United Kingdom - Education

The UK is the fourth-largest donor to global education; focus on girls’ education

The UK spent US$1.3 billion or 7% of total ODA to education in 2019, below the DAC average of 10%. This makes the UK the fourth-largest donor to education in absolute terms, but only the 20th -largest in relative terms. UK’s contribution to education has fluctuated due to large contributions to the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) and other education-related initiatives.


In 2019, the UK spent US$319 million (24%) of its ODA for education as core funding to multilaterals. This is below the DAC average (30%). Top recipients included EU institutions (EU; US$165 million or 12% of total ODA to education), the International Development Association (IDA; US$97 million or 7%), followed by United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA; US$35 million or 3%). The UK relies much more heavily on bilateral channels for its ODA to education. In 2019 it spent US$1.0 billion (76% of the ODA for education) bilaterally with a focus on primary education (40%), education policy and administrative management (16%), and higher education (14%). ODA channeled as earmarked funding through multilaterals is included in the UK’s bilateral funding flows.

The UK is the largest donor to Education Cannot Wait (ECW), a global fund launched in 2016 to improve access to education during humanitarian emergencies and crises. Total UK contributions amount to £124 million (US$158 million), including an additional £5 million (US$6 million) announced in April 2020 to support emergency education during the COVID-19 crisis. It is also one of the largest bilateral donors to the GPE, pledging £225 million (US$287 million) between 2018 and 2020. The UK will co-host GPE’s fourth replenishment in 2021 alongside Kenya and has indicated that they intend to make a substantial contribution. The UK has yet to announce its contribution to GPE replenishment, but the UK Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) has stated that the UK will be more generous than in previous years. Contributions to education peaked in 2016 at US$1.7 billion when the UK made large disbursements to the GPE and the Girls’ Education Challenge (GEC), a 12-year commitment launched in 2012 by DFID to educate marginalized girls.

Girls’ education is one of the FCDO’s seven policy priorities for ODA in FY2021/22. The most recent budget allocates £400 million (US$510 million), which is a cut from the budget of around £580 million (US$740 million) in 2019. The UK government recently announced £55 million (US$73 million) to establish 'What Works Hub for Global Education' as a key part of the UK’s G7 Presidency. The Hub will seek to share knowledge on "what works" to improve girls’ education, with a special focus on Kenya, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, and Pakistan. The UK government also unveiled a new five-year (2021-2026) global action plan on girls' education with the following commitments: 1) shape a renewed international effort to ensure the world is on track to reach the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 on 'Quality Education'; 2) use its network of British Ambassadors and High Commissioners to support committed national governments in enhancing their efforts to improve girls’ education; and 3) establish global public goods for education.

The FCDO is responsible for directing the UK’s development assistance policy for education

The FCDO is responsible for the UK’s development assistance policy for education. Global programs are managed under the FCDO’s Director General for the Americas and the Overseas Territories. The UK Prime Ministers has also appointed a Special Envoy on Girls Education.