skip to content

Faculty of Economics

Professor Willy Brown 1945 - 2019

The Faculty of Economics is saddened to announce the sudden and unexpected death of Professor William (Willy) Brown on 1 August 2019. Professor Brown held the position of Professor of Industrial Relations from 1985 (Emeritus from 2013) at the Faculty of Economics. He was previously Chair of the Faculty of Economics and Head of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, as well as serving as Master of Darwin College from 2000 – 2012. Before he moved to Cambridge in 1985 he was Director of the Industrial Relations Research Unit at the University of Warwick.

Contributions to Economics

His research was concerned with collective bargaining, workplace trade union organisation, pay determination, incomes policy, payment systems, arbitration, minimum wages, and the impact of legislative change. His publications include Piecework Bargaining (1973), The Changing Contours of British Industrial Relations (1981), The Individualisation of Employment Contracts in Britain (1998), The Evolution of the Modern Workplace (2009) and The Emerging Industrial Relations of China (2017). An Honorary Professor at Renmin University in Beijing, he was instrumental in bringing together international and Chinese scholars to examine developments in Chinese employment relations. Professor Brown was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the University of Sydney in 2015, in recognition of his contributions to industrial relations scholarship and policy in Australia and internationally.

Professor Brown was a foundation member of the UK’s Low Pay Commission which provided the evidence base that facilitated the passage of the National Minimum Wage Act in 1998. Last year, the Faculty celebrated the contribution of Professor Willy Brown in establishing the UK’s first national minimum wage and the continued legacy of his research in the Low Pay Commission. As well as his role on the Low Pay Commission, he was a member of the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) Panel of Arbitrators, and an independent member of the ACAS Council. He also chaired the national arbitration and mediation panel for disputes in the UK Fire Services.

Professor Brown was appointed a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 2003 for ‘services to employment relations’.


Professor Hamid Sabourian, Chair of the Faculty of Economics said:

"Willy cared passionately for the Faculty of Economics and the University. We will miss a great advocate and friend."

Dr Paul Ryan, Fellow, King's College said:

"Willy’s departure leaves us with a deep, many-sided lacuna. Leading aspects have been: his contribution to both the Faculty community and the University administration; his research into single-employer bargaining and trade unionism; and his promotion of surveys of employment relations practices. It has been an honour and a pleasure to work with him."

Tributes from Prof. Brown's PhD students:

Latest News 2019