After graduating from Oxford in Modern Languages in the 1980s, Michael had his first experience of Chinese education as a teaching volunteer in a provincial Chinese city. Returning from China, Michael came to Wolfson and gained an MPhil in Linguistics. He then began on his first career, with the British Council, which took him back to China three times. In the 2000s he directed the British Council’s China operations from Beijing for seven years, a period of great expansion in education links between China and the UK, and exponential growth in the numbers of Chinese students coming to British universities. In recognition of his contribution to the British Council’s work in UK-China relations, he was made a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George (CMG) in 2008.
Michael returned to Cambridge as Director of the Cambridge Trusts in 2008, and led an expansion of financial support for international students at the University. He re-joined Wolfson as a Fellow at that time. In 2013 he became Chief Executive of Cambridge Assessment International Education, part of Cambridge University Press and Assessment and the world's largest provider of international education qualifications for school-age children. In nearly six years as CEO, he greatly increased business worldwide, and widened engagement in areas beyond the organization’s school exams core, such as primary and middle school curricula, teacher development, and public education reform.
Since 2019 Michael has worked as an independent education consultant for companies in several countries. His current roles include Senior Education Consultant to Far East Horizon Limited, a Shanghai company listed in Hong Kong; Chair of Lingumi Ltd, a UK company providing app-based learning for young children; and Chair of Governors of the National Mathematics and Science College, a private sixth-form college in Coventry, England, for gifted maths and science students.