Professor Michael Brown CBE DL
Michael Brown joined LJMU in 2000 having previously worked as Pro-Vice-Chancellor at De Montfort University.
As our second Vice-Chancellor since our inauguration as a university, he stabilised the finances whilst overseeing a period of further improvement to university buildings, both new and existing, and introduced a new approach to managing the university based on the best practice of the European Foundation for Quality Management (EFQM). Liverpool John Moores University became the first university in the world ever to achieve a full award under this discipline and remains the only university to ever have achieved this high status to this day. The few companies in the UK to achieve this status include Hewlett Packard, Siemens and Rolls Royce.
Under his leadership, the university underwent a quiet revolution, developing a more focused approach to institutional management and, at a time of increasing concern about graduate employability, embedding World of Work skills (now partly our Student Futures remit) across the whole curriculum.
Attracting headlines and world-wide interest, the World of Work initiative, known as WoW® (which Michael ensured was registered as a trademark) was established and developed with advice from a powerful group of Executive Board Directors of some major companies (including Oracle, Marks and Spencer, Sony, the Institute of Directors, the CBI, Ford Europe, NHS, Airbus, Shell International, United Utilities, GKN, Shop Direct, RICS, and Ordnance Survey). The idea was to give LJMU graduates something additional to a degree – measured and evidenced employment skills – and there was a common view from these senior employees that the skills required for successful employment were self-awareness, organisational awareness, and making things happen. The key was to have these skills embedded in the curricula throughout the university but for these skills to be evidenced 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 was greatly 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 was a major feature of Michael’s tenure, and to LJMU’s great advantage. He 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.
“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.”
– Professor Frank Sanderson during Professor Brown’s Ambassador Fellow presentation in 2011
He also continued to develop and reinforce LJMU’s links with the City of Liverpool, describing this as a symbiotic relationship and part of a natural agenda. He played a key role in the establishment of Liverpool Science Park, an initiative of which he was particularly proud. He played a leading role in the 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 consequently 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.
During his time as Vice-Chancellor, he also championed the work of key areas, such as the Astrophysics Research Institute, supporting their work in developing the world’s largest robotic telescope and facilitating new commercial partnerships across the university. His love for physics stemmed from his own undergraduate and doctoral studies at Nottingham University and he was previously a senior lecturer in physics at Loughborough University.
In 2005, The Queen presented the Queen's Anniversary Award for Higher and Further Education to Professor Brown, and colleagues Professor Mike Bode and Professor Chris Collins, for LJMU’s work on designing, building and operating the Liverpool Telescope, and providing time on the telescope for amateur astronomers and schools. The university was praised for the creative application of this technology which opened up new areas of research for professional astronomers, and that it is being harnessed to reveal the wonders of science to school children around the UK through our National Schools' Observatory.
Michael also has a professional background in marketing, as a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing, so brought an appreciation to his role of the importance of giving LJMU a distinctive identity and moved quickly to appoint a marketing specialist at Pro-Vice-Chancellor level. He recognised the importance of our prestigious Roscoe Lecture Series (“the university's gift to the city”) and took great pride in hosting such eminent speakers as His Holiness The Dalai Lama and HRH Prince Charles (now King Charles), as well as Sir Ken Dodd.
Professor Brown himself delivered the 100th Roscoe Lecture during the 14th series in 2011, addressing, in a challenging and entertaining way, the question of "What are modern universities really for?".
Alongside his day job at LJMU, he also played an active role in the cultural and economic life of the city of Liverpool; he was Deputy Lieutenant of the County of Merseyside, Chairman of the Strategy and Performance and Closure Committees of the £2bn Merseyside Objective One Investment Programme, Director of both Liverpool Vision and the Mersey Partnership, and Chairman of the aforementioned Liverpool Science Park. He also served as Chairman of the Merseyside and Liverpool Theatres Trust, overseeing the rebuilding of the Everyman Theatre, which went on to win the Royal Institute of British Architects Stirling Prize for architectural excellence in 2014.
He has also enjoyed more formal acknowledgement of his achievements. For his services to Higher Education and the communities of Liverpool, he was awarded a CBE in the 2008 New Year’s Honours List, and in 2011 he became an Ambassador Fellow of LJMU and was awarded an honorary LLD by the University of Liverpool. However, a much-treasured citation occurred when Michael retired from his post of Vice-Chancellor, the Liverpool Echo had an editorial marking this retirement and, despite Michael’s well known lack of interest in Liverpool’s passion for football, he was declared an “honorary Scouser” – the ultimate honour!