Sir Ian Diamond on DFID’s education programme priorities

Sir Ian was part of the Round Table convened by DFID at the UKFIET Conference in Oxford in September 2013, which presented the evolution of DFID’s education programme. In this video, Sir Ian reflects on the session and the education programme in general. He supports the shift in focus from primary to secondary education, but emphasises that careful planning is needed, particularly regarding costs and curriculum development. The quality of the education being provided is of utmost importance. While no magic bullet exists to improve education, carefully implemented monitoring and evaluation of innovative programmes can make a real difference. DFID’s education programme aims to ultimately ensure that when school leavers exit the education programme they have the key skills they need. More information on DFID’s position on education can be found in their improving learning and expanding opportunities paper.


Professor Sir Ian Diamond is Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Aberdeen, an appointment he has held since 1 April 2010.  He was previously Chief Executive of the Economic and Social Research Council. He was also Chair of the Research Councils UK Executive Group (2004-2009) the umbrella body that represents all seven UK Research Councils.   Before joining the ESRC, Sir Ian was Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the University of Southampton, where he had been for most of his career.

In his research career, Sir Ian’s work crossed many disciplinary boundaries, most notably working in the area of population but also in health, both in the developed and less developed world, in environmental noise and with local authorities. His research has involved collaboration with many government departments including the Office for National Statistics, the Department for International Development, the Department of Transport and the Department for Work and Pensions. Sir Ian was Knighted in the New Year’s Honours 2013.


Sir Ian refers to a new form of aid financing being implemented by DFID, known as Payment By Results (PBR), where payments are contingent on the independent verification of results. A PBR approach is regarded as critical to open public services. According to UK Government Cabinet Office’s Open Public Services White Paper, which sets out the Government agenda for public sector reform, PBR encourages providers to work more closely with citizens and communities to build services that are both more efficient and qualitatively different, orientated around individuals and communities in ways that foster mutual support, respect and, where possible, self-help. More information on DFID’s approach to PBR can be found in a policy document published in October 2013. Payment by results has three key elements for DFID:

  1. Disbursements tied to the achievement of clearly specified results: payment for outcomes such as completion of education, rather than payment for inputs such as provision of textbooks.
  2. Recipient discretion – the recipient has space to decide how results are achieved.
  3. Robust verification of results as the trigger for disbursement.

A short presentation by DFID can be downloaded for more information on PBR.

DFID’s 2013 paper on improving learning and expanding opportunities presents DFID’s position on delivering value for money in education, developing new partnerships across the public-private spectrum, using new technology and building evidence on new approaches with partner governments.

It reaffirms DFID’s commitment to the Millennium Development Goals and the Education For All goals. The core priorities remain:

  • To improve learning.
  • To reach all children, especially those in fragile states.
  • To keep girls in school, helping the most marginalised girls stay in school and learning for longer.

DFID’s approach to education combines strengthening national education systems to ensure better provision for improved learning; improving accountability to citizens and taxpayers for results; and improving what happens in classrooms. There is no single technical fix to guarantee improved learning outcomes for every child and affecting change in learning outcomes can take time. A focus on learning does, however, provide a clear measurable indicator of education quality and impact.

DFID’s complete education strategy 2010-2015 outlines how DFID will contribute to helping the world’s children realise their full potential.


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