Dr Colin Brock

Colin Brock obit

Dr Colin Brock, who died on 30 December 2016, was well known to the Oxford Department for his unstinting support of the work in comparative and international education.

A geographer by origin, Colin was educated at Rutlish School (where one of his fellow pupils was John Major) and at the University of Durham.  After periods as a teacher, he taught at the Universities of Reading, Leeds and Hull.  When he decided to take early retirement from Hull, I invited him to help in the design of a new MSc course in Oxford, and he willingly gave of his time and energy to do so.  After a long period when there was no funding for a second post in the subject, he was appointed on a part-time basis to teach the ‘developing countries’ element of the course, which he did successfully well into the normal retiring age for academics.

All who knew Colin would marvel at his energy and enthusiasm.  He was constantly on the move, visiting more countries in a year than most people manage in a lifetime.  Constantly in demand as a guest lecturer, examiner, consultant, he had a worldwide reputation in his subject, and  he had an extraordinary network of contacts available to him and through him to the hundreds of students whom he helped through their MSc dissertations and doctoral theses.  He had supervised more than 70 doctoral students in the institutions for which he worked.

From 2005 to 2012, he held a UNESCO chair in a subject he had made his own, ‘Education as a Humanitarian Response’.  This involved him in fieldwork in Thailand, Sierra Leone, and Ukraine, and resulted in a series of fifteen books.  At the same time he was putting together the remarkable nineteen-volume series ‘Education Around the World’ , as well as writing an introduction to comparative education with his former student  Nafsika Alexiadou and another on the geography of education.  Geography was a subject he returned to increasingly, and he delighted in his work in geography and education being recognised by his becoming an honorary professor in his alma mater.

He brought to the study of educational issues in developing countries a hands-on experience of so many nations, especially in South Asia, the Caribbean, Latin America, Africa and the United States.  His approach was not that of the theorist or assessment enthusiast, but that of a teacher with intimate knowledge of the practicalities of schooling and education policy in sometimes very difficult contexts.  He knew his subject.

We shall remember Colin Brock as a humane and sympathetic colleague who was always willing to help others with his boundless good will.  He will be greatly missed by the international community of comparativists and by all who came into contact with his infectious enthusiasm for a subject he loved.

David Phillips

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