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Christopher Colclough

Chris ColcloughProfessor Christopher Colclough B.A. (Philosophy and Economics) Bristol University, Ph.D. (Economics) University of Cambridge, Hon.Doc. Katholieke University of Leuven, Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences, Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, Emeritus Professor of Education and International Development.

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It is with immense sadness that the Faculty has learned of the death of our friend and colleague Professor Christopher Colclough, following a period of illness.  Chris retired from the Faculty in 2013, eight years after his election as Commonwealth Professor of Education and International Development and appointment as the Director of then newly established Centre for Commonwealth Education, latterly the Centre for Education and International Development (2008-2014). He was successively Fellow and Life Fellow of Corpus Christi College where, in 1971, he had completed his doctorate in Economics.

Chris will be remembered with great admiration, deep affection and profound respect for the exceptional contribution that he made to the life and work of the Faculty and the University. He brought to Cambridge a wealth of knowledge and an outstanding reputation as a world-class scholar and a leading policy expert on economic development, particularly in relation to wages and incomes policy, education financing and international aid. His research concentrated on the economics of education in developing countries: education, planning, and reform in Africa and Asia; gender and schooling in Africa; development theory and adjustment strategy globally.  The extent and influence of his expertise on international education policy is legendary, reflecting his distinguished service as advisor to the governments of South Africa, Papua New Guinea and Botswana, the UK Parliamentary Select Committee on Overseas Aid and Development, the Rockefeller Foundation, NORRAD, Irish Aid, the World Bank and UNICEF.  Chris was also President of the British Association for International and Comparative Education (BAICE) for 2004-5, managing editor of the prestigious Journal of Development Studies, and successively Fellow and Professorial Fellow at the Institute of Development Studies, Sussex University. One of his greatest achievements was the production, as founding Director, of the first three of UNESCO’s Global Monitoring Reports on Education for All (2002-2004), widely recognised as constituting flagship documents for the global education community. These landmark reports set out a methodology for charting progress towards the achievement of the six 'Dakar' goals and the two Millennium Development Goals for education.

By way of his detailed and measured analyses of the dilemmas and practicalities confronting policy makers in promoting economic development through education, Chris’ achievements did much to enhance the international reputation of the Faculty of Education.  Of his associated scholarly writings he is perhaps best known for his acclaimed co-authored work, States for Markets?  Neoliberalism and the development policy debate (1993) – an incisive and provocative critique of the neo-liberal agenda, drawing particular attention to its negative consequences for global stability. The elaboration of these themes presaged a sequence of seminal publications establishing the case for securing the right to an education for all children.  Such works included, Educating all the Children: strategies for Primary Schooling in the South (1993), and, Achieving Schooling for All in Africa (2004). A re-reading of these earlier studies reminds us how very pertinent Chris’ work remains for the present moment.  For example, he questioned the appropriateness of private schools as a solution to the crisis in education financing, and drew attention to the fundamental importance of primary education from both efficiency and equity perspectives. He repeatedly exposed social inequality and gender injustice in some of the poorest countries and populations in the world, combining economic arguments with a highly astute appreciation of socio-cultural research.

In 2005 Chris led the successful formation of the Research Consortium on Educational Outcomes and Poverty (RECOUP) - a multi-disciplinary Cambridge-led research team comprising seven institutions in India, Pakistan, Ghana, Kenya and the UK. Chris firmly believed in using mixed-methods approaches to investigate how education affects the lives and livelihoods of people living in poorer communities. His edited collection Education Outcomes and Poverty: a reassessment (2012), and the Routledge book series on Education, Poverty and International Development, which Chris co-founded and co-edited, offer many new insights on educational access, quality and outcomes in the Global South. His meticulous analysis of international aid flows influenced the increase in the UK’s budget on basic education and underpinned the spending priorities of the £1 billion foreign aid budget in the mid-2000s.

Chris made an outstanding and sustained contribution to the internationalisation of the Faculty of Education at Cambridge.  He brought faculty colleagues, undergraduates and graduate students into his field of research expertise, teaching on the Education Tripos and on the M.Phil Politics, Development and Democratic Education, as well as supervising doctoral students working on critical issues concerning education and development. He was a very kind teacher, but also a demanding one.  When commenting on others’ work, he gently but firmly and meticulously challenged them to think about the evidence for their arguments, and the viability of their interpretations. He took enormous pride and pleasure in the success of his students’ progress and careers. 

Chris was a scholar who relished working in international communities. His scholarly rigour, calm rationality and high regard for intellectual debate ran alongside a great sense of fun and an immense pleasure in the company of colleagues from different cultures and parts of the world. For those with whom he worked closely, he was both the best of colleagues and the truest of friends.  He generated strong feelings of admiration, warmth and collegiality in all those around him, inspiring us all by his generosity of spirit, his graceful leadership, and his unrivalled ability in making everyone feel that their contribution should be heard and was valued. The Faculty of Education has gained considerably from his highly successful bringing together of the fields of comparative education and international development. This approach is continuing through the activities of a dedicated scholarly community. We have much to thank him for. He will be sorely missed. Our sincere condolences go to his family and friends in their sad loss.