SDG Graduate Schools

Network Meeting SDG Graduate Schools 2019

The programme seeks to contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) of the United Nations. Thus, partnerships between higher education institutions in Germany and countries from the global south are supported in order to establish SDG Graduate Schools in the global south.


English Programme logo of the SDG Graduate Schools

In 2015, the United Nations passed the development agenda “Transforming our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”. A total of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) are formulated as joint requirements for industrialised, emerging and developing countries within the framework of a global partnership. The requirements of the 2030 Agenda cover a broad range of themes and social issues, highlighting key challenges on the way to sustainable development:

  • end hunger and poverty and ensure human dignity, equality and health (people);
  • environmental protection, e.g. through sustainability in consumption and production and sustainable resource management in tackling climate change (planet);
  • development and well-being in economic, social, and technological terms (prosperity);
  • the promotion of peaceful, equitable, and inclusive societies (peace);
  • the establishment of a global partnership for sustainable development (partnership).

The goal of quality education with equal opportunities (SDG4) is of great importance: “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.” Furthermore, education is seen as an important cross-sectoral issue that has to be addressed in order for us to achieve further goals.

Excellent, dynamic universities and highly-qualified professionals and managerial staff are extremely important when it comes to working together to address challenges for development policy and achieve the SDGs. In this context, the DAAD has implemented the SDG Graduate Schools programme funded by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). The programme is especially intended to assist universities in the global south fulfil their role as an important driving force for sustainable development (globally and locally).

Programme objectives

The programme is running since 2016 and aims to contribute to achieving the development goals by supporting university partnerships in establishing and implementing SDG Graduate Schools in the global south. Professionals and lecturers trained at the graduate schools are expected to work on solving develpment-related problems. Currently seven SDG Graduate Schools are funded and started a second funding phase in 2021. As the establishment of the graduate schools was the focus of the first funding phase, the work on issues like the implementation of the principal "leave no one behind" into the work of the graduate school and the question what is meant with sustainability when it comes to training of people will be focussed during the second funding phase.

The regional focus is on Africa; there are four SDG Graduate Schools built up in Africa, two further in Latin America, and one in Asia. The partner universities can flexibly use a broad range of DAAD instruments for the establishment and further development of these SDG Graduate Schools.

The programme's overall objective is to offer qualified postgraduate students high-quality training in development-related degree courses. In the short and medium term, the SDG Graduate Schools are expected to increase teaching capacities by incorporating information and communication technologies (ICT). Also research structures necessary for postgraduate education should be strengthened. The SDG Graduate Schools work together with relevant employers and stakeholders from politics, industry, and/or civil society, developing innovative financial and strategic concepts to ensure the sustainability of the graduate schools.


Funded projects and partners involved

The programme supports partnerships between higher education institutions in Germany and those in the global south by providing relevant, high-quality educational offerings of structured study courses on interdisciplinary research topics. The graduate schools are to train specialised experts and lecturers at masters, PhD and postdoc level, thus contributing to the joint development of innovative solutions for key SDG themes. 

Since the key focus of the partnership is on the structural development of teaching and research at the partner institution abroad, this is also where the core activities should take place. In order to promote the internationalisation of the project and scholarship holders, however, participants should aim to spend some time in Germany, as cross-cultural skills and experience in international teams are a key factor to success in many projects. As a further initiative to internationalisation of the graduate schools (GS) and their students and staff, the seven funded projects joined together in the Interdisciplinary SDG-GS Alliance for the second funding phase in order to facilitate joined projects, workshops and exchange of individuals.

This forms the basis for a coherent future concept which, in cooperation with partners in the global south, ensures the sustainability of the SDG Graduate Schools after the funding period has ended.

The following projects are being funded:


To achieve its objectives even more efficiently, the DAAD offers tailormade funding instruments according to the needs of the global south. In 2014, the DAAD introduced a comprehensive result-oriented monitoring system to further improve the quality and transparency of its commitment.

In their proposals, the partners specify the intended outcomes of their graduate schools and  define performance indicators.

Monitoring the indicators is part of the standardised online-report. This allows a comupter-based analysis of the whole funding period, proving the success of the first funding period. 

Extract of the monitoring results of the first funding phase

DAAD - Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst - German Academic Exchange Service