Sussex 2025


Six reasons why

Written by Liz James. Views supported by Jeremy Page, Kate O’Riordan and Carol Watts.

1. Stronger together

  • Size matters. It is important that we have a louder voice. In our experience as HoSs/Director, it really does make a difference at the wider university level how many students you have and how much money you bring in. 3,000+ students speak louder than 1,000.
  • If the worst happens and the perfect storm of Augar, pensions, Brexit and attitudes to our subject areas as value for money hits us, do we stand more chance of withstanding it together or separately?
  • In an external context where degrees are often valued in terms of the money a student makes within three years of graduating (or ten for the Augar review), we need to be heard in the outside world. Our voice is louder as one voice – as the voice of 3,000+ students and staff, and as unified advocates for our disciplines.

2. Sharing resources, not multiplying everything by four

By grouping together what we currently have individually, we gain in terms of shared expertise and experience - so one place for research and impact support, not four; one Doctoral School, not four separate ways of supporting doctoral students.

3. Teaching across and collaboratively

No Head of School can afford for ‘their’ students to be taught outside their School, and we compete internally for the same body of students to do our many electives. If we become one unit, we can all teach the same students rather than fight for them. We can rationalise electives and have a strong elective stream (even something like the original contextual courses) designed to showcase what we do and to attract students to one place not four.

4. Saving time

Sometimes this is seen to be cost-cutting, but that is doubtful in this scenario as roles become larger. But as one unit we can economise on many of the jobs we do and so claw back time, such as having one Exam Board not four. It would help anyone who has to navigate multiple structures in a time-consuming way during the course of their studies – for example students taking joint degrees (and we could envisage more of these) and PhD students. The full extent to which this may save time would be a task for the second phase of discussion.

5. Seeing and speaking to new people

As we did at the Amex on 22 May. If we were one entity we could develop our infrastructure to increase opportunities to meet and speak to new people, with all the benefits this brings to research, teaching and the student experience.

6. We have the chance to work it through for ourselves

I have been through three changes at Sussex, all imposed top-down. This time we really do seem to have been given space and agency to discuss and act collaboratively. I don’t think, if we go on to Design Phase that UEG will then come in and make us implement a model that they have already devised. I don’t believe what we have now is perfect. What we may end up with won’t be perfect either but this way we have the chance to make it better.

Five fears

1. Job losses

If there are to be job cuts, they would happen whether we come together or not.

If we are a larger School that includes smaller units where colleagues collaborate and coordinate across a wide range of activities, especially teaching and research (and if we do this right), we would all be in a stronger, more robust place to withstand any pressures on the horizon.

2. Professional Services

We will need all our Professional Service teams to make this work. By having a strong vision for our academic aims across research, teaching and external engagement, we can be clear about the importance of our Professional Service teams and how we need them to support us.

3. The lowest common denominator

Why would we go to the lowest and the worst model? Really? We have a chance to start from where we might like to be and see how close we can get to achieving it. We won’t get all of the way, but we should take this change to manage it and find new ways to make us thrive.

4. Loss of discipline specificity, loss of belonging

This is a risk. We all need to make sure it doesn’t happen by very carefully thinking, planning and engaging through the second design phase of this process, should we proceed to this. We all have that agency.

5. What does it look like?

The HoS/Director don’t know. We haven’t yet been given the go ahead.

What we do know is that we do not have to look the same as any other unit at Sussex. What we also know is that, if we proceed to the second design phase of this process, it has to be based on your responses, your ideas, from which we will build some options for staff and students to consider and comment on.