Africa-U.S. Higher Education Planning Grant Competition Draws Unprecedented Interest 

February 24, 2009 
Contact: Higher Education for Development
(202) 243-7680

Record Number of Nearly 300 Applications Received

WASHINGTON, DC (February 24, 2009) – A planning grant competition pairing U.S. colleges and universities with development projects at higher education institutions in Sub-Saharan African nations has received an unprecedented number of applications, according to Higher Education for Development (HED). The grants are supported through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). USAID’s support for these planning grants was announced at an international summit on higher education and development convened by the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Department of Education and USAID in April 2008.

Nearly 300 applications have been received for the open competition that will ultimately award 20 planning grants of $50,000 each for capacity-building partnerships. The funding will be used by grantee institutions for developing plans to collaborate to address regional and national economic development priorities. HED is managing the competition which grew out of the Africa-U.S. Higher Education Initiative, a collaborative effort between a number of higher education associations and other organizations, led by the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges (NASULGC).

Planning projects will ultimately span a variety of sectors including agriculture, environment and natural resources, health, science and technology, engineering, education and teacher training/preparation, and business, management and economics. More than 30 Sub-Saharan African countries are represented in the applications.

“Africa urgently needs and desires partners in building the human and institutional capacity,” said Peter McPherson, president of NASULGC. “This initiative will produce long-term relationships between U.S. and African higher education institutions. The overwhelming response speaks volumes about the internationalization of our campuses.”

“We are thrilled to see such enormous interest in this competition from such diverse institutions both in the United States and throughout Africa,” added Terry Hartle, HED’s board chair and senior vice president of government and public affairs for the American Council on Education. “These awards, once granted, will make a tangible and sustainable impact as they increase the engagement of U.S. higher education institutions in Africa.”

The higher education initiative and award competition garnered significant interest during a five-week online consultation in October that drew more than 700 individuals including 205 participants from 31 African nations. The consultation recorded nearly 60,000 page views, 310 posts and 90 private messages.

Applications will be evaluated through a peer review process outlined in the Request for Applications (RFA) posted at Initiative partners will continue to seek follow-on funding and welcome private sector support for long-term collaboration between African and U.S. higher education institutions.

NASULGC will continue to provide resources and leadership. The American Council on Education is providing important administrative and financial support. Also engaged in the undertaking are the American Association of Community Colleges, the Association of American Universities, the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, and Higher Education for Development. The Partnership to Cut Hunger and Poverty in Africa, and the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa have also provided leadership and support from the beginning. The Association of African Universities is also giving this effort extensive support and advice. To date, USAID and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have provided financial support.

Additional details about the Africa-U.S. Higher Education Initiative may be found at