Large group of students proudly displaying their graduation certificates
PADILEIA students displaying their graduation certificates ©

AUB CCECS

Building an impact-focused higher education reform programme: View the SPHEIR Theory of Change - and find out how it is guiding the programme and projects. 

Most programmes in international development have a Theory of Change (ToC), setting out the ‘theory’ or ‘logic’ underpinning the programme strategy, and how the programme is expected to reach its objectives. 

The SPHEIR programme involves eight higher education reform projects delivered by a wide range of partners across different countries. The role of the SPHEIR ToC is to ensure that the programme and the projects all head in the same direction towards the end goals, and that everyone understands how their activity contributes to these goals. 

The ToC is represented as a diagram that illustrates the causal chain - from activities or outputs, through different levels of change, to the intended impact, qualified by assumptions at each stage. It is a highly simplified picture of the messy real world and is based on hypothetical cause-effect relationships, some of which have not been comprehensively researched, at least not in the countries targeted by SPHEIR. Nevertheless, there is a consensus among SPHEIR stakeholders that it represents a plausible set of hypotheses based on a set of articulated assumptions. 

It is a useful model to summarise SPHEIR’s intent, and to test its relevance and effectiveness and the continuing validity of assumptions through monitoring and evaluation in the life of the programme. The ToC is reviewed every year in light of changes and collective understandings about causality and assumptions. It has proved to be remarkably resilient – mainly because it is constructed around broad categories of outputs and intended outcomes and impact. It will be tested and challenged again by the final evaluation for the SPHEIR programme.

See the SPHEIR Theory of Change in the pdf below.