75 years  

Department for International and Comparative Education 1985-1995

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Rajee Rajagopalan : administrator 1982-1995, administrator in International Development Unit 1996-2002

Rajee recalls the supportive environment of the department, the experiences of working with colleagues and students from all over the world, and the demanding role of organising department social events!:

"I joined DICE in 1982 as Administrator. It was with great trepidation that I took up the appointment since my predecessor, Margaret Richards, had run the Department very efficiently for 30 years and was awarded the MBE for her services to international students. Margaret was a hard act to follow.

I soon learnt that one of my duties involved organising parties. DICE used to host many luncheon meetings for VIPs including ministerial delegations, senior personnel from funding agencies and overseas universities. I organised receptions and dinners associated with international conferences and book exhibitions. The DICE Staff/Student Christmas parties were the talk of the town! Since I am a teetotaller, who could not tell the difference between claret and a clarinet, it was a tall order and had I known this before, I wouldn’t have applied for the job! However DICE colleagues, who were experts in wines and other liquid refreshments, came to my rescue and assisted me in selecting appropriate drinks for various functions. In time I became quite an expert at opening wine bottles.

I was  very fortunate to have worked under Peter Williams, Hugh Hawes, Paul Hurst, Bob Cowen, Elwyn Thomas, Crispin Jones, and with other DICE colleagues who have been a great influence on my life, and from whom I learnt a great deal. They  treated me very kindly and were very supportive. DICE colleagues had lived and worked in many developing countries and not only had an extensive knowledge of the education systems of many countries but also had a great understanding and respect for other cultures. I began to feel very much at home.

I also learnt a great deal from the students. DICE attracted students from 60 countries each year and my knowledge of geography improved tremendously after starting work in DICE. It is said that travel broadens the mind. I was fortunate in broadening my horizons without travelling, since DICE was a mini world in itself.

DICE was a caring Department. Invariably some calamity, natural or man-made, occurred in some part of the world each year and students who had come to DICE from thousands of miles away, leaving their family and friends behind, had a stressful time. DICE staff gave them moral, emotional and financial support. I know of some members of staff who helped such students financially out of their own pockets. Students felt secure in the knowledge that they could rely on DICE to give them whatever support they needed. To them DICE was a home away from home. The Departmental staff not only provided pastoral care for students but also provided academic support as and when they needed it. Many times Peter Williams gave tutorials on the Piccadilly line travelling from Russell Square to Heathrow airport en route for an overseas mission. Trevor Coombe travelled to the Detention Centre near the airport after a long day’s work at the Institute to give tutorials to a student who was detained there until  bureaucratic procedures had been sorted out. Such was the commitment of staff to their students.

The collective international experience of DICE staff was phenomenal: Peter Williams on Commonwealth countries; Hugh Hawes who is renowned for his knowledge of curriculum in various countries and his pioneering work on the Child to Child approach which has been adopted by many countries all over the world; Angela Little - Sri Lanka, India, Nigeria, Tanzania; Carew Treffgarne - Francophone and Lusaphone Africa; Trevor Coombe – Africa; Fiona Leach - North and East Africa; Kevin Lillis - Africa and the Caribbean; Paul Hurst - Middle East; Elwyn Thomas - Far East and Africa; Bob Cowen - South and North America, Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea and Europe; Janusz Tomiak - Eastern Europe and the former USSR; Roy Gardner - India, Indonesia, Botswana; Pat Pridmore - Health Education systems in various countries - they practically covered the world. This was a naturally an attraction for eminent scholars who wished to visit the Department. The visitors enjoyed the warmth and hospitality of DICE and considered the Department their second home. Students benefited enormously from these visits and the exchange of knowledge and information. As a result of this exposure, DICE students were much sought after for employment by international agencies and it is no wonder that many of our former students now hold key positions in the World Bank, UNESCO, Unicef, DFID, British Council and other agencies.

I had the privilege of making numerous friends both within the Department and from all over the world. In my opinion, DICE was a caring and unique Department, not only the best in the Institute, but also in the UK. It had a congenial atmosphere that extended itself to all that were associated with it. Although many colleagues and students have parted company to go different ways, all still keep in touch and friendships continue to flourish. I will always cherish my days in the Department and thank DICE for the happy times I enjoyed."

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