Prof Robert Cassen

Category: All Harkness Stories /  Economics, Finance & Business /  Higher Education /  International Affairs /  Up to 1959 / 

Prof Robert Cassen (CFF 1959-61) OBE studied classics and philosophy at Oxford, and wanted to convert to economics – Harkness allowed him to do it. With a year in Berkeley and one in Harvard, he had the qualifications to start teaching development economics at the London School of Economics, simultaneously writing his thesis and getting his PhD from Harvard a little later. He taught at LSE, Sussex, and Oxford, and had years off working with the British aid programme on and in India; with the World Bank; and the staff of the Brandt Commission, the ‘Independent Commission on International Development Issues’. His academic best-seller was Does Aid Work?, written with a team of fellow economists. It was translated into several languages, and led to work with various development agencies. Years later he switched to education research. His last book, co-authored with two other researchers, was published in 2015, a research review mainly about England – Making a Difference in Education: What the evidence says. It taught him how small a part evidence plays in the making of English educational policy. Most recently he moved sideways again, working with a young choirmaster to produce a website about Renaissance Sacred Music, – launched in the summer of 2018. He says he owes so much to Harkness: his Fellowship opened the door to a life combining academe and practical involvement in the developing world. If there is anyone still around from the era of the Foundation that changed his life, he’d like to say a big Thank you.