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Sussex rounds off a golden year with glittering prizes at Graduation

The University of Sussex graduation ceremonies take place at Brighton Dome.

The University of Sussex rounds off a year of public celebrations to mark its 50th anniversary with a bumper crop of graduating students at its six Summer Graduation ceremonies this week.

A total of 2,225 students – the biggest number ever to attend the summer ceremonies – will be awarded their degrees by University of Sussex Chancellor Sanjeev Bhaskar at Brighton Dome, watched by 6,000 guests, family and friends. Hundreds more will be watching around the world as the ceremonies are broadcast live online.

The ceremonies will also see the premiere of a new music work composed especially for the University in its anniversary year, which will be played by the brass ensemble that traditionally accompanies the arrival of the Graduation procession to the Dome stage.

Created by the composer and Sussex alumnus John Altman, the piece is entitled Fanfare for the Common Room.

University of Sussex Vice-Chancellor Professor Michael Farthing says: “We are delighted to welcome a record number of students and their guests to this year’s summer Graduation ceremonies. The Sussex ceremonies are very special occasions and a fitting tribute to the achievements of our students.

“This year is very special to the University, as we reflect on the achievements of the past 50 years and look forward to what could be achieved by our academics and our graduating students in the years to come. There are exciting times ahead for all those who seek to make a positive contribution to our world through through the opportunities opened up by higher education.”

As a special one-off celebration, the University has also awarded eight special Gold Medals to leading writers, artists, thinkers and scientists connected to the University.

Four of the medals will be awarded at a ceremony in Brighton Pavilion on the eve of Graduation on Tuesday 17 July to: Lord (Asa) Briggs, founding father and former VC of Sussex; Great Britain’s 2013 Venice Biennale representative, Turner Prize-winner and art history alumnus Jeremy Deller; former President of Botswana, Special Envoy of the United Nations Secretary-General on Climate Change and Sussex alumnus Festus Mogae; and the award-winning novelist and Sussex alumnus Ian McEwan.

The University will be celebrating the achievements of other leaders in their fields with honorary degrees awarded at the Graduation ceremonies.

In the past 50 years, honorary degrees have been awarded to some of the most notable names of our age, including playwrights Sir Noel Coward and Harold Pinter, musicians Sir Harrison Birtwistle and Sir Paul McCartney, actors Lord (Richard) Attenborough and Sir Laurence Olivier, Body Shop founder  Dame Anita Roddick, human rights campaigner Terry Waite and the sculptor Henry Moore.

The recipients for Summer Graduation 2012 are:

  • Nigel Newton, founder and Chief Executive of Bloomsbury Publishing, who will be made Doctor of Letters for his contribution to literature;
  • Professor John McNamara, Professor of Mathematics and Biology at Bristol University, who is regarded as one of the main architects of theoretical behavioural/evolutionary biology, which relates to the evolution of animal behaviour. He will be made Doctor of Science for his contribution to mathematics;
  • Professor Stephen D Hopper, Director (CEO and Chief Scientist) of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, who will be made Doctor of Science for his contribution to global science in the field of plant conservations biology;
  • Professor Onora O’Neill (Baroness O’Neill of Bengarve), philosopher and a crossbench member of the House of Lords will be made Doctor of Letters  for her contribution to public service and advocacy of the importance of higher education in the UK;
  • Kay Andrews OBE (Baroness Andrews of Southover), Chair of the Commission for English Heritage and Deputy Chairman of the House of Lords, will be made Doctor of Laws for her contribution to government, education and heritage.

Graduation gives students the opportunity to formally celebrate their achievements with those who have supported them throughout their studies and shared their challenges and triumphs. Among those graduating this week are:

  • Laurie Crossley (BSc Mathematics), from Brighton, who conducted research into the cause of a range of diseases using mathematical modelling, while still an undergraduate, and whose research is to be published in an academic journal;
  • Julian Philips (DPhil in Music Composition), already a recognised composer responsible for Knight Crew, the youth opera featured in the TV series Gareth Goes to Glyndebourne, Julian’s doctorate involved a residency at Glyndebourne that led to the performance of his opera The Yellow Sofa, which is about to go on tour;
  • Becky Heaver (DPhil in Psychology), from Southwick, who was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome before embarking on a demanding academic career;
  • Eleanor Tubman (BSc in Physics), from Kent, who visited the Large Hadron Collider and assisted Sussex scientists involved in one of the most important physics discoveries of recent times – the Higgs boson particle – and all while still an undergraduate.

The University will pay tribute to three students who died during the course of or at the completion of their studies, and will be honouring their memories with posthumous awards in the presence of their families and friends. They are:

Notes for Editors

University of Sussex Press office contacts: Maggie Clune and Jacqui Bealing. Tel: 01273 678 888. Email:

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Last updated: Wednesday, 18 July 2012