groups.

Scale – 4,470 academic and support staff were trained in curriculum design, student-centred and gender-responsive pedagogy, assessment, blended learning and distance education. Over 77,600 students benefitted directly from SPHEIR, including 12,400 from Myanmar who accessed online courses.

Access – More than 12,500 students in Lebanon and Jordan accessed study tracks and bespoke short courses with a further 1.1 million learners worldwide enrolled online.

Affordability – 913 students in Kenya received an affordable loan to start or continue university, of whom 82% were from the bottom three wealth quintiles and nearly half were the first in their family to progress to tertiary education.

To find out more about SPHEIR partnerships, visit the SPHEIR partnership profile pages.

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