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.

Included in the UK’s bilateral funding flows is ODA channeled as earmarked funding through multilaterals. In September of 2019, the government announced £300 million (US$383 million) for the International Finance Facility for Education (IFFEd) a new initiative to mobilize finance for education projects through donor grants and guarantees, which the UK has been highly engaged in creating. The UK is one of the largest donors 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 of 2020 to support emergency education during the COVID-19 crisis. The UK co-hosted the GPE’s fourth replenishment with Kenya in 2021 and became one of the largest bilateral donors. It pledged £430 million (US$600 million) between 2021 and 2025: a 15% increase from its previous pledge on a per-annum basis.

Girls’ education is one of the FCDO’s seven policy priorities for ODA in FY2021/22. The FCDO has budgeted £400 million (US$510 million) for this issue. This is on top of the UK’s funding commitment to GPE for 2021 and beyond. The UK used its 2021 G7 Presidency to drive commitments on meeting a set of intermediary targets on the theme of girls’ education, including a commitment to get 40 million more girls in low and lower-middle-income countries in education by 2026.  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 education programs are managed under the FCDO’s Director General for the Americas and the Overseas Territories. The UK Prime Minister has also appointed a Special Envoy on Girls Education.