Michael Barber
Sir Michael Barber, 2017
Born (1955-11-24) 24 November 1955 (age 65)
Known forFounder and chairman of Delivery Associates

Sir Michael Blaydon Barber (born 24 November 1955[1]) is a British educationist and founder and chairman of Delivery Associates,[2] a global advisory firm focussed on working with governments and other public and social impact organisations to help them deliver improved outcomes for people around the world.[3] He is a global expert on implementation of large-scale system change, a leading authority on education systems and education reform, and was knighted in 2005 for his contributions to improving government.[4]

Barber has worked for over 20 years in education, government reform and improvement.[5] During that time, he has advised governments in over 60 countries on issues of public policy and delivery. He was the founder and first head of the Prime Minister's Delivery Unit under Prime Minister Tony Blair, and later served as Chief Education Advisor at Pearson,[6] and as a partner at McKinsey, where he was head of the global education practice. He served as Co-Chair of Boston Consulting Group's not-for-profit foundation, Centre for Public Impact;[7] he has been a Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the Harvard Graduate School of Education; and he was appointed as the first ever Chair of the Office for Students (OfS) – the new regulator for Higher Education in the UK established in 2018[8] - until he stepped down in March 2021.[9] He published How to Run a Government: So that Citizens Benefit and Taxpayers Don’t go Crazy[10] in 2015 and his latest book Accomplishment - How to achieve ambitious and challenging things[11] was published by Penguin in 2021.

In 2021, he was asked by the UK Prime Minister and Cabinet Secretary to conduct a rapid review of government delivery to ensure it remains focused, effective and efficient in the rebuild after COVID-19.[12]

Education and early career

Barber was educated at Bootham School,[13] York, an independent school with a Quaker background and ethos. He read History at the University of Oxford before training as a teacher. He taught in schools in Britain and Zimbabwe.

Barber worked in the education department of the National Union of Teachers. As a member of the Labour Party, he was elected to the council of the London Borough of Hackney, becoming chair of the education committee. In 1987 he contested for Labour the seat of Henley-on-Thames, then held by Michael Heseltine.[14]


Barber served as Chief Adviser to the Secretary of State for Education on School Standards during the first term of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, from 1997 to 2001.[6]

During Blair's second term, from 2001 to 2005, Barber served as the Chief Adviser on Delivery, reporting directly to Prime Minister Tony Blair.[6] As head of the Prime Minister's Delivery Unit (PMDU), he was responsible for working with government agencies to ensure successful implementation of the Prime Minister's priority programs, including those in health, education, transport, policing, the criminal justice system, and asylum/immigration.[15] He wrote a book about his experience in the PMDU. Instruction to Deliver: Fighting to Reform Britain’s Public Services (Methuen 2008),[16] It was described by the Financial Times as "one of the best books about British Government for many years".[15]

Barber is currently the Government's preferred candidate to chair the soon-to-be-established Office for Students.[17]

Delivery Associates

Barber is the Founder and Chairman of Delivery Associates, the global public sector advisory firm focused on implementation of large-scale reform and establishment of delivery units. It applies the science of Delivery with partners from across the globe in order to achieve step-change in citizen outcomes across education, health, economic development, infrastructure and other areas of government.


Barber has served as the co-chair of the Pakistan Education Taskforce, as DFID Special Representative on Education for Pakistan. He has now made more than fifty visits to Pakistan, including serving as an advisor on system reform to the Chief Minister of Punjab, Shahbaz Sharif. This work led to the development of the 'Punjab Roadmap, with ambitious goals to increase the quality of education offered at all 60,000 schools in the Punjab. The Good News from Pakistan, published in 2013 with Reform, summarises the change achieved between August 2011 and January 2013.[18] These include:

The Independent Commission on Aid Impact has praised the Roadmap as "an excellent example of how a well-designed monitoring system can be integral to the design of a reform programme".[19]

Barber has also recently advised Dr Sania Nishtar, the Special Assistant to the Pakistan Prime Minister on Social Protection and Poverty Alleviation, on the Ehsaas programme in Pakistan.[20]

UK Government

Barber was asked by the UK Treasury in 2017 to conduct a review into how the government measures impact for each taxpayer pound spent on public services. The Public Value Review[21] set out a practical approach to understanding public sector productivity and how it can be addressed in government.[22]

In 2021, Barber was asked by the Prime Minister and the Cabinet Secretary to review government delivery to ensure it remains focused, effective and efficient in the rebuild after COVID-19.[23]

At McKinsey and Company

Following his time leading the Prime Minister's Delivery Unit, Barber served as partner and head of McKinsey's Global Education Practice until 2011. While at McKinsey, Barber co-authored two major education reports: How the world’s most improved school systems keep getting better (2010)[24] and How the world’s best-performing schools come out on top (2007).[25]

During this time, Barber continued to work on management in the public sector,[26] and published Deliverology 101[27] in 2011 to serve as a comprehensive guide to system reform and delivery. Governments and large public organisations (from the Louisiana school system to the Malaysian government) adopted elements of the 'deliverology' approach. Additionally, a number of international organizations including the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the World Bank, DFID, and the IMF sought his advice and guidance.

Education Delivery Institute

In the summer of 2010, Barber teamed with leaders from the Education Trust and Achieve to found the U.S. Education Delivery Institute. Between 2010 and 2016, this Institute worked with leaders of K-12 and higher education systems around the United States to adapt the delivery concept pioneered by Barber in the Prime Minister's Delivery Unit to drive American education reform efforts.[28]

Chief Education Advisor, Pearson

From September 2011 to March 2017, Barber was Chief Education Advisor at Pearson. In this role, he led the company's worldwide research and partnership on education policy, and learning methods, advised on and supported the innovation and development of new products and services, and led Pearson's strategy for education in the poorest sectors of the world, particularly in fast-growing developing economies.[6]


Barber was responsible for Pearson's detailed research and experimentation on what works in education, and how to demonstrate the effectiveness of different approaches, services and materials. This initiative was a major component of the company's global commitment to proven improvement in learning outcomes and applies across all investments and acquisitions.[29]

Pearson Affordable Learning Fund

Barber chaired the Pearson Affordable Learning Fund. Announced in July 2012, The Pearson Affordable Learning Fund (PALF) is a venture fund with $65M of capital that invests in private schools, education technology, and scalable services to meet the demand for affordable education in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. PALF seeks investments with market returns while demonstrating outsized learning outcomes. In 2016, PALF had 10 portfolio companies across 6 countries, averaging 140% revenue growth in that year.[30]

The fund's first investment was in an affordable Ghanaian school chain, Omega Schools, headed by Ken Donkoh and Professor James Tooley. In the first four months of the investment, Omega Schools expanded from 10 schools serving 6,000 students to 20 schools serving 11,000.[30]

Oceans of Innovation

In August 2012, Barber published Oceans of Innovation with Katelyn Donnelly and Saad Rizvi about the rise of Pacific Asia and the implications for global leadership and education.[31] They laid out the need for whole system revolutions in education, which combine whole system reform and systemic innovation.

The Learning Curve

In November 2012, Barber launched The Learning Curve. The Learning Curve was commissioned by Pearson from the Economist Intelligence Unit to work with some of the world's leading education experts to review, research, and interview innovators from every continent about how best to achieve better learning outcomes.

It established the first ever open and searchable global education data bank[32] - drawing on the world's best existing data-sets including the PISA, TIMMS and PIRLS studies. It is one of the most comprehensive and accessible sets of data on learning that exists.

An Avalanche is Coming

In March 2013, Barber published An Avalanche is Coming with Katelyn Donnelly and Saad Rizvi about the upcoming revolution in global higher education.[33] They described the 'unbundling' of higher education and called on university leaders to change

The Incomplete Guide to Delivering Learning Outcomes

This publication, co-authored with Saad Rizvi, introduces Pearson's journey towards putting efficacy at the heart of the company, and the lessons learned in the process that anyone passionate about delivering outcomes or transforming a company can apply.[34] It describes the "Efficacy Framework," a way to evaluate and improve impact on learning outcomes, and sets out the company's strategy, initiatives and insights in applying it. It also outlines how Pearson will ensure that the efficacy is applied throughout the company, reviewing all investments and acquisitions over a value of $1m, reporting publicly on Pearson's impact and making it a central pillar of every major decision.

Asking More: The Path to Efficacy

This publication, edited by Barber and Saad Rizvi, brings together articles from some of the world's leading education practitioners and business people to highlight the urgent opportunity for a global focus on outcomes in education. It explores how research and data collection can enable a revolutionary degree of rigour in measuring and improving the success of learning products and educational programmes. The authors consider priorities and barriers to learning outcomes and suggest possible solutions on the path to efficacy. Contributions by: Geoff Mulgan, NESTA, Barbara Chow, Hewlett Foundation, John Iwata, IBM, Vicky Colbert, Escuela Nueva Foundation, Rukmini Banerji, Pratham Schools, Michael C. Crow, Arizona State University, Andreas Schleicher, OECD, Sir Ken Robinson, education, arts and creativity expert, Peter Hill, former CEO of Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority[35]

Honorary degrees

Barber has been a Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the Harvard Graduate School of Education and holds honorary doctorates from the University of Exeter and Nottingham Trent University.[36]



  1. ^ "Sir Michael Barber: Curriculum Vitae". National Research University Higher School of Economics. 2015. Retrieved 21 February 2015.
  2. ^ "Delivery Associates | Homepage". www.deliveryassociates.com. Retrieved 24 March 2021.
  3. ^ "Delivery Associates: Global leaders in public sector strategy and implementation". deliveryassociates.org.com. 11 January 2015. Retrieved 31 July 2015.
  4. ^ "Honours and Awards". 15 September 2006. Retrieved 17 May 2017.
  5. ^ "20 things about delivery from Michael Barber (and 3 stories about a neglected American President) you really need to know". Institute for Government. 20 March 2015. Retrieved 4 October 2020.
  6. ^ a b c d "Sir Michael Barber to Join Pearson as Chief Education Advisor". pearsoned.com. 26 May 2011. Retrieved 21 February 2015.
  7. ^ "Centre For Public Impact, a BCG Foundation". Centre For Public Impact.
  8. ^ "Preferred candidate for Chair of Office for Students announced". 7 February 2017. Retrieved 8 July 2017.
  9. ^ "Education Secretary selects preferred candidate for new Office for Students Chair". GOV.UK. Retrieved 24 March 2021.
  10. ^ a b Barber, Michael (2017), How to Run a Government: So that Citizens Benefit and Taxpayers Don't go Crazy, Penguin, ISBN 978-0-1419-7958-8
  11. ^ Barber, Michael. "Accomplishment". www.penguin.co.uk. Retrieved 24 March 2021.
  12. ^ "PM's latest hire signals desire for Whitehall reform". BBC News. 12 January 2021. Retrieved 24 March 2021.
  13. ^ Bootham School Register. York, England: Bootham Old Scholars Association. 2011.
  14. ^ Wilby, Peter (14 June 2011). "Mad professor goes global". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 February 2015.
  15. ^ a b "Board of Directors". U.S. Education Delivery Institute. 2015. Retrieved 21 February 2015.
  16. ^ a b Instruction to Deliver: Fighting to Transform Britain's Public Services. 2015. ASIN 0413776646.
  17. ^ "Michael Barber selected to promote 'choice and competition' at OfS". Times Higher Education (THE). 7 February 2017. Retrieved 22 February 2017.
  18. ^ "The Good News from Pakistan". 2013. Retrieved 8 July 2017.
  19. ^ Independent Commission on Aid Impact (2012). DfID's Education Programme in Three East African Countries.
  20. ^ "Ehsaas a global model to tackle poverty: UK expert". The Express Tribune. 10 December 2020. Retrieved 24 March 2021.
  21. ^ "Delivering better outcomes for citizens: practical steps for unlocking public value". GOV.UK. Retrieved 24 March 2021.
  22. ^ "The Barber Public Value Review - Civil Service". civilservice.blog.gov.uk. Retrieved 24 March 2021.
  23. ^ "How can Boris Johnson ensure that his promises are being delivered? | John Rentoul". The Independent. 19 February 2021. Retrieved 24 March 2021.
  24. ^ a b Mourshed, Mona; Chijioke, Chinezi; Barber, Michael (November 2010). "How the world's most improved school systems keep getting better". McKinsey on Society. Retrieved 21 February 2015.
  25. ^ a b Barber, Michael; Mourshed, Mona (September 2007). "How the world's best-performing schools come out on top". McKinsey on Society. Retrieved 21 February 2015.
  26. ^ a b Stevenson, Alexander (2013). The Public Sector: Managing The Unmanageable. Kogan Page. ISBN 978-0-7494-6777-7.
  27. ^ a b Barber, Michael; Moffit, Andy; Kihn, Paul (2015). Deliverology 101: A Field Guide For Educational Leaders. ISBN 978-1412989503.
  28. ^ "Delivery Approach". U.S. Education Delivery Institute. 2015. Retrieved 21 February 2015.
  29. ^ "Efficacy in Education". Pearson. 2015. Retrieved 21 February 2015.
  30. ^ a b "New Pearson investment fund to enhance education opportunity among the world's poorest". Pearson. 2 July 2012. Retrieved 21 February 2015.
  31. ^ a b Rizvi, Saad; Donnelly, Katelyn; Barber, Michael (23 August 2012). "Oceans of Innovation: The Atlantic, the Pacific, global leadership and the future of education". Institute for Public Policy Research. Retrieved 21 February 2015.
  32. ^ "The Learning Curve". Pearson. 2015. Retrieved 21 February 2015.
  33. ^ a b Rizvi, Saad; Donnelly, Katelyn; Barber, Michael (2015). "An avalanche is coming". avalancheiscoming.com. Retrieved 21 February 2015.
  34. ^ a b "The Incomplete Guide to Delivering Learning Outcomes". Pearson. 2015. Retrieved 21 February 2015.
  35. ^ a b "Asking More: The Path to Efficacy". Pearson. 2015. Retrieved 21 February 2015.
  36. ^ "Sir Michael Barber". WISE Summit, Qatar Foundation. 2015. Retrieved 21 February 2015.
  37. ^ Barber, Michael; Rodriguez, Nick; Artis, Ellyn (2017), Deliverology in Practice, Corwin, ISBN 978-1-4522-5735-8
  38. ^ Barber, Michael. "Accomplishment". www.penguin.co.uk. Retrieved 24 March 2021.