75 years  

Education for Developing Countries 1973-1985

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Dr Fiona Leach : student 1980-81, lecturer 1991-1995

Fiona recalls particular events in her time as a student: taking an entry exam, a teach-in and a minor student ‘revolt’!:

"I studied on the MA in Education in Developing Countries in 1980-81, having just spent four and a half years in Egypt at Cairo University. I had done a postgraduate Diploma in Applied Linguistics at Edinburgh but had not found it very useful to development work. So, this course seemed to be what I wanted – and indeed it was. It provided a breadth of perspective and a relevance to real contexts not possible within a specific subject area.

My recollections are of: an entry exam (or two?), which I found mildly insulting as I already had an honours degree and a post graduate qualification; a teach-in at the start of the year (strangely outmoded now, like the left over of a 1960s sit-in, but with an educational purpose); the multicultural and vibrant nature of the Department and a huge diploma cohort (no longer in existence as everyone now seems to register directly on  MAs) whose lectures I occasionally attended. The exams have gone, as has the diploma, but the internationalism of the department remains.

I was allowed to attend the short course in curriculum planning which Hugh Hawes ran with a very energetic and enthusiastic Carew Treffgarne. She was very central to that then. I remember Mortadella, the case study, and I remember a very energetic Ugandan official who impressed me by telling me he had to walk to and from school every day about 4 or 5 miles, barefoot.  

When preparing for this session, Peter Williams kindly suggested a format to each presentation and asked me whether there hadn’t been an MA revolt (his term, not mine) during my year there. I am much too polite to have mentioned this myself, but since he has done so, I can provide two bits of evidence to support the statement. The first is a memo signed by Peter and dated 12 March 1981, which states that he spent 1.5 hours with the MA group and listed how certain issues would be addressed. Peter was clearly a conscientious head of department! What is more interesting about the memo is the list of names mentioned of those who would contribute seminars as visiting speakers (Mark Blaug, Basil Bernstein, Michael Young, Lalage Bown and Richard Hoggart). The second piece of evidence:  I recall very clearly that when I came back to the Department in 1991 as a lecturer, Jane Jarvis, who had been working in the office there, said ‘Oh yes, I remember you – you were very troublesome!’

Revolts aside, I thoroughly enjoyed the year and learnt a huge amount – went on to work in Sudan on an ODA contract, to do a doctorate at Sussex, to come back here as a lecturer and then to go back to Sussex as a senior lecturer, where I am now Director of the Institute of Education. Perhaps I was put there because I am troublesome! I have seen Peter regularly over the years and he seems to bear me no grudge."

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Compiled and edited by Clare Bentall and Angela Little. First issued Spring 2005.