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Professor Barry Wilkinson


Professor Barry Wilkinson
Professor Barry Wilkinson

It was with deep sadness that staff at Cardiff Business School learnt of the death of Professor Barry Wilkinson on February 2nd, 2019.

Sadness will also be felt by Barry’s former colleagues, students and friends at the universities of Bath and Exeter and in the wider, international, academic community.

Barry was a scholar and his work exemplified the virtues of commitment and engagement and learning, at a time before it was fashionable to do so. It was also driven by a working-class commitment derived from his upbringing in Fitzwilliam, South Yorkshire, where his father was a miner.

Despite a quiet demeanour, he was passionate about a topic when raised and had a wicked sense of humour and radiated a warmth and understanding. He had considerable time for junior and senior colleagues alike, and as a consequence was loved by fellow academics and generations of students at Cardiff and then Bath and Exeter. Professors Rick Delbridge and Emmanuel Ogbonna at Cardiff and Pierre McDonagh at Bath, are amongst a number of Barry’s illustrious former PhD students.

Graduating with an Honours degree in Sociology from the University of Warwick in 1978, followed by an MSc in Social Aspects of Science and Technology in 1979, Barry rapidly completed a PhD at the Technology Policy Unit at the University of Aston in 1981.

His first appointment was teaching in Singapore, before he joined the Department of Business and Economics at UWIST in Cardiff (which later morphed into Cardiff Business School in the University of Wales, Cardiff) as a lecturer in Organisational Behaviour and Personnel Management in 1986.

He was quickly promoted to senior lecturer in 1989 and to Professor of Human Resource Management in Cardiff at the extremely young age of 35 in 1991, before leaving Cardiff to take up professorial appointments at the University of Bath in 1996 and then at Exeter in 2006.

He retired with ill health in 2009.

Barry’s early research interests were in the impact of new technology upon work. He published The Shopfloor Politics of New Technology (Hienemann) out of his PhD in 1983.

While this announced him joining the academic community, he firmly established his reputation working with a vibrant group of young researchers and friends (Rick Delbridge, Jim Lowe, Jonathan Morris, Max Munday, Nick Oliver and Peter Turnbull) at Cardiff on Japanese manufacturing practices and their transfer to a western context.

This was at a time when Japan was in the ascendancy economically, when its practices were deemed to be superior to western ones and a considerable amount of Japanese manufacturing investment was being located in the UK, and Wales in particular.

This led to the enormously influential work (with his friend and colleague, Nick Oliver) The Japanisation of British Industry (Blackwell, 1988, with a second edition in 1992), to Working for the Japanese (Athlone, 1993, with Max Munday and Jonathan Morris) and to a variety of first class journal articles with Cardiff colleagues.

He founded and directed the Japanese Management Research Unit. He later expanded his work on work, management and organization in East Asia, culminating in his 1994 book Labour and Industry in Pacific Asia (Walter de Gruyter), also publishing a considerable variety of articles on these themes throughout the 1990s and 2000s. He also developed an interest in corporate culture (in retailing) with Emmanuel Ogbonna while at Cardiff, which they published extensively from.

Many colleagues can track their successes back to discussions with Barry as he was a kind and wise mentor.

He will be sadly missed by friends and colleagues alike, who will never forget him. He is survived by his three children, Lily, Jake and Renny.

Professor Jonathan Morris