Ministers have pledged to provide up to £3 million a year to foster links between UK universities and their counterparts in developing countries.
Hilary Benn, the international development secretary, announced that the existing higher education links programme - managed by the British Council - would be redesigned from April 2005.
Since the scheme was set up in 1981, 124 UK universities and colleges have developed 430 links with institutions in 48 countries.
A total of £2.7 million was invested in fostering links between universities in 2002-03, with the highest concentration of funding awarded to countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
The links span a range of areas of academic expertise: from health and the environment to education and human rights.
For example, the collaboration between Dschang University, in Cameroon, and Aberdeen University on methods of evaluating agricultural resources is helping two villages develop more productive farming techniques.
Robert Boucher, vice-chancellor of Sheffield University and chairman of the higher education links steering committee and the Universities UK international strategy group, said: "The partnership between the Department for International Development, UK higher education institutions and the British Council, which forms the higher education links scheme, has delivered significant capacity building in a number of developing countries.
"Our colleagues in higher education institutions and governments in developing countries recognise the support the Links scheme provides to their development in a very practical way."