IOE - Faculty of Education and Society


Meet alumni mentor Gregory Biggs

12 November 2018

Gregory Biggs is an IOE graduate who has volunteered as an alumni mentor. Read on to find out how he has developed his career in international development since graduating in 2017 and how he plans to give back to the alumni community.

Gregory Biggs

What were the highlights of your studies at the UCL Institute of Education (IOE)?

The IOE provided a fantastic blended learning approach, which enabled me to build my academic experience into and around my professional and personal life. As I was already working in the profession of international education in Singapore, I was able to access rich, challenging modules of learning remotely while also building in visits to the London campus to undertake face-to-face intensive modules. The range of modules available in the Education and International Development MA enabled me to tailor the post-graduate degree around my specific areas of interest, which I could then apply to my professional practice immediately.

The combination of flexibility and subject matter, which was applicable, interesting and rigorous were highlights of my studies. Building and reinforcing understanding in complex areas to an academic level that enables me to engage in rich, professional discussions about the subject matter of education and international development is a real asset. As opposed to solely theoretical applications, the focus on developing research techniques and knowledge, through the Understanding Research module, with key modules applying theory to real-life case-studies and live events was a hugely interesting and stimulating experience, with immediately tangible benefits professionally.

Naturally, the prestige and reputation of the IOE and UCL also carries many benefits, not least the drive and motivation of peers, both remotely and in face-to-face intensive modules. This provided an opportunity to progress learning with every activity, with each peer hungry to push for more and make the most of the learning experience. Much of this was also due to the respect held for each of the module leaders and professors. The academic integrity of the institute ensured that everyone was there to add-value to the learning experience and develop a passion and pressure for learning which was excellent to experience.

How has your career developed since you graduated?

Since graduation, I have been fortunate enough to drive my career forward in international education, initially into a global intelligence role for the same not-for-profit organisation I was working with while studying, located in Singapore and subsequently up to a Director level for a global education company that supports learning in schools in 90 countries, based in London.

The ability to blend both the professional/commercial and academic understanding of international education as developed through the MA, has provided a critical building block in my career-progression to date. The deeper understanding of pedagogy, research, theory and practice provides a greater level of integrity to decision-making and guidance I can provide to my team and also the ability to ‘translate’ complex subjects from conceptual to accessible means it is possible to engage in dialogue across junior and senior levels in working environments.

While we continue to see the expansion of credential capitalism around the world, where qualifications and degrees are considered as selection criteria above competence and attitude, the rigour and demands of the MA at the IOE provided an excellent foundation of ‘soft-skills’, such as prioritization, working to key deadlines, articulating complex matters succinctly and building a platform to develop further enquiry.

Therefore, the skills and understanding from the MA are a much greater take-away than the degree or paperwork itself and one I would strongly recommend as a way to develop one’s career further.

What drives your passion for education?

Education is a broad term that consists of both formal and informal aspects. Whether it is the passing down from generation to generation of morals, practices and norms or the formalized approach of an institute-led provider of education, the dynamic between the two drives my passion for education. Initially, I was enticed into the profession and subject with a desire to understand what drives inequity in society and how education can potentially remove barriers to social mobility, while also raising them.

However through the last 10 years of work and study, it is increasingly apparent that there is an increasing dichotomy between following a norm and educating for the present and future. In an increasingly globalized world, it is incredible to see advances in technology, communication, infrastructure and transport, yet alarming to see the erosion of cultural diversity, traditional practices, environmental resources and an increasing fear of ‘the other’.

There is no right answer as to what education should be and this can be celebrated as a wonderful opportunity for diversity and communities to become stronger for their differences as opposed to divided and weaker. My hope and passion is that education can be an emancipatory tool that enables any learner to find motivation and happiness in their lives, striving to challenge themselves and grow.

What are your plans or goals for the future?

The uncertainty of the future can be unsettling for us all. The sanctuary of mental stimulation, however, in a subject area that is of interest will always be appealing. Academically, I am interested to take a step forward towards either an EdD or PhD, however I would want to build a solid foundation personally and professionally before committing to this undertaking. This means that I plan to learn as much as possible professionally in a leadership capacity over the coming year/s, while also personally seeing my family grow, with our first child on their way – due in the coming months.

Through the development of these three areas, a clear goal is to support and mentor those who may benefit from my experiences to date, by means of counsel, advice, coaching or mentoring. If I can help anyone to find their motivation in learning, that would be a clear goal.


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