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View from the VC

Today (Friday 17 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.

This week we saw the publication of the 2020 National Student Survey (NSS) results, completed by final-year students between February and April this year.

I have to be frank with you, they paint an extremely sobering picture. While we knew that the combination of industrial action and Covid-19 would inevitably impact student satisfaction, our scores are below the sector average across the board. It is clear that we cannot hide behind these reasons alone, nor pretend that the issues these results highlight are new or temporary.

As I said in the University’s article about the results, if we don’t listen to our students and act now to address their feedback, it will become exponentially challenging to meet the needs of our students and we will find it ever harder to attract students. Our students are entrusting us with their education and we should never forget that.

At the institution level, it is vital for the future of the University that we are able to continue to invest in our student experience. We know that we have several long-term projects coming to fruition in a year or so, including our new Student Centre and improvements to our wi-fi on campus. These will help to bring about the transformative change that we require but, alone, they are not enough. This is something that we all need to get behind, academics and professional services staff, and I’m asking on behalf of our students that you do all that you can in the coming weeks and months to continue to do your utmost.

In preparation for our summer meeting of Council, which took place last week, I have been reflecting on the methodical and detailed activity that colleagues have been working through ever since March to address the urgent issues that we have needed to tackle. Despite the confusion and speed of change, nobody has panicked and it is evident that our institution is in a much healthier place as a result.

The Council meeting was the last outing for a couple of members, who have reached the end of their terms. I would like to thank Fran Barnard, School Administrator in the School of Psychology, and Filip Vasilijevic, outgoing President of the Students’ Union, for their service to the University’s governing body. Replacing them, we welcome Max O’Donnell-Savage, Senior Library Assistant, as the newly elected Professional Services representative, and Connor Moylett, as the Students’ Union’s elected representative.

One of the key tasks for the summer meeting of Council was to set the University’s budget for the coming academic year. In view of the high levels of uncertainty this year, especially until we know how many students we will have from the autumn, Council has set an interim budget this year. Hopefully you have had a chance to read the Chair’s summary of this. We all hope that we can meet our student recruitment targets this year but if we are unable to do so Council will require us to adjust our budgeted spending accordingly during the next academic session. 

You will have seen that the Government has made a series of announcements about how they plan to support universities as a result of the pandemic. The details of the research support package have not yet been finalised and we await these with real interest.  Yesterday, however, the Government released details of a ‘restructuring’ fund.  This is aimed, exclusively, at universities which are at real risk of going insolvent.  Our assessment is that Sussex is highly unlikely to need this support.

This is a good time to remind you that the financial year closes at the end of July, so please do tie up any loose ends, such as claiming expenses, as soon as possible. These might seem like minor details but, added together, they can be significant and we need to get ourselves in as sound a position as we can ahead of the challenge of the next academic year.

Next week would have been graduation week and the External Relations division has put together a terrific set of resources that will be released every day to bring a little bit of sparkle to students who won’t be able to attend their formal ceremonies until – we hope – Spring 2021. Keep your eyes peeled for them and I will share the full set this time next week.

Finally, I wanted to congratulate Paul Statham and all those academic and professional staff who support him in his editorship of the Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies. Over the past six years, JEMS has become the most important journal in its field – doubling in size and seeing a trebling in the average number of citations per paper. This is testament to an outstanding editorial team that has built upon Sussex’s long tradition of engaged research excellence.

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By: Sean Armstrong
Last updated: Friday, 17 July 2020

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