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The Interuniversity Centre for Educational Research (ICO) was established in 1988 as a partnership between the universities of Twente and Groningen with the aim of offering advanced courses to its PhD candidates. This collaboration was soon expanded to include research.

Participation in ICO rapidly increased, both from within the two founding universities as well as from other universities. By the end of 1993, the partnership consisted of eight universities. In 1994, ICO was formally recognized as a research school by the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW). In 1999, ICO again expanded to include ten partners, covering a large part of the field of educational science in the Netherlands. At that time, a new five year period for ICO commenced following official KNAW recognition for a second period. In January 2004, the Free University of Amsterdam was admitted as a participant.

Due to internal university policy to develop local research schools, the universities of Nijmegen and Groningen decided to formally leave ICO in 2004 and 2006, respectively. The University of Groningen has continued its collaboration with ICO in the form of an affiliated partnership.

In 2006, the ICO recognition proposal for 2006-2011 was honoured by the KNAW.