2012 and beyond
We have reached the end of an extremely busy first quarter of 2012. As the Easter break approaches, staff and students alike have earned some time off from work and study.
Having said that, of course, life at Sussex never really stops. With more than 4,000 students living on campus and our learning services supporting students 24/7, there isn’t actually any time when the University is not in operation. We have activity on campus 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Teams in the Library, IT Services, residential teams, Security and so on are on duty pretty much all the time.
As the Brighton and Hove bus ads suggest, there is no last bus to campus; they keep running day and night. I suspect increasingly we will see this as the pattern for higher education– with online services and 24/7 delivery in future being the expectation of students worldwide. The challenge for us will be how we can meet those expectations.
A lot of the work this term has indeed involved looking forward to the future development of Sussex. As I reflected at our meeting last week of Court, that future is being built on a platform of current success.
Record numbers of students have been admitted to Sussex. We have continued to rise up the league tables. Our financial position has started to stabilise and improve. Campus investment has delivered excellent new facilities - with the prospect of more to come.
On the back of that, we have been able to start planning for the future in an uncertain environment with some confidence. All of our schools have been involved in a conversation about our plans for the size, shape, quality and distinctiveness of Sussex.
We have faced future challenges with confidence because our 2009 plans – set out in ‘Making the Future’ – have already delivered significant outcomes, such as an increase in the number of overseas students of more than 100%. We also planned improvement in the quality measures of our student experience and that has been achieved.
Other goals remain to be achieved by the 2015 target date. As I have always said, it is right that we have stretching targets that mean we must all give of our best.
But this term was not just about future plans. A lot of practical measures have also been achieved.
The work that Clare Mackie has been leading across all 11 schools of study has laid foundations for a new curriculum and a new structure of the academic year from September. Work by Bob Allison supporting our schools has taken us further forward in our preparations for the 2014 REF (Research Excellence Framework). And Chris Marlin has continued to lead the growth of our international activity, supported by academic colleagues and those in our recruitment and admissions teams.
I note that a new group of students have been elected to lead our Students’ Union from July. There will be time to thank the current sabbatical team as they continue in office – but I want to acknowledge the very positive work they have done with the University this year and their constructive engagement on issues that have arisen so far in 2011-12.
Finally, our 50th-anniversary celebrations have continued to be impressive. The events in India made us new friends and forged strong new relationships. The Sussex Conversations at the Royal Institution in London have shared our research excellence with new audiences and showcased the talents of staff and students in broadcasting those events live online.
As we look forward to the summer term - the continuing work in which we are all engaged, the creation of a new strategic plan to take us towards 2020, and our final 50th-anniversary events here on campus, in Brighton, in London and overseas - I hope we can all enjoy a little time of rest before we embark on that work once more.