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Finland has been a pioneer in higher education cooperation with Eritrea since 2015, when the Higher Education Institutions Institutional Cooperation Instrument (HEI ICI) was first launched. The programme was funded by the development funds of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland and the five higher education capacity building projects are now coming to an end. The cooperation has been unique on many levels and the experiences from the bilateral programme could provide a model also for future initiatives. Within the programme, concrete results have been achieved: upgrade of equipment and facilities, revision of curricula, introduction of a new Master’s programme in Geoinformatics, digitisation and automatisation of university libraries, improvement of pedagogical skills and launch of research activities. Identified success factors of the collaboration include joint planning and priority setting, as well as the joint management structure between the Finnish and Eritrean counterparts and stakeholders.
Such joint management has ensured strong commitment and ownership from both sides and it has also contributed to solving challenges more efficiently.
Based on the need analysis in the preparation phase of the programme, the following elements were identified as the desired long-term impact of the programme: supporting human capacity development; improving access to higher education; improving the learning outcomes and ensuring that the skills graduates gain are relevant for society. The programme was designed to support the contribution of higher education to the development of society and the reduction of poverty in Eritrea. Long-term impact can only be judged in the years to come, but the results gained in the past three years are a sign that this development is well underway. The results achieved will contribute to continuous development work – and hopefully pave the way for more and deeper international collaboration to support Eritrean higher education in further development.