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View from the VC

Today (Friday 10 July), the Vice-Chancellor Adam Tickell updated all staff, in his regular View from the VC email. You can read the full View from the VC below.

It’s the time of year when campus would usually be filled with the sights, sounds and smells of barbecues, balloons and bubbly as we celebrate our students’ results.

This year will obviously be very different but, as students logged on this week to find out what they have achieved, I hope they felt proud of their accomplishments. They faced challenges like no other cohort and, despite the real difficulties this has caused, have learnt valuable skills to take forward into their lives. These challenges will continue as they enter the most hostile labour market imaginable and the team in the Careers and Employability Centre will continue to provide support to graduates.

This term has been a wholly new experience for our staff too and each of you, whether or not you are directly involved in teaching, should take pride in seeing our students achieve their results this week.

For many of those students, this week marks the culmination of their time at Sussex and in normal times we would be looking forward to one final celebration at our graduation ceremonies at the Brighton Centre. With these postponed, we wanted to find other ways to recognise this symbolic occasion.

This week, we have emailed all graduating students to let them know about our ‘Sussex Grads at Home’ campaign. Devised over the past few weeks by colleagues in External Relations with input from schools and student ambassadors, this campaign brings the unique spirit of a Sussex graduation to our students’ homes. They will be able to access a whole range of fun and inspiring content, including a collection of genuinely lovely video messages recorded by some of our most notable alumni, made specifically for our class of 2020, as well as our own Chancellor, Sanjeev Baskar, and myself.

For those of you missing the ceremonies, take a look at the microsite and the film for students about how to use the DIY kit we’re sending. It has cut-out seagulls, the iconic concrete sign and a mini-Chancellor. I have also enjoyed seeing some of the ways that individual schools are marking results week. Thank you to everyone who is working so hard to make graduation as special as it can be this year and look out for more during graduation week, where those of you on social platform Tik Tok can see Sanjeev do his thing.

The big dates keep coming and we are now just over a month away from A-level results day. With International Baccalaureate results out this week, Clearing and Confirmation has already begun but it kicks off in earnest when A-level results are published on 13 August. I know many of you feel ‘unprecedented’ is an overused adjective at the moment but Clearing this year really is something of a leap into the dark.

For the students, they will receive their results not having sat exams and some at least will not have visited their preferred universities in person, although many will have taken the opportunity to do so last summer or autumn.

For colleagues, this will be the first time we have run our huge Clearing call centre partly remotely. We have a record 100 volunteers for Clearing this year – I am delighted that so many of you have put yourself forward to help with this crucial activity.

If you have ever volunteered for Clearing duty, you will know that the call centre is a very busy and loud space, with 50 plus phone lines and now teams online helping with live web chat, which was very popular last year. The technology we are using this year will allow us to run a good part of our operation from our homes and the students on the other end of the phone should not notice any difference.

We will also be making offers online for the first time, which is a huge step forward and reflects the habits and preferences of our applicants.

Applicants this year arguably have a bigger choice than ever about where and what to study – however the decision they need to make undeniably has added weight this year. We are acutely aware of this and part of our role as a responsible institution is to give these young people as much information, advice and guidance as we can, especially as so many school-based programmes that fulfil this role have not been able to go ahead this year.

Our professional services team and school colleagues have been providing a fantastic service to the many concerned and confused young people who are considering going to university this year. They also are exploring how we can safely offer Clearing Open Days so that offer holders and their supporters can come to see our beautiful campus. Obviously, we very much hope that they then go on to choose Sussex.

As you know by now, my view, shared by many, is that international students represent the biggest unknown at present. It is not that students do not want to come but they have understandable concerns about the consequences for their health and safety in travelling across the world to Sussex. We want to take away as many concerns as we can, which is why we are providing frequent communication on how we are preparing campus for the start of term and have reassured international students (and those in the UK) that we will be flexible if they are unable to physically be on campus in the autumn.

We are also in quite advanced discussions about running some of our postgraduate taught programmes in the University of Sussex Business School and School of Media, Arts and Humanities with a January start date. This would clearly be a very large piece of work and it will not be feasible for all courses but we believe it could be a good option for students whose position is not ‘no’ but rather ‘not now’. I will update you on this in one of my future messages.

You will have seen from Saul Becker’s email earlier in the week that applications close today for membership of the three working groups feeding into our work around the Race Equality Charter. Every member of staff is invited to apply and I encourage you each to give it careful consideration.

Finally, results week usually signals a pause for breath for many of us. Although the lockdown restrictions are easing nationally and some international travel is resuming, most of us will be taking holidays at home. This year, more than ever, it’s important to take a proper break: whether you’ve been one of the small number of staff on campus or working remotely, the last few months have been hard and stressful. We’re really fortunate to live in a beautiful part of England and I’d encourage you to take time away.

With best wishes


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By: Sean Armstrong
Last updated: Friday, 10 July 2020

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