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Professor Leon Tikly

Professor Leon Tikly

Professor Leon Tikly
B.Ed.(C.N.A.A.), M.Phil., Ph.D.(Glas.)

Professor in Education

Area of research

Professor in Education

Office Room 3.01
Helen Wodehouse Building,
35 Berkeley Square, Clifton BS8 1JA
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+44 (0) 117 331 4366



I am UNESCO Chair in Inclusive, Good Quality Education and Global Chair in Education at the University of Bristol. I also co-direct the Centre for International and Comparative Education (CIRE) in the School of Education. A key focus of my work is education in low income countries and in particular counries of sub-Saharan Africa. I am currently PI on a Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) Network Plus entitled Transforming Education for Sustainable Futures (TESF) (ESRC £4.75 million; 2019-22). This includes partners in Rwanda, South Africa, India and Somalia/Somaliland as well as in the UK and the Netherlands. The purpose of the Network Plus is to mobilise capacity to undertake Southern-led research into the role of education systems in supporting sustainable livelihoods, sustainable cities and communities and climate action. I am pleased to be collaborating on this inter-disciplinary projects with colleagues from the School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies (SPAIS) and Geography. I have also recently directed projects on language supportive textbooks and pedagogy in Rwanda and I have previously led a DfID funded Research Programme Consortium (RPC) on Implementing Education Quality in Low Income Countries (EdQual) (DfID, £2.5 million; 2005-11).  

I also have a long established interest in the achievement of Black and Minority Ethnic learners at risk of underachieving in the United Kingdom and Europe. I have undertaken several research projects in this area including evaluations of key government initiatives such as the Aiming High: Raising Black Caribbean achievement project and on understanding the educational needs of mixed heritage learners.  I continue to work closely with policymakers and practitioners at the national level and in Bristol schools to develop models of successful practice for raising the achievement of disadvantaged groups of learners.

Although my work is practical in orientation and aims to positively impact policy and practice it is underpinned by theoretical questions. These include how to conceptualise education for sustainable development as an aspect of the 'postcolonial condition', the impact of globalisation on the low income world and how to understand the relationship between education quality, inequality and social and environmental justice. In addressing these quetions I draw on postcolonial theory, critical theory, systems thinking, the capability approach and on critical realism. My recent (2020) book on Education for Sustainable Development in the Postcolonial World: Towards a transformative agenda for Africa (Routledge) seeks to bring together these theoretical concerns.

I started my career as a science teacher first in London comprehensives and then in a school for South African refugees in Morogoro, Tanzania.  I completed my postgraduate studies at the University of Glasgow.  My PhD thesis is on Education Policy in South Africa Since 1947.  I have worked as a policy researcher at the Education Policy Unit, University of the Witwatersrand during the transition period between apartheid and democracy in South Africa where I helped to formulate education policy for the new provincial and national governments.  On returning to the UK I took up a lectureship in International and Comparative Education at the University of Birmingham. Since moving to Bristol I has worked as a lecturer and then as a senior lecturer in Education Management and Policy before being given a chair in 2006.


I teach at postgraduate level on the Master of Education (MEd), taught doctorate (EdD) and PhD programmes within the School of Education.  Most of my students are practicing teachers, lecturers or administrators from the UK and overseas.  A key part of my teaching is in Hong Kong where I contribute to Bristol's EdD programme.  

I currently supervise seventeen doctoral students in the UK and in Hong Kong. I contribute to the following postgraduate units:

- Comparative Research (EdD) (Bristol and Hong Kong)

- Leading for Organisational Change in Educational Settings EdD (Bristol and Hong kong)

- Leadership and Change MSc (Bristol and Hong Kong)

- Education, inequality and social justice MSc (Bristol)



  • African education
  • education for sustainable development
  • education quality
  • South African education
  • globalisation and education
  • ethnicity and achievement in education


  • United Kingdom Forum for International Education and Training. Bristish Association of International and Comparative Education. Comparative and International Education Society (US) World Council of Comparative and International education Societies

Selected publications

Read more >

View complete publications list in the University of Bristol publications system

Networks & contacts

  • I have enjoyed successful collaborations with Universities in the UK
  • Africa
  • South Asia and South America. He has worked with policymakers both in the United Kingdom and Europe and in several African countries to design and evaluate educational interventions that can improve learning outcomes for the most disadvantaged learners. Much of Leon's research has involved working closely with practitioners in the UK and in Africa.


Professor Tikly currently teaches 5 courses:

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