Strategy 2025

VC's address: 5 October 2016

The Vice-Chancellor's annual Year Ahead Address and his termly open staff forums have provided opportunities to update staff on the latest strategy developments.

During each event the Vice-Chancellor gives a presentation and then invites questions from the audience.

Video of the VC's address

Video of session one Q&A

Video of session two Q&A


Questions and answers about our strategy

How do you balance day-to-day concerns such as slow IT services and lack of cycle parking with building a 10-year plan?

They are a key part of it. Having a campus that runs as smoothly as possible is integral to our sustained success, development and growth. Please get involved as we shape our 10-year plan – how we get there will be dependent on the provision of these services. 

Are there plans to have additional satellite campuses outside the Sussex area? Can you tell us your views on establishing other campuses?

At this stage I’m open to all ideas – and I’d like people to share their ideas with me as part of the Strategy 2025 discussions and consultation. I’m keen to explore what opportunities we may have for working with others as well as how we can make better use of our own space. 

What do you think about a campus inside China?

Our approach to Sussex overseas, especially in key markets such as China, is something that I’m keen to discuss as part of the Strategy 2025 development. I don’t want us to be too over-reliant on one country, so my feeling is about having more flexible partnerships as opposed to having a Sussex infrastructure overseas. But it’s one to discuss.

If 5% surplus is not enough, what is the percentage you would like? How much do Oxford, Cambridge, etc. make? What would you do with more surplus?

Oxford and Cambridge are bad examples because they have very large endowments and are too important to be allowed to fail. However, the average for UK universities is around 8%. As we develop our new strategy, we need to decide what is appropriate for us.

If Sussex is unable to maintain the current level of income from international students, what impact will this have on staffing? Which areas of expenditure will be prioritised?

With international students making up 20% of our student intake, it’s pretty clear that we would be a smaller university if this were to change dramatically. However, I want us to consider, through the Strategy 2025 process, the kind of university we want to be. I also want us to be flexible to change and not over-reliant on a single source of income. We need to be flexible to change and as agile as possible. Sussex can have a unique offering in the UK and internationally – it’s defining and delivering on that uniqueness that I believe will be our strongest asset as we move through these changing times.

Scholarships for international students from Sussex have helped us attract students. Can we guarantee these continue, or even grow, given our income has flatlined as you said earlier?

I have no immediate plans to change this; however, we do need to look at everything in the round following the Brexit decision. Everything is up for discussion as part of the Strategy 2025 work and our international strategy will obviously be a major part of this .

Do you have any ideas/strategies planned to increase the University's engagement with industry and third sector organisations?

How we do this will be a key consideration to discuss in the Strategy 2025 development. Partnerships will be increasingly important to us in a fast-changing world. Many of the partnerships we already have are working well for us – so why not more? The third sector is also so crucial for impact. 

Will the new strategy include consideration of the impact that Sussex has on the community in Brighton? I would like Sussex in 2025 to have a much stronger presence in the community that our students and staff are such a huge part of.

Yes, of course. Our university already makes a tremendous contribution to Brighton and this week I attended the launch of a magnificent initiative where, in collaboration with law firms and the CAB, our law students will offer free legal advice to local residents who wouldn’t otherwise get access to justice. Many students contribute in many ways. However, we can always do more both in practice and also to publicise what we do. Next summer, we will hold a ‘Community Day’ to invite local residents on to campus to understand the University better.

Distinctiveness and distance from the mainstream has always been central to Sussex, its reputation, and its appeal. Do you agree that this should be protected, and if so, how?

Yes I do. I certainly don’t want to hold on to the past, but I do want us to regain some of the distinctiveness we were so proud of (and known for) in the past. But we need to be different from then too. Sussex 2025 has to be absolutely unique. How will we do this? That’s down to everyone. Please take part in the Strategy 2025 process and share your thoughts – we need them.

What strategies will we employ to enhance teaching and learning in the future?

Again, we need to find the answer to this together. This can only be decided by the academic community here at Sussex and from listening to students. However, in thinking about this we need to recognise that the advent of the internet, and particularly tablets and smartphones, has radically changed the way that students interact. We need to be leading new ways of learning. 

Is management planning to reshape the areas of research and number of departments? Do you envisage a return to a school system that encourages interdisciplinary? If not, how will it be enshrined? Do you think the university's school structure should change?

Everything is up for discussion in Strategy 2025, please get involved. I should be clear, though, that whilst we may make some changes, my instinct is that people and culture matter much more than structures. When I have visited schools, I have been really impressed by the ways in which intellectual coherence has been forged between different disciplines. The real challenge for me is to promote cross- and inter-disciplinary learning and research between schools even better.

We seem reliant on growing student numbers from overseas. How do you propose to increase numbers from the UK and in particular via widening participation?

I think it’s a question of balance. First of all we need to understand where we want to be in terms of our teaching, learning and research. That said, I think continuing to innovate in our widening participation activities will continue to be key. I want you to tell me what more we can do. I want to hear your ideas, so please take part in the Strategy 2025 discussions.

Do you have specific plans for expanding staff, via e.g. a Sussex fellowship programme? It sounds like we need to meet the need to continue increasing the staff-student ratio, but also make the emphasis on research highly visible.

I guess that this question arises because in my last job I developed a programme called the ‘Birmingham Fellows’, which gave early career academics a five-year Research Fellowship with a permanent academic post at the end. That scheme worked really well for Birmingham and was much copied elsewhere. However, I want us to develop initiatives that are right for us rather than doing a ‘me-too’ (even if I’m just copying myself). The other difference, of course, is that Birmingham is much bigger and much richer than UoS and we will need to prioritise differently. Let me have your ideas, either directly or as part of our strategy consultation.