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International Training Programmes (ITP)

ITP are projects that focus on short- to medium-term, intensive, interactive and practice-oriented training courses, distinguished by topic. These topics can be about sustainable development, transversal skills for higher education (HE) management, transversal or priority themes (e.g., gender, sustainable development, human rights, digital 4 development, decent work, etc).

Why are ITP projects important?

There is an increasing consensus on the importance of strong higher education and science institutions (HE&SIs) and systems in addressing sustainable development challenges. Higher education and science institutions play a key role in achieving the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (SD) and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with the aim to end poverty, protect the planet, foster gender equality, defend and promote cultures and cultural understanding, and ensure prosperity for all. In this respect, the Global Sustainable Development Report calls upon all stakeholders to facilitate multidirectional collaboration in science and (transfer of) technology to achieve the SDGs. It considers academic and scientific capacity strengthening and partnerships as one of the four main levers to achieve the 2030 Agenda and implies a strengthened link between higher education institutions, governments, civil society organisations, and the private sector. Higher education institutions offer disciplinary and transdisciplinary teaching and research as they generate and contribute to the development of new and innovative approaches to global, regional, and local issues.

Through research, HE&SIs play a unique role as drivers of change by producing new knowledge and innovation to address global challenges, by transferring knowledge through training, by providing evidence for informed (public) policy and implementation, and by knowledge mobilisation. Through their teaching, universities and universities of applied sciences and arts empower generations of new leaders and skilled professionals to drive sustainable development. Today’s students are the decision-makers and professionals of tomorrow, who think both critically and ethically, who have learnt to cope with ethical dilemmas, and who can apply systems thinking approaches to serious and complex societal problems.

HE&SIs have also taken up a central role in providing global citizenship education to nurture a global understanding and a more profound intercultural awareness. Through service delivery and community engagement, HE&SIs work with a rich variety of stakeholders – including governments, the private sector, and civil society – for local, national, regional, and global impact.

How do ITP projects connect with SDG principles?

The SDG principles serve as a compass for VLIR-UOS' endeavour of sharing minds, changing lives. As visualised in the Theory of Change (ToC), they are transversally integrated, using a broad interpretation of the principles, to make the activities and change processes SDG-proof. Additionally, VLIR-UOS uses the SDG principles as a compass to integrate the principles of “synergy and complementarity” and the integration of transversal and priority themes of the Belgian Development Cooperation into its operations. Integration of these principles is an important element in the selection of projects.

SDG principles

  • Interconnectedness: VLIR-UOS recognises that given the complexity, scale, and interconnectedness of current societal challenges, meaningful social, economic, and ecological transformations can only be realised by approaching the SDGs from a holistic and integrated viewpoint. More precisely, VLIR-UOS strives for holistic transformations by encouraging projects to reflect on their position in the interplay of global challenges and national needs, and to bring together the different types of expertise that are necessary to successfully implement the project. As an essential first step in considering the complexity of societal change, all VLIR-UOS supported projects develop a holistic context analysis that moves beyond sectoral and disciplinary borders and should analyse the positive as well as negative interlinkages between the SDG goals. This also includes paying attention to the transversal themes gender equality and environmental sustainability.

  • Coherence, Multi-institutional partnerships (MIP), and Multi-stakeholder partnerships (MSP): The complexity, scale, and interconnectedness of the current societal challenges that the SDG framework is seeking to address, requires a concerted effort or collaboration by a wide variety of actors. This need for concertation/collaboration is translated to 3 potential approaches. Proposals are invited to explore these.

    ·        Coherence: The Agenda 2030 urges actions to be coherent with the actions and networks of other actors and/or other HES4SD initiatives. An analysis of complementary actions by academic and non-academic actors is essential for each partnership (to ensure coherence). VLIR-UOS wants to facilitate coherence and connections between different actors and projects present in each country and across borders. With these objectives in mind, Country Reference Framework (CRF) documents [1] support teams of academics when identifying and formulating project proposals, by providing a context analysis per country, focused on Agenda 2030 on Sustainable Development and the higher education sector, and by providing an overview of Belgian development actors active in the country and of their ongoing projects and partners, in view of exploration of opportunities to connect and assure coherence.

    ·        Multi-Institutional Partnership (MIP): This concerns a structural collaboration between several higher education institutions at Flemish/Belgian (including ITM) and/or partner level within the framework of a project, with the aim of obtaining better results by pooling available expertise. The different institutions take up a meaningful and important role in the project. In fact, the Flemish higher education institutions have recently created a platform through their “associatieve projecten” that are dedicatedly fostering these types of cooperation. 

    ·        Multi-Stakeholder Partnership (MSP): this concerns a structural collaboration with at least 1 non-academic actor (= multi-stakeholder; civil society, private sector, governmental actors, etc.) within the framework of a project, in which this actor plays an active role in the project implementation. The actors in the MSP work towards a common goal, with a clear division of roles and responsibilities, which are formalised e.g., in a project agreement. VLIR-UOS takes into account the MSP principle by promoting collaboration between different actors (beyond HEIs) to co-create, share, and mobilise knowledge and expertise across disciplines, sectors, interest groups, and borders. More precisely, VLIR-UOS explicitly puts forward the science-society interface and knowledge uptake, and the importance of strengthening it.

  • Leave no one behind: VLIR-UOS recognises the need for proactive strategies to ensure that vulnerable and marginalised populations are included and benefit from higher education partnerships for sustainable development. The LNOB principle is taken into account by looking at partners with whom we work, at beneficiaries for whom we work, and what we focus on in projects. VLIR-UOS encourages projects to take gender and vulnerable groups into account, by putting forward partnerships with mid-range or small-scale institutions, by awarding scholarships to a diversified group of beneficiaries, and by promoting transformative or community-based types of research. More precisely, international top higher education institutions are only considered when they participate as supporting partners in projects, scholarship attribution is not only based on academic excellence in terms of scientific output, and mainstreaming approaches are put in place to consider inclusion and (gender) equality in each project. ITP projects in particular, aim to be accessible for academics/researchers in the early stages of their academic career, interested to explore the potential for higher education for sustainable development. As mentioned earlier, regarding gender, VLIR-UOS and its partners engage in fixing the numbers, fixing the knowledge, and fixing the organisation for gender equality. This is also an important dimension of the Leave No One Behind principle.

[1] Country reference frameworks were elaborated for the 17 countries + Belgium in the VLIR-UOS project partner country list.

ITP projects and Theory of Change


Theory of change

VLIR-UOS proposes a Theory of Change (ToC) approach that outlines how and why VLIR-UOS can be expected to achieve its intended societal impact through changes by and in higher education institutes (HEIs), local communities/civil society, governments, and the private sector. All projects should fit in the generic Theory of Change for ITP projects. In the long run, ITP projects are expected to contribute to more sustainable and equitable development by fostering application of solutions and evidence-based policies, a global community of skilled individuals who act as global citizens in relevant sectors, and knowledge-driven global partnerships.

By relying upon the SDG Principles of leaving no one behind, interconnectedness and multi-stakeholder partnerships as our compass, VLIR-UOS envisions that contributions to these impact areas will foster equality and inclusion in higher education systems and society at large. Moreover, depending on the thematic focus of the supported projects and resultant knowledge, the impact areas may reflect contributions to all global goals covered by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Strategic axes & 6 outcomes

To effectively contribute to these generic objectives, VLIR-UOS focuses on two strategic axes that mutually reinforce each other: 

(1) enabling HE&SIs to strengthen and take up their role as Drivers of Change 

(2) enabling individuals to act as Agents of Change.

Along these strategic axes, VLIR-UOS identifies six outcomes of which 1, 2 and 4 are the most important one for ITP projects. ITP projects will primarily focus on outcome (1), though may also include outcome (2) and (4) but this will be depending on the priorities and main objectives of each ITP, meaning that some might focus more on (1) and (2) while others focus more on (1) and (4), depending on priorities and needs of the stakeholders. Yet, projects are required to document their choices to ensure alignment with their own strategy. This strategy needs to resonate with the VLIR-UOS vision towards change (= the generic Theory of Change as set out in this document).

The six outcomes are:

  1. Individuals apply relevant co-created knowledge, skills, and attitudes.
  2. HE&SIs provide higher quality and more inclusive education.
  3. HE&SIs make use of improved organisational systems, processes, and structures.
  4. HE&SIs conduct higher quality and needs-oriented research.
  5. HE&SIs create enhanced conditions for uptake of new knowledge, applications or services.
  6. HE&SIs and their stakeholders engage in knowledge driven science-society interactions.

Domains of change

An ITP project can focus on different project domains (=domains of intermediate change) that contribute to the different outcomes, with ‘Education programme and methods’, ‘People’ and ‘Networks and partnerships’ being the main ones. It is possible that ITP projects focus on one or more of the other project domains (outreach and policy support; research programmes and methods; systems, policies and infrastructure) and if this is the case, promoters are invited to clarify their focus on one of these additional domains.

Individual projects should undertake deliverables and activities that fit within the six domains through partnerships between HE&SIs and other local, national or global stakeholders. The deliverables, processes, and changes in these domains are interlinked and not mutually exclusive. Additionally, it is important to keep in mind that expectations in relation to these domains should vary for ITP projects in view of their distinct scope (in terms of time and budget).

Who can apply for a ITP project?

Affiliation and statute of the promoters:

  • Flemish promoter: professor/specialist employed at a Flemish university or a professor/lecturer at a Flemish university of applied sciences and arts.
  • Partner promoter: employed at a recognised higher education institution or a national public (not for profit) research institute, located in a VLIR-UOS project partner country.

Details on the eligibility requirements will be available in the Call document.

Additional criteria:

  • Promoters of an ITP 2022 or ITP 2023 project cannot submit any new ITP project.
  • Promoters of an ITP 2022/2023 project proposal that was not selected, can resubmit their proposal, however, on the condition that follow-up was given to the assessment of the commission.

  • At the level of the partner institutions, no further criteria apply. Former and present IUC partner institutions are fully eligible, without any restriction.

What are the eligible project partner countries?

The ITP is organised in Belgium, at one or more Flemish HE&SIs, or in one of VLIR-UOS project partner countries or in both. Online and blended training can also be integrated into an ITP.

Activities can be organised in collaboration with / in the following partner countries:

Benin, Bolivia, Burundi, Cuba, DR Congo, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Kenya, Morocco, Peru, Philippines, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Vietnam

What is the maximum budget and duration of a ITP project?

The maximum budget is 150,000 EUR and the implementation period is 3 activity years.

More info & application




Info session International Training Project (ITP) Call 2023

Other call types

Short Initiatives (SI)

Short Initiative (SI) are short-term projects that aim to explore, build and deepen academic/scientific collaborations among diverse teams. SI projects focus on a specific sustainable development challenge. In addition to strengthening research and educational capacities of higher education and science institutions, Short Initiatives create the conditions for uptake of new and relevant knowledge, applications and/or services by all development actors.

More info Call open

TEAM projects

TEAM projects are medium-term projects that aim to explore, build and deepen academic/scientific collaborations among diverse teams. TEAM projects focus on a specific sustainable development challenge. In addition to strengthening research and educational capacities of higher education and science institutions, TEAM projects create the conditions for uptake of new and relevant knowledge, applications and/or services by all academic, civil society, private and public actors.

More info Call open

Scholarships for Masters (ICP Connect)

ICP Connect study programmes are accredited international study programmes organised at one or more Flemish universities. The programmes focus on subjects aligned with the Agenda 2030 and SDG principles. VLIR-UOS supports a selection of 15 ICPs and provides an annual intake of 10 new first-year scholarships for each ICP.

More info Call open