At its meeting on 3 July, Senate had a long debate on the proposals to restructure Arts Schools. The debate was constructive and conducted in a good spirit, with mutual respect of opposing views. A full summary of the discussion will be made available at http://www.sussex.ac.uk/Units/vcoffice very soon.
Senate voted by 33 votes to 14 in favour of the proposal to create two Arts Schools and that proposal has now been adopted by Council. There was enthusiastic applause for Professor Alun Howkins's appeal that, now the decision is made, we should all work together to make the new structure work.
I am well aware of concerns about the pace of change. We have agreed to a radical reshaping of the Arts curriculum and now to a radical reshaping of the Arts School structure. There are some important matters of detail to be determined - the precise division of subject groups between the new Schools and the configuration of Graduate Research Centres - but no further restructuring of Arts is on the agenda. The task for the next two years is to make a success of implementing what has now been agreed.
Central to making a success of the new structure is ensuring that an organisational division into two Schools does not become a barrier to academic activity. There is no neat academic line between the humanities and the social sciences, and wherever we draw the boundary, there will be degree programmes and research activities which cross that line. The new 'social sciences' school is not an expanded version of the existing School of Social Sciences, and might choose a name that reflects the permeability of its boundaries. Interdisciplinarity is not about drawing organisational lines in the right place - it requires a supportive institutional culture and practice. Deans will be expected actively to encourage and support cross-School activities as well as interdisciplinary teaching and research within their Schools.
The new Schools will be of a scale that will allow them to manage much more of their own business: admissions, curriculum management, examinations, research support and finance. I believe that a better balance of power and responsibility between academic units and the centre will make the University a much healthier organisation. Although the new Schools will be larger than our existing Arts Schools, the open School meeting should continue to have its role in our system. We have made a start on using the web to disseminate information and encourage discussion, and that needs further development.
Senate and Council also decided to set up a new Institute within which to locate law, social care, education and CCE. Over time, the operation of the two new Schools and the new Institute may lead to some relocation of faculty, but my strong personal view is that we should resist co-location by subject group so as to create a departmental geography.
There is much work to be done (and a possible restructuring of Science schools still to discuss), but we have an unusual opportunity to do exciting new things, and I hope that all colleagues will seize that opportunity with enthusiasm.
Friday 19 July 2001
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