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Royal Charter ‘birthday’ kicks off 50th anniversary celebrations
One day will mark the start of 12 months of special events and activities to celebrate 50 years of the University of Sussex.
16 August 2011 is the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Royal Charter which heralded the creation of the University.
"This date, more than any other, is the official birthday of the University," says Professor Fred Gray, editor of the new book Making the Future: A History of the University of Sussex, due to be published this September.
The first of seven new universities to be built after the second world war, Sussex set out to 're-draw the map of learning', to paraphrase the University's first Pro-Vice-Chancellor Professor Asa Briggs.
The granting of the Royal Charter to a new university was a revolutionary approach, as Professor Gray explains: "All the older 'redbrick' universities had to go through decades of apprenticeship as university colleges under the guidance of one of the much older institutions.
"The charter meant Sussex could do exactly what it wanted in terms of design of courses and academic structures - it didn't need to ask for permission. And that allowed us to develop radically new approaches combining and relating different subjects with each other, for example.
"Interdisciplinarity, schools of study, subject groups, contextual courses and so on were the result. Sussex became immensely popular and famous."
The University of Sussex was born at an extraordinary moment. Nineteen sixty-one was the start of the greatest single expansion of higher education England had known. There was new and generous government funding of both of universities and students.
And as Sir James Fitzgerald Duff, the chair of the University's Academic Advisory Committee, was to say in 1964: "The University of Sussex has had opportunities that no other university has had since the Middle Ages ... Sussex was born free."
The University is holding a series of events and activities over the course of 2011-12 that will recognise its past, celebrate the milestone of 50 years, and look to how it can play a significant role in the future of education and research.
For more information on the University's 50th anniversary celebrations, including Professor Gray's book, go to www.sussex.ac.uk/fiftyyears or join the conversation on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sussexuni50 or Twitter (using the hashtag #sussexuni50).