A tribute to Professor Christopher Colclough

colcloughThe GEM Report team in Paris was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Professor Christopher Colclough last week.

Chris was the founding Director of the EFA Global Monitoring Report in 2002, and lead author of the first three Reports in the series: Is the World on Track?, The Leap to Equality, and The Quality Imperative. His work and stewardship set the foundations of this flagship Report and left a legacy that has inspired successive directors and teams ever since. He ensured rigorous academic standards, attention to policy priorities and a commitment to supporting educational progress in the developing world, especially for girls. He knew how to bring out the best in all those who had the privilege to work with him, and will always be remembered for his expertise and wisdom, his kindness and generosity. efa reports

Chris had served as a Fellow (1975-2005) and Deputy Director (1982-1985) at the UK Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex, and Editor of the Journal of Development Studies. He went on to become Professor of Education and Development at the University of Cambridge, including Director (2008-14) of the Centre for Education and International Development within the Faculty of Education.

Chris never quite left the Report – he remained an active member of the GEM Report’s Advisory Board for many years, and always had the time to support, guide and provide advice and feedback to the team and its Directors. The GEM Report is honoured to publish below several testimonials from former Report Directors and Deputy Director.

1Steve Packer (Deputy-Director, 2002-2005): The world of education and development is much the poorer following the death of Christopher Colclough. Among his many achievements, he will be remembered as the founding Director of the EFA Global Monitoring Report in 2002. In the space of just over two years, three reports were published (…) These reports set a tone and a template for global monitoring, analysis and policy direction that serve the GEM Report today.

Chris was a scholar grounded in an understanding of life in low income countries. He was a man of integrity with a strong sense of purpose. For those of us who opened the EFA GMR doors in UNESCO in June 2002 he is sadly missed.

2Nick Burnett (Director, 2004-2007): I was very pleased to succeed Chris as the second Director of the GMR.  He had done all the hard thinking about what had to go into the publication and he had assembled a team that had worked out a smooth production process.  That made my life easy.  What made my life more challenging, in a very good way, was living up to and even trying to exceed the standards that he had established.  There were two aspects to these: the quality of the content of the report, visible to all, and the highly effective team atmosphere, visible only to the staff.  That the GMR (now GEM) still exists as the principal international education reference report is a testament to what Chris created and to the standards he set in both domains that successors like me felt compelled to uphold.  The GEM Report is his international legacy.

3Kevin Watkins (Director, 2008-2011): Chris was an inspiration to all of us working on education. Throughout his career he combined academic rigour with an unwavering commitment to equity and education for all. Apart from his intellect and professionalism, Chris brought openness, kindness and humour to the institutions that were lucky enough to host him. It was an honour to follow in his footsteps as Director of the Global Monitoring Report – and he will be sorely missed.

4Pauline Rose (Director, 2011-2014): Chris set extremely high standards when he established the Report. He overcame challenges at the outset to ensure its independence, smoothing the way for the strong evidence-based advocacy that has had a huge impact globally. From its outset, thanks to his commitment, the Report became the key reference and flagship report for the global education community. It was important that those of us who followed Chris maintained the high quality that he set.

Thankfully, when I became Director I always knew I could turn to Chris for advice and support, and frequently did so. His on-going engagement with the Report while serving on the Advisory Board ensured that we could continue to learn from his knowledge and expertise. It is reassuring to know that Chris’s legacy will continue through the Report.

I will personally sorely miss Chris’s support; his passing is an immense loss to the global education community.

5Aaron Benavot (Director, 2014-2017): Although I never had the honour of serving under Chris, I had enormous respect for his scholarly insights, as well as the impressive quality of the early reports he developed. The breadth and depth of this work underscored for me the high standards to which the team would always need to aspire. In recent years, when I sought Chris’ advice, which he gave freely and with generosity, I came to see just how deep was his commitment to improving the lot of children, youth and adults in and through education. He understood the importance of marshalling evidence and policy-relevant analysis in building a sturdy and independent monitoring platform to hold governments to account for their commitments in education. His words and deeds will inspire many in the future, as well they should. May his memory be blessed and his legacy live on.

A blog Chris wrote in 2012: https://world-education-blog.org/2012/06/04/protecting-education-aid-is-more-vital-than-ever/



  1. Reading the above tributes, I join others to mourn his passing. May his soul rest in perfect peace!!!!!!

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