IHE Delft 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, IHE Delft has developed into one of the largest graduate water education facilities in the world.

History of IHE Delft

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 IHE Delft, was built, 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 UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education was concluded by a decision of the 31st General Conference of UNESCO in November 2001. In 2003, IHE Delft Institute for Water Education joined the UNESCO Water family by becoming a Category 1 Institute and changing its name to UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education. In discussion with the Netherlands Government and UNESCO, it became apparent that continuing as an integral part of UNESCO would not provide the best arrangement for working with UNESCO and its Member States and maintaining the functional autonomy and academic freedom needed in order to effectively implement the Institute’s mission. Since it became part of UNESCO, the Institute has become the only institution in the UN system authorised to confer accredited MSc degrees. 

The Foundation Board, Ministries of Infrastructure and Environment, Foreign Affairs, Education, Culture and Science and the Dutch Representative to UNESCO together concluded that the establishment of a Category 2 institute under the auspices of UNESCO would in this context be a more viable scenario. Therefore, in 2017, the Institute entered the transition period from 2017 to mid-2018 when a decision on its category 2 status was made. From 1st January 2017, changing its name back to IHE Delft Institute for Water Education, the Institute operates as a Foundation under Dutch law, working in partnership with UNESCO. Throughout this period, the Institute continued to cooperate closely with the UNESCO Secretariat, the Science Sector and the International Hydrological Programme (IHP), and the Institute remained a flagship institute in the UNESCO Water Family.

Today, IHE Delft operates under the auspices of UNESCO and has trained more than 23,000 water professionals from 190 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. 

Our changing name throughout 60 years

1957 - 1960 
International Course

1960 - 1964
International Courses

1964 - 1976
International Courses in Hydraulic and Sanitary Engineering

1976 - 1991
International Institute for Hydraulic and Environmental Engineering (IHE)

1991 - 2003
International Institute for Infrastructural Hydraulic and Environmental Engineering (IHE Delft)

2003 - 2017
UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education

IHE Delft Institute for Water Education

History of IHE buildings


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