Professor Brown studied Special Physics at University College London and went on to win Fulbright and English Speaking Union fellowships to undertake an MA in Physics at Smith College in Massachusetts, USA.
Professor Brown was a Physics lecturer in a London college and two universities in Nigeria, and subsequently became the Principal Teacher of Science at St Bride’s School in Helensburgh, Scotland. In 1971, she moved to the University of Stirling as a Research Officer examining children’s attitudes to science in the first two years of secondary school, and was awarded a doctorate in 1975. From 1980 she was seconded to the Scottish Office in Edinburgh for four years as a consultant and advisor on research and assessment in the third and fourth years of secondary school, and went on to become Director of the Scottish Council for Research in Education and President of the British Educational Research Association (1990).
She has chaired many national and regional committees on child protection, disability, Gaelic research, arts education in Scotland and adult and continuing education. Following her return to a chair at the University of Stirling, she became its Deputy Principal from 1996-2001. She has published widely on educational research and served on the ESRC Boards for Research Grants and Postgraduate Training, and on three Education panels for the UK Research Assessment Exercises – as chair in 2001. Professor Brown is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, the Scottish Council for Educational Research, the Educational Institute of Scotland and the Royal Society of Edinburgh. In 2002 she was awarded an OBE for services to educational research and has received honorary degrees from Edinburgh, the Open, Queen Margaret and Stirling Universities. Since retiring, Professor Brown has served on the Academic Council of the University of the Highlands and Islands Millennium Institute and the Court of Queen Margaret University, and she chaired the group which produced ‘A Lifelong Learning Strategy’ on Arts Education for The Scottish Arts Council. Currently she is convener of the Royal Society of Edinburgh’s Education Committee.
Professor Sally Brown OBE FRSE is a member of the Vision for science and mathematics education 5-19 project committee.