UBS Optimus Foundation in partnership with Convergence recently launched the Tertiary Education Finance Prize to support existing solutions that provide inclusive, fair, and affordable financing to students in tertiary education in low- and lower-middle-income countries. The prize will identify the best student financing solutions in the market that are scalable and contribute to greatly increasing funding for tertiary education, so that more young people in emerging markets have access to high-quality education in areas that will have good employment opportunities in the future.
“The Tertiary Education Prize has shown us the richness of ideas and concepts that exist to address the lack of student financing particularly for low-income students. We know that education is a path out of poverty, improves health, and strengthens the economic well-being of whole communities. Our existing work with Chancen International’s Future of Work Fund in Rwanda and South Africa has demonstrated the potential of student financing to change lives. Through this prize, we have discovered brilliant solutions and initiatives in student financing that build towards our vision to develop a blended finance fund that invests globally in this space,” says Dhun Davar, Head of Social Finance at UBS Optimus Foundation.
The prize received a number of interesting applications and the most promising were invited to participate at a virtual pitch day. The selected applicants have solutions across multiple developing market countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. The list of 10 applicants included – Varthana (South Asia), Eduvanz (South Asia), ErudiFi (South-east Asia), Danadidik (South-east Asia), PROtalento (Latin America), Lumni (Latin America), Flevo (Latin America), Estudia Mas (Latin America), Girls First Finance Foundation (Sub-Saharan Africa) and LEAP (Sub-Saharan Africa).
The pitch day was attended by investors, donors, advisory firms, and other stakeholders from the tertiary education industry. During the event, applicants presented their solutions to a panel of judges with expertise in education finance and impact investing in a range of emerging markets. Judges included:
- Amitabh Brar, Independent Education Finance Specialist
- Tasos Zavitsanakis, Head of Sustainable Finance Greater China, UBS APAC Sustainable Finance Office
- Oriana Ponta, Education Program Director, UBS Optimus Foundation
- Chetan Tolia, Head of UBS Next
- Nina Arnohld, Global Lead Tertiary Education and Lead Education Specialist, World Bank
"We are thrilled to partner with UBS Optimus Foundation to launch this prize and implement a unique competition format identifying blended finance solutions for Tertiary Education Finance. The pitch day's success provides a new engaging and effective way of placing critical catalytic capital towards solutions aiming to realize development impact at scale," says Leah Pedersen, Senior Director, Market Acceleration & Design Innovation.
Based on the recommendations of the judges, up to four winners will be awarded grants of USD 250,000 each. Winners will be announced early next year.
About UBS Optimus Foundation
With a track record of over two decades, UBS Optimus Foundation is recognized globally as both a philanthropic thought leader and a pioneer in the social finance space, through which we leverage solutions to mobilize private capital in new and more efficient ways.
The Foundation funds programs and businesses in the areas of health, education and the environment. We use an evidence-based approach and focuses on grant funding and investing in programs that have the potential to be transformative, scalable and sustainable. We actively work with other parts of UBS to leverage solutions to mobilize more private capital for development through blended finance. With around USD 150 million funding deployed annually, the Foundation manages more than 200 projects.
Convergence is the global network for blended finance. On top of market acceleration through its Design Funding program, Convergence generates blended finance data, intelligence, and deal flow to increase private sector investment in developing countries. Convergence’s global membership includes over 200 public, private, and philanthropic investors as well as sponsors of transactions and funds.
About Convergence’s Design Funding Program
Convergence’s Design Funding Program operates as a market acceleration tool providing early-stage capital to support blended finance solutions in frontier markets and nascent sectors to accelerate the number of investible transactions in market targeting SDGs. Please visit Convergence’s Design Funding page for submission deadlines as well as other open windows.