NSS results signal exciting times for new students

With teenagers across the country receiving their A-level results this week, we have been busy confirming the places of thousands of new students.

Professor Clare Mackie, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Teaching and Learning)

It's an inspiring time of year and one that I personally look forward to, as we share in the celebrations of some of the brightest young minds in the country and prepare to welcome them to our university. 

We are using the clearing process to admit additional students, with opportunities for well-qualified applicants in almost all subject areas. We have already had thousands of calls to our clearing hotline since it opened yesterday (Thursday) and expect to offer places to around 300 high-quality applicants via this process. 

The continued popularity of the University means that, once the new students arrive next month, we will have a student body of more than 14,000 for the first time in the University's history. 

And with more students comes more expectation. And rightly so; these students have worked hard in their studies and exams for their opportunity to study at Sussex. We now need to deliver our end of the bargain. 

We actually had an exam of sorts of our own recently: the annual National Student Survey took place this spring. We got the results this week and I am pleased to say that we made the grade; 85% of graduating students said that they were happy with their experience at Sussex. 

They reserved particular praise for our staff, especially in the Professional Services. We are ranked in the top quartile of UK higher education institutions for organisation and management - a tremendous achievement considering the challenging higher-education environment that we are all operating in, and the considerable changes that we have seen at Sussex in the past couple of years. My heartfelt thanks to all those of you who work so hard behind the scenes to make sure that we can continue to offer an outstanding education and service to our students.

Our academic staff were praised by our students for being good at explaining things, intellectually stimulating, enthusiastic and easy to contact. This confirms what I already know to be true, that the quality of teaching and learning at Sussex is of the highest order - and I am delighted that our students value our skills here as much as I do.  

Of course, in this increasingly competitive environment, we cannot afford to stand still and so we continue to invest in teaching and learning. In 2013 alone, we appointed nearly 200 new academic staff, including 30 new professors in subjects as diverse as Digital History, Environmental Law, and Statistics and Probability. 

And while inspirational teaching is the hallmark of a Sussex education, we must keep our eye on the ball in other areas. The spaces that students use to learn and socialise must be outstanding, the systems that we use must be state of the art and our IT infrastructure must be up to speed. It is therefore exciting to be able to see a number of key developments come to fruition for this year: 

  • We are rolling out a streamlined and high-quality electronic submission and assessment system for all new first-year undergraduate students from this September
  • A new high-speed internet connection for the campus is now live, increasing bandwidth tenfold
  • Students in Law, Politics and Sociology will be moving to their newly refurbished home in the Freeman Centre, following a multi-million-pound refit
  • We are creating more study spaces in the Library by refurbishing the top floor
  • And, after a long wait, we will finally see the (formerly Gardner) arts centre re-open next year as the Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts, providing a much-needed performance and academic space for our arts students. 

This year’s NSS results also show a considerable improvement in student satisfaction with assessment and feedback. It is encouraging that students are recognising the effort we have made in improving this important part of the student experience. However, we recognise we still have a long way to go in delivering a NSS position that reflects our commitment to our students.