IHE Delft Institute for Water Education is the largest international graduate water education facility in the world and is based in Delft, the Netherlands. The Institute confers fully accredited MSc degrees, and PhD degrees in collaboration with partners. Over 14,500 water professionals from more than 160 mainly developing countries and countries in transition were educated at the Institute.

Company details

PO Box 3015 , Delft , DA 2601 Netherlands

Locations Served


Business Type:
Research institute
Industry Type:
Water and Wastewater
Market Focus:
Globally (various continents)
Year Founded:

The Institute
Since 1957 the Institute has provided graduate education to more than 14,500 water professionals from over 160 countries, the vast majority from the developing world. Numerous research and capacity development projects are carried out throughout the world. The Institute offers a unique combination of applied, scientific and participatory research in water engineering combined with natural sciences and management sciences. Since its establishment the Institute has played an instrumental role in developing the capacities of water sector organizations in the South, not least by strengthening the efforts of other universities and research centres to increase the knowledge and skills of professionals working in the water sector.

UNESCO-IHE carries out educational, research and capacity development activities that complement and reinforce each other in the broad fields of water engineering, water management, environment, sanitation, and governance.

Building on a knowledge network that catalyzes solutions for water challenges will be an essential task for the water sector. UNESCO-IHE recognizes that meeting these global challenges requires a strong foundation of knowledge to improve water management practices.

UNESCO-IHE envisions a world in which people manage their water and environmental resources in a sustainable manner, and in which all sectors of society, particularly the poor, can enjoy the benefits of basic services.

The mission of UNESCO-IHE is to contribute to the education and training of professionals, the knowledge base through research and to build the capacity of sector organizations, knowledge centers and other institutions active in the fields of water, the environment and infrastructure in developing countries and countries in transition. In support of its mission, the Institute has three main goals:

  • Develop innovation, provide new knowledge, and promote the uptake of technologies and policies that will address the issues of the global water agenda, in particular those related to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the post 2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs);
  • Seek, evaluate and facilitate responses for the sustainable management of water, to meet the needs of all sectors of society, particularly the poor;
  • Strengthen and promote principles of good governance that drive institutional and management change to support the sustainable management of water.

UNESCO-IHE is part of the UN Water family and facilitates all UNESCO member states. The Institute is established as a UNESCO 'Category I Institute' jointly by UNESCO and the Government of the Netherlands. 


UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education continues the work that was started in 1957 when a postgraduate diploma course in hydraulic engineering was first offered to practicing professionals from developing countries. Today, UNESCO-IHE has developed into one of the largest graduate water education facilities in the world.

Historical Time Line
The Netherlands became famous in the field of hydraulic engineering after the devastating North Sea flood of 1953. This flood broke dikes and seawalls in the Netherlands, killing almost 2000, destroying 4,500 buildings. To prevent such a tragedy from happening again, an ambitious flood defence system was conceived and deployed, called the Delta Works.

In 1955 this led to several developing countries inquiring about the possibility of having their engineers trained in the Netherlands in the field of hydraulic engineering. The request of the Ambassador of East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) marks the start of training engineers from developing countries.

In 1957 the first 'International Course in Hydraulic Engineering' was set up and followed by forty-five participants from twenty-one different countries. This course had three branches: 'Tidal and coastal engineering', 'Reclamation' and 'Rivers and navigation works'.

In 1960, upon request of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), in a mutual effort of Delft University of Technology and the Netherlands Universities Foundation for International Cooperation (Nuffic), IHE's curriculum was extended with the 'European Course in Sanitary Engineering'.

From 1966 onwards, due to increasing applications for the Sanitary Engineering Course, a parallel course has been organized, this parallel course is dealing with drinking water supply, sanitation and public health administration in agricultural and rural areas.

In 1976 the name International Institute for Hydraulic and Environmental Engineering (IHE) was introduced. Several years later, after a steady growth of courses and research themes, the word Infrastructural was added to the full name, not changing the abbreviation IHE however.

In 1977 IHE celebrated its 20th anniversary; in these 20 years about 2,500 engineers from 97 countries have attended the courses. From 1985 to 1998, under the leadership of rector Wil Segeren, the IHE yearly student numbers grew from 200 to 450 and staff grew from 35 to 130. IHE became a major player in water sector capacity building, be it by educating and training individuals, research activities or strengthening institutions in developing countries.

From 1990 to 1992 the building at Westvest 7, now the heart of UNESCO-IHE, was build, extending the historical Oude Delft 95 complex and so physically representing IHE's growth. In 1995 IHE is recognised as an Institute for Technology by the Dutch Ministry of Education, Cultural Affairs and Science and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. IHE became an independent institute after having been part of Nuffic for 39 years. As from January 1 1996, all staff is employed by the IHE foundation.

The process to establish the UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education was concluded by a decision of the 31st General Conference of UNESCO in November 2001. In 2003, the newly-created UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education (UNESCO-IHE) came officially into operation.

Today, UNESCO-IHE has trained more than 14,500 water professionals (diploma/degree education) and thousands of short-course participants from 160 countries, almost all from developing countries and countries in transition. It has also graduated more than 130 PhD candidates in collaboration with leading universities and executed numerous research and capacity building projects throughout the world. Since it became part of UNESCO, the Institute has become the only institution in the UN system authorised to confer accredited MSc degrees. More than 60 institutions around the world are to be counted among its partners; many more among its friends.