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IHE Delft – all about water!


IHE Delft Institute for Water Education is a unique institute. Situated in the modestly sized, charming medieval city of Delft, it has a reputation among water professionals, particularly in the global south, as being the place to study anything and everything about water.

IHE Delft’s mission is ‘working in partnership to strengthen capacity in the water sector to achieve global sustainable development’. To this end, water professionals and others with a desire to work in water and development, come to IHE Delft to gain their Master’s or Phd or to pursue a short or online course in a water related topic which will help them solve a particular challenge facing their country or region.

Every year, IHE Delft welcomes more than 200 master students from approximately 60 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America and a few from Europe and another 500 for short courses. With an additional 100 students doing their PhD, this creates a vibrant, multidisciplinary, multicultural ‘mini United Nations’ opposite Delft train station!

The arrival of Covid presented many challenges for IHE Delft, not least to quickly convert face to face master programmes to online classes. All staff involved worked tirelessly to do this and the result was an almost seamless transition. The graduation ceremony, which normally takes place in the Oude Kerk in Delft and which many Ambassadors normally attend, had to be swiftly transferred to an online event, as did our six yearly Capacity Development Symposium, which managed to attract many more attendees than would have been able to make the journey to Delft. There are some benefits to online events but the buzz and chat is definitely missing.

And what about this year with Covid still rampant in Europe? Fortunately and amazingly, all but two of the expected 160 students from 53 countries due to start their MSc have arrived in Delft and have started their studies online. Laboratory work is conducted at the Institute with the necessary safeguards and the Rectorate is determined to allow small group face-to-face study in IHE Delft as soon as regulations permit.

The range of water topics on offer at IHE Delft is broad – there are currently 17 specializations which students can pursue. These cover the areas of ecology, water management and governance, environmental science and technology, sanitation, engineering, water diplomacy, hydroinformatics, food security, coastal engineering, flood risk management.  A programme on sanitation in emergency situations is also just being launched, in collaboration with UNICEF.

IHE Delft is accredited to run three Erasmus Mundus programmes in the topics of groundwater, flood risk management and environmental technology and engineering, with other European universities. Given the attractiveness and high level of these programmes, the Institute is currently applying to be involved in three more.

IHE Delft Institute for Water Education

Research is an important aspect of IHE Delft’s activity and in addition to managing a large number of research projects, more than 100 PhD fellows are studying at the Institute. IHE Delft awards these in conjunction with other Dutch universities, including TU Delft, University of Amsterdam and Wageningen University. While the Institute works closely with these universities on a number of initiatives and many staff members work at both, IHE Delft is independent and in fact under the auspices of UNESCO.

The Dutch Government has financially supported more than one-third of IHE’s students with full fellowships, through their Orange Knowledge Programme. Since this will finish in 2022, before the end of the master programme, which continues until April 2023, Nuffic, the government funding body, will cover the taught part of the studies but IHE is urgently seeking co-funders for the remaining 15,000 Euro per student required for the research and thesis component.

If any embassies can introduce funding sources from their country to support one or more students, they are requested to contact IHE’s business development officer, Ms Cristina Anacabe: c.anacabe@un-ihe.org 

In these challenging times where preventing the spread of infection is high on the agenda, helping young water professionals to improve the health and environmental situation in their country is even more urgent. The staff and students at IHE Delft are passionately trying to contribute to a more positive water future, everywhere in the world.


Pictures by IHE Delft Institute for Water Education.

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