EU - Education

The EU is among the largest donors to education

The European Union institutions (EUI; including the EU and European Investment Bank, EIB) spent US$1.1 billion of their ODA on education in 2016 (the latest year for which multilateral and bilateral OECD data is available). This represents 5% of EUI’s total ODA (Development Assistance Committee, DAC average: 8%).  

In this year, the EUI channeled all of their education ODA bilaterally which included US$904 million (82%) in bilateral funds and US$194 million (18%) channeled as earmarked funding through multilaterals which is reported to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) as bilateral ODA. The EUI’s education ODA has been on the rise since 2014 due to increased funding provided to tackle causes of migration and because of an increased share of humanitarian assistance earmarked for education.  

In 2018, bilateral ODA to education was US$1.2 billion which accounted for 6.1% of EUI's total bilateral ODA. Between 2016 and 2017, total bilateral ODA to education increased by 21% (from US$1.1 billion to US$1.3 billion) but then dipped by 4% in 20183 (to reach US$1.3 billion). 

In 2018, the single largest share of bilateral education funding (49%) was allocated to ‘general education ’ in 2018 (US$589 million), with most funding going to supporting education policy and administrative management (US$561 million). A further priority is ‘basic education ’, which received 23% (US$281 million) of the EU’s education ODA in 2018. This mostly comprises funding for primary education (US$230 million). Another fifth of EU education funding (17%) went to post-secondary education, traditionally a large sector due to scholarships and trainings provided within the EU. In 2018, the EU also provided US$108 million for vocational support within the education sector, which accounted for 9% of bilateral education ODA. 

In addition to bilateral funding, EUI supports multilateral initiatives that contribute to education. The EU supports the ‘Education Cannot Wait’ (ECW; initiative dedicated to education in emergencies and protracted crises) and has committed €25 million (US$30 million) since the inception of the fund. The EU is one of five founding donors to ECW, alongside the US, the UK, Norway, and the Netherlands. In April 2019, the EU announced that it would also financially support the ‘International Finance Facility for Education’ (IFFEd) – a new innovative education financing mechanism proposed to generate new resources for education in lower middle-income countries. The EUI provided an initial funding of €6.5 million (US$8 million) to IFFEd. The EUI also pledged US$337 for the 2018-2020 replenishment period of the Global Partnership for Education, a multi-stakeholder funding platform dedicated to strengthening education systems on low- and middle-income countries.

The EU’s Priorities for education are outlined in the European Consensus on Development. Education is included in the framework for action ‘People – human development and dignity’ and is listed as a central element for tackling poverty and inequalities. The EUI have committed to prioritizing education under development assistance and regards education as essential for achieving the SDGs, reducing social inequalities, and advancing gender equality. Accordingly, in 2008, the EU called upon member states to devote 10% of their ODA to education by 2024 and 15% by 2023. 

Key focus areas under the EU’s education development assistance include early childhood and primary education with special attention given to the educational development of girls and women. Additionally, education is considered a means to boost youth employment, mitigate migration, and stabilize countries affected by conflict. In recent years, the EU has increased its focus on education in emergencies and fragile contexts. The share of humanitarian funding dedicated to education increased from less than 1% in 2015 to 10% in 2019, according to information from the European Commission (EC). Together with the recipient countries, the EC agrees on three priority sectors for education, in line with the country’s own development strategies.  

DG DEVCO’s Directorate on Human Development leads on education policy  

The Council of the European Union — specifically the Foreign Affairs Council that includes ministers of foreign affairs and/or development from all member states — determines the overall strategies and priorities in ODA. The EC’s Directorate-General for Development Cooperation (DG DEVCO) leads on developing the EU’s policies and thematic programs around education. Within DG DEVCO, education is covered in Directorate B, ‘People and Peace’, and at the technical level in Unit B4, ‘Culture, Education, Health’. The Directorate-General European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (DG ECHO) oversees the humanitarian budget directed to education. Specifically, Directorate A, ‘Emergency Management’, covers education in emergencies. In the 2014-2020 multiannual financial framework (MFF), the Global Public Goods and Challenges program allocated €1.3 billion (US$1.5 billion) for Human Development. Funding for education – alongside other issues such as health and social protection – comes out of this budget. 

17 - EU total education ODA

For further details on methodology, see our Donor Tracker Codebook.