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Internationally renowned education expert emphasises value of a degree
05 February 2013
A leading Professor of Education has told a group of students from Kingston University about her struggle to fund her degree studies. Professor Geeta Gandhi Kingdon, Chief Operating Officer at City Montessori School and Degree College in Lucknow, India, was speaking after being awarded an honorary degree from Kingston University.
Commenting on the higher tuition fees that came in last year, Professor Kingdon, who is also Professor of Education and International Development at the Institute of Education, London University told students that the importance of higher education went way beyond the potential for a higher salary. "The value of a good degree is greater than just the economic return that accrues from it," she explained.
While acknowledging that the increased costs of education meant that most students didn't have a choice not to earn while studying, she said there were benefits to working whilst at college. "It is character-building and the experience you acquire being in the world of work while studying represents an investment in yourself," she added. "It certainly gave me the confidence to stand on my own two feet."
Professor Kingdon explained her time as an undergraduate had involved hard work both inside and outside the classroom. "As an international student, I was paying very high fees so I had to work to fund my studies," she said. "I worked at Perfect Pizza, as a cleaner at an office block in Edgware and as a tea-lady at Boosey and Hawkes. I also did private home tuition in maths, was a sales assistant in Marks and Spencers at Brent Cross and acted as a domestic help for a lady in Golders Green."
There had been a surprising amount of competition for these jobs, she said. "I remember once wanting to work at a particular patisserie so I bought a smart dress at Oxfam but then sadly didn't get the job. I carried out all this work out of necessity rather than choice but did also pick up a lot of very useful skills along the way."
Speaking to the students graduating with business and law degrees, Professor Kingdon reminded them that there were lots of international opportunities open to them. "Young people today are highly mobile - especially as many countries now have more enlightened immigration policies," she said. "As a skilled person, your investment in education really has made the world your oyster and you will find you can get great returns on that investment in many parts of the world."
Professor Kingdon held the Robert McNamara Post-Doctoral Research Fellowship at the World Bank, a lectureship at the University of Bristol and a research officership at the Department of Economics University of Oxford, before moving to the University of London in 2007. Her DPhil and post-doctoral research has been on the economics of education and her research interests focus on school effectiveness, gender in education, the political economy of education and the economic outcomes of education. According to the Guinness Book of Records, City Montessori School is the world's largest school in terms of pupil numbers, with currently more than 45,000 students studying there. It is also the world's only school ever to receive the UNESCO Prize for Peace Education, in 2002.
Professor Richard Ennals from Kingston Business School said Professor Kingdon was being honoured for her outstanding contribution to Education and International Development. "In a changing globalised world, Professor Kingdon is a leading figure in Education in both India and the UK, and has a strong international development perspective," he said. "Kingston is an international university, with a diverse international student body, and collaborations across the globe, including in India."