Image of the gates of Liverpool Cathedral

Michael Brown CBE

Oration

Presented by: Professor Frank Sanderson

Honourable Pro-Chancellor, I have pleasure in presenting Professor Michael Brown as an Ambassador Fellow of Liverpool John Moores University.

Professor Michael Brown became the Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive of Liverpool John Moores University in 2000.

Under his leadership, the University has undergone a quiet revolution, developing a more focussed approach to university management and, at a time of increasing concern about graduate employability, establishing a timely, innovative and radical approach to University Education by embedding World of Work skills, i.e., WoW® Skills, across the whole of our curricula.

This initiative has been widely welcomed by business leaders, already impressed by the fact that LJMU is the only university in Europe ever to achieve a full EFQM Business Excellence Award from the British Quality Foundation.

Michael Alan Brown was born in Hereford in 1946. 

After Bridgend Boys Grammar Technical School, he studied Physics at Nottingham University and followed this with a PhD in low-temperature solid state physics. He then moved to a Royal Society-funded research post at the Centre for Nuclear Studies in Grenoble.

Next he was a Physics Lecturer at Loughborough University, extending his research interests into single-chip network technology control and working closely with high-technology companies. After a successful period as General Manager of Loughborough Consultants Limited developing the commercial applications of university expertise, Professor Brown joined Leicester Polytechnic as Deputy Director with responsibility for strategic and resource planning.  

When the polytechnic became De Montfort University, he took responsibility for marketing and international development, launching the first national television and cinema marketing campaign of any university and also established satellite campuses of the University in South Africa, Malaysia and India. He has been a long-term advisor to the British Government on educational development in South Africa, and also an advisor on higher education management and governance to the South African Government.

Professor Brown's professional affiliations - he is for example a Fellow of the Institute of Physics, a Fellow of the Institute of Engineering and Technology, a Companion of the Institute of Management, and a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing - reflect his wide-ranging higher education experience, which proved to be the ideal preparation for the role of Vice-Chancellor at Liverpool John Moores University.

When Michael came to LJMU in 2000, he ensured that we were the first UK University to adopt the European Foundation for Quality Management Excellence Model which follows the principle of "management by fact not by assertion", and which holds that superior performance is achieved by involving people in improving their processes and maintaining core values of continuous improvement and employee participation.  

The Excellence Model has proved helpful in identifying our strengths and the areas in which we need to improve, and its philosophy has underpinned many of the positive changes we have witnessed over the past 10 years.

From the outset, Michael spent time on agreeing our Values - the emphasis is on customers, on excellence, on respect, on teamwork, on leadership, and on celebrating success, all underpinned as he repeatedly stressed, by good communication. He has also stressed the value of a sense of humour, appreciating as President Eisenhower once noted that a sense of humour is part of the art of leadership, of getting things done.

He initiated a superb management development programme, providing his managers with many valuable insights into the art of leadership and the art of team working. One particularly powerful concept was The Shadow of the Leader, a metaphor which reminded us of the telling impact of our actions on the attitudes and behaviours of those we manage.  

He has brought much-needed financial stability, with improved linkage between income flows to the university and internal resource allocations. This has served to make us more business-like and efficient, removing unproductive activity and introducing new income streams. Allied to this, he has also introduced a systematic approach to the management of risk.

Keen on empowerment and wary of management by committee, he dramatically reduced the number of committees and encouraged responsible managers to make decisions.

He has stressed the need to acknowledge staff who act beyond the call of duty. To this end, he initiated an annual Staff Dinner for staff nominated by their managers for their outstanding contribution to the work of the university.  

He has also introduced a Suggestion Scheme, encouraging staff to cite exceptional colleagues for their work, and to contribute constructive ideas for improving the university.

It was evident early in his tenure that he is politically astute and has a well-developed entrepreneurial and business sense.  

With his background in marketing, Michael appreciated the importance of making ourselves distinctive, and moved quickly to appoint a marketing specialist at pro-vice chancellor level. He recognised the profile-raising potential of our prestigious Roscoe Lecture Series, and has taken great pride in hosting such eminent speakers as the His Holiness The Dalai Lama and HRH Prince Charles. 

And Professor Brown himself delivered the 100th Roscoe Lecture in May of this year, addressing, in a challenging and entertaining way, the question of "What are modern universities really for?"

An initiative of which Michael is particularly proud is the Liverpool Science Park, where he has played a leading role in a partnership involving LJMU, the University of Liverpool, and the city council to provide first-class accommodation, business support, and links to the region's specialist experts for developing science and knowledge-based companies. 

Companies from outside the region and abroad have been attracted by this offer, but just as gratifying for Michael is that home-grown talent is being retained and that the two universities are maximising their economic value to Liverpool.

He was not happy to have us pigeon-holed as a post-1992 university with limited aspirations. Whereas the Government promoted diversity between universities, Michael has encouraged diversity within LJMU by enabling academic areas to play to their strengths. 

For example, rather than use research and enterprise income for general pump-priming, he has ensured that those departments earning such income keep it, and as a consequence, has enabled several departments to build world-class reputations: for instance, in 2005 HM the Queen presented the Queen's Anniversary Award to Professor Brown for our work on developing one of the world's largest and most sophisticated ground-based robotic telescopes. 

The University was praised for the creative application of this technology for opening up new areas of research for professional astronomers, but Michael was particularly pleased that it is being harnessed to reveal the wonders of science to school children around the UK through our National Schools' Observatory.  

As a consequence of this innovative work, last year our Astrophysics Research Institute was ranked 1st out of 10 other leading universities (including Cambridge, Durham and Imperial College) in a nationwide government-led review of the Research Impact in Physics.

The differentiating development which has attracted the most headlines and world-wide interest is the World of Work initiative, known as WoW®  - which Michael ensured was registered as a trademark. The idea is to develop students' WoW®  skills - such as self-awareness, organisational awareness, and making things happen - and have these skills embedded in the curricula throughout the university, and measured and certificated by an independent process audited by employers. By this means, the opportunity for our graduates to be employed or self-employed is enhanced. 

In what was an object lesson in leadership, Michael actively championed WoW®  within the university, leading from the front throughout the process: explaining, developing, adapting and resourcing the idea through many meetings across the university - thereby initiating a major cultural change whilst at the same time using his extensive network with politicians and captains of industry to secure their crucial support.

Skilful networking with people of influence has been a major feature of his tenure, and to our great advantage. He has persistently promoted our ground-breaking initiatives with government ministers and business leaders, resulting for example in LJMU featuring strongly in The Lambert Review of Business-University Collaboration in 2003, and in a 2009 Government White Paper on Higher Ambitions: The Future of Universities in a Knowledge Economy in which the WoW®  initiative was profiled as an example of best practice. 

And the CBI, acutely aware that employability skills are the single most important consideration for the overwhelming majority of businesses when recruiting graduates, has repeatedly cited the WoW® programme as an exemplar for the university sector.

Alongside his day job, Professor Brown plays an active role in the cultural and economic life of the city of Liverpool and beyond. For example, he is a Deputy Lieutenant of the County of Merseyside. He is a former Chairman of both the Strategy and Performance and Closure Committees of the Merseyside Objective One investment programme, which is informally regarded by the European Commission as the largest and most successful Objective One programme in Europe. 

He is a former Director of Liverpool Vision, a regeneration company charged with transforming the physical infrastructure of Liverpool's city centre, and a former Director of The Mersey Partnership. He is Chairman of the aforementioned Liverpool Science Park and is a former chair of the Knowledge Economy Group. 

In 2002, Professor Brown became Chairman of the Merseyside and Liverpool Theatres Trust and under his leadership, the Everyman and Playhouse Theatres have made a telling contribution to the cultural life of the city, not least during the 2008 European Capital of Culture Year. 

More recently, Professor Brown was appointed the independent chairman of the Liverpool Strategic Improvement and Innovation Programme (LSIIP), which was charged with overseeing a modernisation programme at Liverpool City Council. 

As a result of this work, Professor Brown was also appointed as Chair of the Liverpool Democracy Commission, taking evidence and making recommendations on improving the depth and breadth of councillor representation and the effective performance of councillors in their changing roles.

His leadership and management skills, allied with his political and business acumen, have been of great benefit to our university and to the Liverpool City Region. 

It has helped that he, and his wife and steadfast supporter Andrea, have always felt welcome here, to the extent that they have put down roots and will be staying after Michael's retirement at the end of August. His positive impact on Liverpool is evidenced by a recent Echo editorial, where it was noted that "Professor Michael Brown may confess to never having got his head around this city's obsession with football, but he can certainly call himself an adopted Scouser".

He has also enjoyed more formal acknowledgement of his achievements. For his service to the community in Liverpool and for his wider service to higher education, Professor Brown was awarded a CBE in the 2008 New Year’s Honours List.

For Michael's sustained and exceptional service to Liverpool John Moores University and to the community in Liverpool over the past 11 years, we are delighted formally to acknowledge this service and declare his on-going membership of the LJMU Family by bestowing the title of Ambassador Fellow.

Thus I have great pleasure in presenting Professor Michael Brown, Commander of the British Empire, Deputy Lieutenant of Merseyside, this most distinguished adopted son of our city, as an Ambassador Fellow of Liverpool John Moores University.