Hugh McLean joined the Education Support Program in Budapest in 1999 and was associated with the Open Society Foundations’ education work in various capacities, working mostly on evaluations and research but also in Russia and then in Pakistan. After moving to the United Kingdom in 2006, McLean assisted with refining a new mission focus for the Education Support Program and began directing it in that same year. He has shepherded a new General Education Sub-Board and led the program to become widely recognized and highly regarded in international education circles.
McLean studied music at university and completed a postgraduate teaching diploma in music and English language teaching. After university, in order to avoid conscription in the white armed forces, he lived and taught in a remote rural village in one of South Africa’s independent homelands for a number of years. There, he started a bridging program for village youth who wanted to study further after finishing school. This was closed by the authorities and McLean was deported. Back in Johannesburg, he worked in adult literacy and trade union education for the rest of the 1980s.
In 1990, signs of change emerged in South Africa and McLean joined one of the several large corporations that started funding education and development in the country. The company he worked for was a key player in early childhood development, business education, community development, youth skills training, HIV/AIDS prevention and care, and distance learning. McLean completed a part-time MBA and has developed his interest in research and evaluation.