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Sir John Hills, LSE Social Policy giant, dies at 66

Sir John Hills, global expert on inequality and social exclusion and Professor of Social Policy at LSE, died this week. He was 66.

Professor Sir John Hills, Professor of Social Policy at LSE and global expert on inequality and social exclusion, died this week. He was 66.

His death was announced on Twitter by Hetan Shah, CEO of the British Academy. The cause was not immediately clear.

As an academic, his work tackled some of the most intractable social policy problems head-on: from inequality and social exclusion, to welfare reform, housing policy, and the social safety net. Hills was admired for his unique mix of academic brilliance and genuine commitment to real-world change, and he was frequently called into government service for the daunting task of improving social welfare in Britain.

He served on the UK Pensions Commission, where his contributions to auto-enrollment and other reforms are today considered bedrock principles of the pension system. He also chaired the National Equality Panel and carried out high-profile government reviews on fuel poverty and council housing.

He joined LSE in 1986 and rose to become the Richard Titmuss Professor of Social Policy at the School. He was co-director of the International Inequalities Institute from 2015 to 2018, and inaugural director of the Center for Analysis on Social Exclusion (CASE) from 1997 to 2016.

He taught courses across the Social Policy department, from the first-year Social Economics and Policy course to PhD supervisions across the gamut of his expertise. He was venerated by his students as an approachable teacher, and as someone who took time to form connections with undergraduates despite his extensive research work. His co-workers remembered him for his constant time and encouragement for younger colleagues, mentoring a generation of social policy academics and policymakers in the process.

He was inaugurated as a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1998 and knighted in 2013 for his work on social policy development. His recent book Good Times, Bad Times: The Welfare Myth of Them and Us (2014) is an encapsulation of his ideas and research on intergenerational justice, wealth redistribution, and the portrayal of the welfare state in the media today.  It is available for LSE students to read through the online Library.

In a statement on Twitter, the International Inequalities Institute said: “We mourn the death of our co-founder, John Hills, whose impassioned vision for social justice underpinned our formation. His generosity, hard work and perseverance has been central to our success. His kindness has been felt by so many. We will pay full tribute in the near future.”

He is survived by his wife, Anne.

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