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University of Sussex publishes Changing University Cultures report

Following a comprehensive study into Sussex’s institutional culture, the University has today (4 July) published a report which reveals the findings. 

The research was commissioned by Vice-Chancellor, Adam Tickell, in early 2017 and was undertaken by the Changing University Cultures (CHUCL) collective, led by Alison Phipps, Professor of Gender Studies at Sussex.

The report is the first of its kind for Sussex; during the course of a year, the CHUCL researchers collected over 900 inputs from staff and students, who shared their experiences of working and studying at the institution. The participants were self-selecting - with the majority being staff, and female members of the Professional Services in particular.

The report is available in full and identified six key themes arising from the data:

  • ‘Can I just say that I love Sussex’ – reflecting the affection and attachment to the institution
  • Recurring wounds and institutional history
  • Performative radicalism and persistent inequalities – setting out Sussex’s political discourses
  • Them and Us – referring to the divisions which can occur in low-trust situations
  • Silos and gridlocks
  • Movement and change – how Sussex can build on the capacity, desire and energy of the campus community

Responding to the report’s findings and recommendations, on behalf of the University’s Executive Group (UEG), Adam Tickell said: “From when I first started at Sussex, I have been committed to looking at the opportunities and challenges of the institution in equal measure, so that we can truly understand and take action to become a better university.

“We welcome this report and the part it will play, along with a number of other insights, in helping to improve the experiences of our staff and students. 

“There are many positives to take away from the report, but we must now look closely at those issues which need to be addressed if we are to enhance the culture of the institution, not just for the benefit of a few but right across our diverse campus community.

“There are some excellent recommendations contained in the report and colleagues will know that work is already underway in some of these areas, as we have started to make progress to ensure a more equal and rewarding experience for all staff. 

“The report has also identified gaps where some of our community do not feel supported in the way that that they should, and the Executive Group is now considering what interventions and recommendations we need to take forward.”

UEG has agreed the following immediate actions:

  • Sussex House and the executive offices will be made more welcoming and accessible.  Work has begun to explore, both on a physical and organisational level, how we can challenge the belief that Sussex House is a fortress.
  • Work will take place to bring together the academic community and professional services so there is greater respect and understanding of the attributes and challenges of the two vital staff groups at the University.  A process has begun to ensure the University Leadership Team (ULT), which is made up of heads of school, directors of professional services divisions and other key roles (including the Deputy Pro-Vice-Chancellors), is a more unified forum. 

A ULT charter will be created to reinforce this commitment. The Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Chief Operating Officer have also begun discussions to look at ways to facilitate greater autonomy for schools and divisions.

  • Investment in leadership at all levels throughout the organisation will be made through a new, dedicated focus on Organisational Development practices supported by the HR/People strategy. Over the last year, a number of initiatives have taken place at a senior management level and plans are being considered to roll this out further. The University has also begun to look at ways in which it can more effectively meet staff welfare and well-being needs to reflect modern good practice, and information will be shared as soon as possible on these developments.
  • The University will continue to make strides to foster an open and transparent culture. A vital part of this will be the implementation of a new five-year integrated budget and planning process which will ensure that all staff have access to information and the opportunity to contribute to the long-term success of the institution. More details on the timetable will be published at the launch of the institution’s new Strategic Framework. In addition, work is underway to look at creating greater transparency in relation to any large change programmes at Sussex.
  • The Executive Group will take part in a ‘reverse mentoring’ initiative to assist in its knowledge of the diverse needs and considerations of different members of staff.
  • The CHUCL report identified a number of key attributes and values that were important to the participants of the research. These values, along with the feedback collected from staff and students during the consultation phase of the new Strategic Framework, have been integrated into the framework which will be launched as part of ‘Sussex 2025” in the next few weeks.

Adam Tickell concluded: “The extensive research and consultation undertaken by the CHUCL team has been instrumental in informing the new values we have agreed for the University. These values are so intrinsic to our future that they have been embedded into our new Strategic Framework, which I look forward to sharing with you all on Monday next week.

“The culture of an organisation is not the responsibility of any one group or individual. It is something that exists throughout the institution and is a collective endeavour of all of us. 

“If we are to enhance our culture and ensure that every member of our community can enjoy and be proud of the place that they work and study in, every one of us - including the University’s Executive Group - must model the values and highest standards of behaviours that are expected. 

“I am absolutely committed to ensuring that happens and I look forward to working with our staff and students to engender a positive and productive culture at Sussex.”

The CHUCL research team consisted of Gemma North, Liz McDonnell, Jess Taylor and Alison Phipps.  Support was also provided by Yasin Koc and Gillian Love.


Posted on behalf of: University of Sussex
Last updated: Wednesday, 4 July 2018


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