ODA Spending

How much ODA does the UK allocate to education?

The UK was the sixth-largest DAC donor to education in 2022.

The UK’s spending on education represented around 3% of total ODA in 2022, well below the DAC average of 9%. This makes the UK only the 25th-largest in relative terms.

How is UK educational ODA changing?

The UK has a long history of supporting education. Its 2023 White Paper on International Development reiterates that education will remain a priority moving forward. However, as with many other thematic areas, funding to education has fallen since 2019 as the UK’s overall ODA budget has decreased, particularly multilateral funding for education.

The UK’s focus on education in ODA has closely entwined with its objectives alongside gender equality, with a strong focus on ensuring girls and highly marginalized children get access to education. The UK is committed to contributing to the G7‘s 2021 commitments: ensuring 40 million more girls in school by 2026 in LICs and LMICs and 20 million more girls reading by age 10 or the end of primary school in LICs and LMICs by 2026.

The UK also has a strong focus on supporting education in conflict situations and has increasingly been investing in innovation and technology to improve the quality of education. It has also been a champion of innovative financing mechanisms for education and continues to strive to improve funding available for education.

In 2021, the UK government launched a five-year (2021-2026) global action plan on girls' education in 2021 with the following commitments:

  • Shape a renewed international effort to ensure the world is on track to reach the UN SDG#4 on 'Quality Education';
  • Use its network of British Ambassadors and High Commissioners to support committed national governments in enhancing their efforts to improve girls’ education; and
  • Establish global public goods for education.

The FCDO's FY2022/23 report laid out its funding plans for education, gender, and equality. Funding stood at GBP179 million ( US$221 million) in FY2021/22 and fell by 17% in FY2022/23 to GBP147 million ( US$181 million). The report indicated the thematic funding is likely to fall again in FY2023/24 to GBP139 million ( US$171 million) (5%) and then to rise by 153% to GBP354 million ( US$436 million) in FY2024/25.

How is UK educational ODA allocated?

Bilateral Spending

The UK relies heavily on bilateral channels for its ODA to education. Its core contributions to multilaterals have decreased dramatically since 2018.

Multilateral Spending & Commitments

In 2022, the UK spent 15% of its ODA for education as core funding to multilaterals. This is well below the DAC average of 28%.

In September 2023, the UK also announced GBP180 million ( US$215 million) in support to the IFFed: GBP95 million (US$113 million) will be provided as grants and paid-in capital, as well as GBP85 million ( US$101 million) in contingent guarantees. The UK hopes this will unlock up to US$1 billion in affordable education finance.

The UK co-hosted the GPE’s fourth replenishment with Kenya in 2021, but was unable to offer an increase in resources from its previous pledge, much to the disappointment of CSOs. It pledged GBP430 million ( US$592 million) to GPE between 2021-2025, approximately the same volume of resources per annum as the UK’s last commitment.

Funding and Policy Outlook

What is the current UK government's outlook on educational ODA?

The UK’s International Women and Girls Strategy, released in March 2023, commits the UK to focusing on educating girls and to developing a new global Coalition for Learning to raise awareness of the learning crisis that disproportionately affects girls: The coalition was launched in March 2023, where the UK announced a new GBP28 million ( US$35 million) initiative for girls' education in the Democratic Republic of Congo. On May 9, 2023, the UK hosted the Education World Forum, and announced GBP30 million ( US$38 million) in new funding for the ASEAN Girls Education and Skills program.

Despite these pledges, and initiatives, advocates expressed concern that the announced UK budget cuts undermine growth in the education sector: The UK’s investment in education ODA has declined dramatically, falling from US$1.5 billion in 2019 to US$556 million in 2022.

Key bodies

Related Publications

A new era of development assistance: Key takeaways from the G7 summit

Donor Updates in Brief: 2023 OECD Preliminary Data

December 2023 Foundational Literacy and Numeracy Roundup 

Looking for a cross donor perspective?

Learn more about SEEK's work on education

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Benjamin Overton

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