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Professor Robert Cowen (2004-2008)


Robert Cowen was born in the north of England, in Darlington, County Durham where he attended one of those wonderful 'grammar schools', founded by Queen Elizabeth I, which were intended among other things to ensure that very bright children moved into the Tudor civil service. Cowen is not old enough to have done that. He took up school teaching instead, thinking of this (in the early 1960s) as an honourable profession. He trained as a teacher in Trinity College, Dublin, and before that he was an undergraduate at the London School of Economics and Political Science, where he received an education in a range of social sciences including pure and applied economics, the history of political thought, comparative government, economic and political history, and international law.


He subsequently taught as a school teacher in the East End of London, as a college of education lecturer in the Sociology Department of Furzedown College of Education, in the State University of New York in Buffalo and in the University of La Trobe in Melbourne before returning to the Institute of Education (where he had earlier studied for his MA and his PhD) as a member of staff in 1976. Since then he has been privileged to work or to lecture in a range of countries including Argentina, Brazil, Canada, China and Japan, as well as having had the pleasure of working closely with colleagues in many countries in Europe. He confesses to having been a consultant for the British Council, CAPES in Brazil, the International Bureau of Education in Geneva, the World Bank, and UNESCO (Paris) and UNESCO (Beijing) - though by and large he prefers lecturing to consulting.


His current main interest is the theoretical condition of 'comparative education' – an area in which a great deal of exciting new intellectual work is now being done. He also has an interest in quality control regimes, new forms of university governance and contemporary re-definitions of the academic profession, 'creativity', 'research', and scholarship.


His publications include:

  • Cowen, R. & Kazamias, A. (Eds.). (2009). International handbook of comparative education. Dordrecht, the Netherlands: Springer. 
  • Cowen, R. & Klerides, E. (Eds.). (2009). Mobilities and educational metamorphoses: patterns, puzzles, and possibilities [Special issue]. Comparative Education, Vol. 45, No. 3.
  • Cowen, R. (2009). Then and now: Unit ideas and comparative education. In R. Cowen & A. Kazamias (Eds.). International handbook of comparative education (pp. 1277-1294). Dordrecht, the Netherlands: Springer.
  • Cowen, R. (2009). The transfer, translation and transformation of educational processes: and their shape-shifting? Comparative Education, Vol. 45, No. 3, pp. 315-327.
  • Cowen, R. (2006). Acting comparatively upon the educational world: Puzzles and possibilities. Oxford Review of Education, Vol. 32, No. 5, pp. 561-573.