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View from the VC

Today, 20 November, the Vice Chancellor wrote to all staff. You can read the full email below:

The Government yesterday confirmed that we will be one of the universities providing mass asymptomatic testing for students, so it is full steam ahead on this massive challenge. With just ten days until testing begins, we still have a lot to do to get all of the operations in place.

We have now received guidance and instructions from the Government and are working through these at speed. We expect to take delivery of thousands of Lateral Flow Tests next week, in readiness for testing to begin on 30 November.

While we work out the many logistical issues, I strongly encourage you to consider coming forward to play your part, if you are able. You will have seen in my email earlier this week that we need a hundred staff every day to help run this operation. In practice that means many hundreds of staff over the whole period as the centre will be in operation for a period of about twelve days, including a weekend. We’ve had a good response so far from colleagues – and thank you if you have already signed up – but we do still need a lot more volunteers. There are a variety of roles available, including co-ordinating queueing, registering students, advising students on how to take the test, processing tests and recording results, as well as helping to administer the tests. We will provide details on the specific roles once you sign up.
Similar calls are going out across the country. The Government requires every university that has been selected to take part in this programme to run and staff their own operations. Like I said in my email earlier in the week, I know this is a big ask but I can’t emphasise enough how important this is for our students so that they can get home safely to their family and friends during the winter vacation.

If you can help, please then complete the online form to indicate your availability each day.

This is our opportunity to come together and be part of a national effort to support young people, who have had such a difficult year. Barring other essential activities, including teaching, this is now our number one priority.

Even though this operation is beyond any of our job descriptions, it will mean so much to our students and will say so much about who we are as a Sussex community. In a similar vein, it is also important to recognise and celebrate those academic and professional services colleagues who go above and beyond in teaching and caring for students in their day jobs. This is why we have decided to hold our Education Awards before the end of the year.

The Sussex Education Awards received over 400 nominations from both staff and students at the beginning of this year. However, the ceremony, which was due to take place in April had to be postponed because of the pandemic. 

The Education Awards will now take place online on Tuesday 1 December hosted by Claire Smith, Deputy Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education and Innovation. Part of the University’s Learn to Transform strategy, these annual awards recognise individuals and teams who have made outstanding contributions to the student experience. Many warm congratulations to all nominees.

If you would like more information about the celebration of colleagues who have embodied the spirit of Sussex and our core values of kindness, integrity, inclusion, collaboration and courage, please email

Congratulations are also due to a record number of our academic colleagues, who have been included in a list of the world’s most highly cited researchers. The list, compiled annually by Clarivate Analytics, is the most highly anticipated of its kind, recognising researchers who have produced multiple highly cited papers in the last decade, with papers ranking in the top 1% by citations for a publication field and year. This year, Sussex has nine entries, up from seven last year. This is a fantastic achievement – well done to Constantine Blome, Adrian Smith, Steven Sorrell and Benjamin Sovacool in the Business School; Life Sciences’ Dave Goulson and Jorn Scharlemann; Hugo Critchley (BSMS) and Anil Seth (Engineering and Informatics), co-directors of the Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science; and Ian Scoones of the STEPS centre and IDS.

This spreading of ideas and new knowledge beyond the bounds of the university is a central tenet of our academic endeavour. So, I was delighted this week, on behalf of the university, to sign up to the Knowledge Exchange Concordat, which commits us to a number of underpinning principles to guide our efforts to translate our knowledge and research into impact in society and the economy. I look forward to working with colleagues as we continue to progress this activity.

Finally, I would like to update you on two pieces of important activity that form part of our Inclusive Sussex strategy, which aims to rebuild Sussex as a university that is genuinely inclusive and welcoming for everybody.

The first is a reminder to please take part in our Race Equality Survey, if you have not already done so. The feedback we receive through this exercise – our biggest-ever on this issue – really will help to deliver the urgent change that we know we need to make to address the multi-layered and varied institutional and cultural barriers for our BAME community, including Black students and staff. The survey is a vital and required part of our Race Equality Charter submission, and the outcomes will drive our action plan.

I also want to draw your attention to a new University policy on transitioning at work, which was developed through close collaboration with our Trans and Nonbinary Staff Network. In introducing a Transitioning at Work policy, we are reaffirming our commitment to creating a truly inclusive workplace. Further guidance for staff and managers will be published shortly.

With best wishes,

By: Sean Armstrong
Last updated: Friday, 20 November 2020

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