The UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education is the prestigious and largest international postgraduate water education facility in the world and is based in Delft, Netherlands. The Institute confers fully accredited MSc degrees, and PhD degrees in collaboration with partners in the Netherlands. Since 1957 the Institute has provided postgraduate education to more than 14,500 water professionals from over 160 countries.

UNESCO-IHE was created in 2003 from the previous IHE. This in turn was established from the International Course in Hydraulic Engineering (set up in 1957). This name changed to International Institute for Hydraulic and Environmental Engineering (IHE) in 1976.

UNESCO-IHE is owned by all UNESCO member states and is established as a UNESCO "Category I Institute" jointly by UNESCO and the Government of the Netherlands. The agreements include internal rules that guarantee functional autonomy to achieve the Institute's objectives.

UNESCO-IHE is instrumental in the strengthening of efforts by other universities and research centres in increasing knowledge and skills of professionals working in the water sector. The Member States of UNESCO will have access to the knowledge and services of UNESCO-IHE in human and institutional capacity-building, which is vital to their efforts in the achievement of Millennium Development Goals, the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation (Agenda 21) and other global water objectives.

UNESCO-IHE carries out three types of activities that complement and reinforce each other in the broad field of water engineering, water management, environment, sanitation, and governance. Its core activities are education, research, and capacity building, with additional functions including:

  • Offering education, training, and research;
  • Providing capacity development services, particularly for developing countries;
  • Setting up and managing international networks of educational and water sector institutions and organizations;
  • Serving as a policy forum for UNESCO Member States and other stakeholders;
  • Providing professional expertise and advice on water education;
  • Playing a leadership role in international standard setting for postgraduate water education programmes and continuing professional education.

Since its inception in 1957, IHE – as it was known – has provided postgraduate education to numerous professionals (engineers and scientists) almost entirely from developing/transitional countries, representing 162 countries. It has also graduated over 100 PhD candidates and executed numerous research and capacity development projects throughout the world. Many of the alumni have reached senior positions in their home countries upon return and remain key links in the global water network.