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Professor James Tooley, born in 1959 in Southampton, UK is a British educationist and entrepreneur known for his work in advocating low-cost private schooling, particularly in developing countries. He has conducted extensive research on education systems worldwide, with a focus on the private education sector in countries like India, Ghana, Nigeria, and China.

He was appointed the Vice Chancellor of University of Buckingham in 2020.

Tooley holds a PhD from the Institute of Education, University of London, an MSc from the Science Policy Research Unit, University of Sussex, and first class BSc honours in Logic and Mathematics, also from the University of Sussex. He began his career as a mathematics teacher in Zimbabwe (1983 to 1986), before moving to the National Foundation for Educational Research in England in 1988. He held short-term appointments at Simon Fraser University, Canada, and the University of the Western Cape, South Africa, while completing his PhD. His first post-doctoral position was with the University of Oxford's Department of Educational Studies, under Professor Richard Pring. From Oxford he moved to the University of Manchester in 1995; at the same time he also created the Education and Training Unit at the Institute of Economic Affairs in London.

Tooley was professor at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, where he directed the E. G. West Centre. For his research on private education for the poor in India, China and Africa, Tooley was awarded the gold prize in the first International Finance Corporation/Financial Times Private Sector Development Competition in September 2006. From 2007 to 2009, he was founding President of the Education Fund, Orient Global, and lived in Hyderabad, India. He is currently chairman of education companies in Ghana (Omega Schools Franchise Ltd) and India (Empathy Learning Systems Pvt Ltd) creating low cost chains of low cost private schools. He also holds an appointment as an Adjunct Scholar at the Cato Institute and serves on the Advisory Council of the Institute of Economic Affairs as well as on the Academic Advisory Council of Civitas: The Institute for the Study of Civil Society.

He also serves on the Board of Visitors of Ralston College, a start-up liberal arts college in Savannah.

Tooley's research challenges conventional wisdom regarding education provision in developing nations, suggesting that private schools serving low-income families often outperform their public counterparts in terms of quality and accessibility. He is a proponent of market-based approaches to education and has argued for the importance of recognizing and supporting the role of private schools, especially in contexts where government-run schools are inadequate.

Tooley has authored several books and numerous articles on education and has been involved in various initiatives aimed at improving educational opportunities for disadvantaged communities around the world.

He lives in Buckingham with his wife and two children.

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