HEI ICI programme provides effective results in the strengthening of teaching in higher education institutions of developing countries
The development cooperation programme HEI ICI (Higher Education Institutions Institutional Cooperation Instrument) supports cooperation projects between HEIs in Finland and HEIs in developing countries to strengthen and develop higher education. The programme offers an opportunity for HEIs to participate in strengthening the higher education sector in developing countries.
Between 2017 and 2020, the financing granted to the HEI ICI programme totalled EUR 12 million. The financing was used to implement 20 projects in 16 countries. Especially the quality of higher education, the pedagogical capacities, the connections of higher education with the world of work, and students’ access to higher education in the developing countries were improved in the projects.
The key achievement of the programme period was the improved quality of higher education in the target countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. During the programme period, HEIs in Finland and HEIs in the partner countries worked together to develop and reform almost 30 degree programmes and more than 50 individual courses in different fields of study. They were officially accepted as part of the studies provided by the partner HEIs.
In the degree programmes and courses, teachers’ methodological and pedagogical capabilities were developed with a special focus on innovative learner-centric methods. In addition, research capacity was strengthened in several of the projects. During the programme period, actors in HEIs published more than 100 research articles related to their HEI ICI projects.
Better access to education and knowledge through project cooperation
Thanks to virtual teaching methods and digital learning environments, more and more students have access to higher education. HEI ICI projects improved the internet connections of HEIs in the developing countries, developed digital tools to help virtual learning and improved access to research data. With the introduction of new kinds of virtual equipment, the projects invested in the training of staff and joint development. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the development of virtual methods became topical in all projects.
The projects also developed the working life abilities of students together with companies and NGOs. Furthermore, connections between HEIs and businesses were improved, for example, by integrating multidisciplinary and innovative business incubator activities into study programmes. In several projects, the challenges of the surrounding society, such as adapting to climate change or improving gender equality, were central in the development of teaching methods. Students sought solutions to these challenges together with local companies and NGOs.
Projects provided effectiveness at the national level in partner countries
Although the HEI ICI programme primarily supports cooperation between HEIs, several of the projects conducted in the programme have also created effectiveness at the national level. For example in Ethiopia, a project focusing on the development of inclusivity in professional teacher education TECIP (Teacher Educators in Higher Education as Catalysts for Inclusive Practices in Technical and Vocational Education) contributed to the national reform of professional teacher education in Ethiopia through its topical theme. The project also highlighted the importance of inclusivity to decision-makers.
In Tanzania, the GeolCT (Geospatial and ICT capacities in Tanzanian Higher Education Institutions) project initiated a change in the field of geoinformatics by developing and reforming study programmes and improving the competence of staff and students in four HEIs. Inspired by the example set by the project, other HEIs in Tanzania have also started the process of reforming studies to improve their connections with the world of work, among other things.
Digitalisation of higher education in developing countries will be supported in the new programme period
The HEI ICI programme will continue with a new programme period between 2020 and 2024. During the programme period, especially students’ access to higher education and the digitalisation of higher education will be developed by building digital learning environments, strengthening teachers’ pedagogical capacity in digital instruction and improving the platforms used for distance learning.
The Ministry for Foreign Affairs finances the HEI ICI programme from Finland’s development cooperation funds and the Finnish National Agency for Education is responsible for the administration of the programme.