Curriculum Vitae Dirk Van Damme
4 November 2021
Dirk Van Damme (°1956) graduated from Ghent University (Belgium) in 1979 with an undergraduate degree in psychology and a Master’s Degree in Educational Sciences (specialisation social pedagogy and adult education, highest distinction).
The first part of his professional life was spent in academia. He was a research assistant in Ghent University in the history of education, specialising in 18th and 19th century popular education in Europe. He published extensively on the history of popular education, social policy, poor relief and migration in 18th and 19th century Europe. He published a study of the late-19th century university extension movement in Ghent. His PhD thesis (promotion in 1989, Ghent University, highest distinction) was a historical sociology of the early-modern origins of educational poor relief in the context of the origins of the modern welfare state in Europe.
After his historical work, he moved to another Department in Ghent University and concentrated his research on adult education, literacy and lifelong learning. He worked with UNESCO on a study of functional illiteracy in Belgium (1990). He completed a large-scale survey of adult education participation in the Flemish Community and published theoretical and empirical contributions to the field of adult education and lifelong learning. He published a book on adult education policies in Europe (1996).
In 1995 he was appointed as professor at Ghent University in the Department of Educational Sciences. The following year, he became Head of the Department and became responsible for the management of several large research teams. He was also national project manager for the Flemish Community for the OECD international assessments International Adult Literacy Survey (IALS), the Programme of International Student Assessment (PISA) and the TIMSS survey. He continued this position until 2000. Gradually, he moved his academic work to international and comparative education. He was also appointed as part-time professor in comparative education at the Free University of Brussels (1997-2000). He also was visiting professor of comparative education at Seton Hall University, NJ, USA (2001-2008).
During his academic career, he was very engaged in international collaboration in education. More specifically, he extensively worked with and in South Africa, where he established a remedial programme for disadvantaged students who entered the University of the Free State (Bloemfontein).
Parallel to his academic career, he increasingly got involved in educational policy-making. In 1992, he joined the staff of Flemish education minister Luc Van den Bossche as advisor for adult education on a part-time basis, after some years also covering higher education as deputy chief of staff. He continued this position until 1999.
In 2000, his professional life took a different course. He was appointed as Secretary-General of the Flemish Rectors’ Conference VLIR. He reduced his academic job to a part-time position. He became heavily involved in national and international higher education policy development at the time the Bologna Declaration (1999) required important policy reforms. In 2002 he also became advisor for higher education policy in the cabinet of education minister Marleen Vanderpoorten and was responsible for the new legislation on higher education issued in 2004.
In 2004, he was appointed as CEO of RAGO, the organization of public schools in the Flemish Community of Belgium. However, he could do this job for only 8 months, because he was asked by Frank Vandenbroucke, the newly appointed education minister, to become his chief of staff from September 2004 till August 2008.
Academically and professionally, he became a well-known expert on issues related to international higher education policy, quality assurance and accreditation. He served as an expert and consultant for several international organisations (UNESCO, OECD, IAUP, IAU, EUA, INQAAHE, CHEA, etc.). He published extensively in international journals on higher education quality assurance and accreditation. Between 2003 and 2013 he served as board member of QANU, the quality assurance agency for the universities in the Netherlands. He was also a member of the scientific board of AQA, the Austrian Quality Agency in higher education, and as member of the Committee for the evaluation of the University of Luxembourg, besides many other commitments.
In 2008, he joined the OECD in Paris as Head of the Centre for Educational Research and Innovation (CERI), with a staff of approximately 30 research staff. He also became member of the management team of the Education and Skills Directorate of the OECD. His main work concentrated on research management on educational innovation. From 2012 onwards, he also became responsible for the Indicators of Educational Systems (INES) programme and his flagship publication Education at a Glance. Under his leadership, CERI developed research work on social and emotional learning, teachers’ pedagogical knowledge, social outcomes of learning, the assessment of social and emotional skills, and the new science of learning. In 2017, he was asked to lead the rapidly expanding work on skills and lifelong learning at the OECD, which he did until the Centre for Skills was established in 2019. In 2019, he was appointed as Senior Counsellor for the Education and Skills Directorate, responsible for the strategic development and management of the directorate. He drafted a paper on the strategic development of OECD work in education. In the OECD, Dirk is also leading work on assessing higher education learning outcomes.
On 1 June 2021 he retired from the OECD and joined the Center for Curriculum Redesign in Boston (MA, USA) as Senior Research Fellow. He also created his own consultancy company DVD EDUCONSULT and is working with governments and institutions in emerging economies on education and skills policies. He is advising the Flemish minister of education on the design and implementation of central testing in Flanders. He is also appointed as external member to the Quality Committee of Trinity College Dublin (Ireland).
Dirk is widely regarded as a global expert in education and is frequently invited to deliver keynotes at international conferences and guest lectures at many global universities. His main interests are the science of learning, comparative analyses of educational systems, lifelong learning and higher education policy.
He is a Fellow of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) in the UK.