Kenneth King (1940 - )

King, Kenneth

Short Biography & Significant Contribution

Kenneth King is Emeritus Professor of the School of Social and Political Studies Sciences and Moray House School of Education, University of Edinburgh, Scotland where he had held a personal Chair in Comparative and International Education and had served as Director of the Centre of African Studies from 1993 till 2005. Born in Edinburgh in 1940, he was educated at the Universities of Cambridge, London and Edinburgh, Professor King is very well known in the fields of international education, development studies, and African studies. This is evidenced by his impressive list of publications, consultancies, invited papers, journal editorships, major international addresses, and related published reports which run close to 500 in number. In addition, King is the founding and current editor of the research bulletin NORRAG NEWS (, a biannual bulletin, which has for 20 years critically examined a specific, topical theme in the area of education, training and aid policy. The research network behind the bulletin is the Network for Policy Research, Review and Advice on Education and Training (NORRAG), a project based at the Graduate Institute of Development Studies (IUED) in Geneva, Switzerland.

King has taught, conducted research and provided consultancy services for the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the World Bank, UNESCO, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, the Economic and Social Research Council (UK), and the Department for International Development (DFID, UK), to name a few. His international research and consultancy work has been conducted in more countries and territories than can be listed here, but principally in Kenya, Ethiopia, Canada, and at the University of Edinburgh. He has during the 30-year period of his academic career (1975 to 2007) supervised over forty doctoral students, among whom are distinguished scholars internationally.

King's significant contribution to the field lies in his penetrating research in the area of international educational development and in education in Africa. More specifically, he is widely recognized as an expert in the relationships between local and international knowledge systems, one dimension of which is the character of the relations amongst education, training and labour markets. He draws on the disciplines and fields of history, education, and development theory to analyze the differential acquisition of local skills and knowledge in school settings, in training institutions, and in enterprises. His analysis of skill acquisition in the non-compulsory school and training systems of the developing world since the 1980s has witnessed the deterioration of the macro-economic environment in a majority of low income countries, with a consequent increase in the role and influence of external development assistance. This progressive weakening of the state's capacity to provide and fund training and education has provided the second, increasingly complementary, dimension of his research focus: the character and impact of donor policies on aid to education and training. In the decade of the 1990s, the consensus in the international aid community about what is appropriate for local education and skill systems has acquired a controlling position in the discourse of development. This international knowledge base in education, especially in the World Bank, is derived from policy literature emphasizing a reduction in the role of the state, encouragement of market forces in education and training, and yet a set of procedures aimed to produce local ownership of the development agenda. King's work rethinks these ideas in relation to Africa, India and China.

Educational Background

BA, Cambridge University, UK (1961) Postgraduate Certificate of Education, Institute of Education, London University, UK (1962) Ph.D., Edinburgh University, UK (1968). Principal fields: Education in Africa; Analysis of early donor agency influence in Africa; African education; Kenyan educational history

Professional Background

Teacher of English at secondary school level in Ethiopia (1962-65)

Lecturer in African History, University of Nairobi (1968-71)

Lecturer in Centre of African Studies, and in Department of Educational Studies, University of Edinburgh (1972-77)

Associate Director, Social Sciences Division, International Development Research Centre (IDRC), Ottawa, Canada; responsible for

education research funding programme throughout developing world (1978-81)

Reader in Education, and Director, Centre of African Studies, University of Edinburgh (1982-85, and 1988-1992)

Professor of Education, and Director, Centre of African Studies, University of Edinburgh (1993-2005)

Distinguished Visiting Professor, University of Hong Kong, China (2006-07)

Emeritus Professor, School of Social and Political Studies Sciences and Moray House School of Education, University of Edinburgh (2006 to present)

Affiliations (associations, organizations, institutions)

British Comparative and International Education Society, Vice-chairman (1988-90); Chairman (1990-92, 1992-94). [now British Association for International and Comparative Education (BAICE)].

Network for Policy Research, Review & Advice on Education & Training (NORRAG), Chairman (1986-92).

Royal African Society, Council member and Vice-President (1998 till present).

UK Forum for International Education and Training (UKFIET) Chair (1999-2001); Vice-Chair (2001-03).

Member of the Editorial Board of: International Journal of Educational Development (Pergamon/Elsevier); The Vocational Aspect of Education (Triangle Journals); Prospects (UNESCO).

Selected Publications

King, K. (1971): Pan-Africanism and Education: A Study of Race Philanthropy and Education in the Southern States of America and East Africa. Oxford Studies in African Affairs. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

King, K. (1977): The African Artisan: education and the informal sector. Heinemann: London.
King, K. (1981): 'Dilemmas of Research Aid to Education in Developing Countries', Comparative Education, Vol.17, No.2, pp.247-254. Reproduced in Prospects (UNESCO, Paris, 1981), Vol.XI, No.3, pp.343-351. 

King, K. (1986): 'Manpower, technology and employment in Africa: internal and external policy agendas'. Reprinted in R.J. Berg and J. Whitaker (eds.), Strategies for African Development. Los Angeles, California: University of California Press, pp.422-452.

King, K. (1989): 'The character of schooling in Sub-Saharan Africa'. In N. Entwistle (ed.), Handbook of Educational Ideas and Practice. London: Routledge, pp.207-217.

King, K. (1991): Aid and Education in the developing world: the role of donor agencies in educational analysis. Harlow: Longman.

King, K. (1992): 'The external agenda of aid in internal educational reform'. International Journal of Educational Development, Vol.12, No.4, pp.257-263.

King, K. (1994): 'Technical and Vocational Education: an overview' in T. Husén and T.N. Postlethwaite (Eds.), The International Encyclopedia of Education. 2nd Edition, Oxford: Pergamon, pp.6245-6251.

King, K. (1995): Jua Kali Kenya: change and development in an informal sector 1970-1995. London: James Currey. 

King, K. (1996): 'From analysis to advice and from counsel to consultancy: the challenge to educational research'. In L. Buchert and K. King (Eds.), Consultancy and research in international education. Bonn: German foundation for International Development/ Network for Policy Research, Review and Advice on Education and Training (NORRAG), pp.11-31.

King, K. & Buchert, L. (Eds.) (1999): Changing international aid to education: global patterns, local contexts. Paris: UNESCO/Network for Policy Research, Review and Advice on Education and Training (NORRAG).

King, K. & McGrath, S. (2002): Globalisation, enterprise and knowledge: education, training and development in Africa. Oxford:Symposium Books.

King, K. & McGrath, S. (2004): Knowledge for development? Comparing British, Japanese, Swedish and World Bank aid. London: Zed Books.
Palmer, R., Wedgwood, R., Hayman, R., King, K. & Thin, N. (2007): Educating out of poverty? A synthesis report on Ghana, India, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and South Africa, DFID Researching the Issues Series No.70. DFID: London.

King, K. (2007): 'Multilateral agencies in the construction of the global agenda on education'. Comparative Education, Vol.43, No.3 (in press).


Created: 6/19/2007

Updated: 3/17/2008

Contributed By: Maria Manzon