Troubleshooter heads for LJMU

March 31, 2000

Mike Brown already had a reputation as something of a troubleshooter before he agreed this week to step into the breach as the new vice-chancellor of Liverpool John Moores University.

His 12-year career at De Montfort University, which will officially end in September, began when he was brought in as director of resources to restructure the diverse collection of Midlands institutions on the eve of their conglomeration into a new university.

He had already been widely regarded as the man who rescued Loughborough University's commercial arm, Loughborough Consultancy. But when he takes over at LJMU, it will be following a vote a vote of no confidence in the university's executive by administrative staff union Unison and the threat of similar action from lecturers' union Natfhe.

Despite this, and inheriting a deficit left by retiring vice-chancellor Peter Toyne, Professor Brown insists he is "very pleased" with what he has seen of LJMU.

Much of the reform and modernisation process that has caused Professor Toyne such grief will be completed by the time Professor Brown joins the university.

Having accepted the position just two weeks after deciding to put himself forward, Professor Brown has not yet had much time to consider LJMU's long term mission and future. "I want to listen and to learn," he said. "My style is very open and honest."

He is determined, he said, to bring a new culture of empowerment to staff, filtering down accountability and responsibility to lower levels of management.

One thing is clear - LJMU needs to earn more money and may benefit from Professor Brown's long experience with industrial partnerships.

"The deficit I will inherit will be very short-term," he said. Voluntary redundancies and early retirements have already led to significant staff reductions. "But part of the agenda is to increase resources."

This is likely to be through consultancy work with local partners rather than an all-out pursuit of research excellence. "We can't spread ourselves too thinly," he said.

"LJMU will never be a research-dominated university, even if we wanted to be," said Professor Brown. "We are never going to be funded to be one. I'd like us to become a research-enabling university across the board, so we can underpin our teaching with good scholarly work.

"We need to look at what the focus of the university is. There is a student focus and we need to look at the best way to service the students."

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