Demonstrating value for money for students and the taxpayer

As an organisation that receives funds from public source, including the Office for Students and Student Loan Company, the University of Sussex is committed to delivering and demonstrating value for money.

The following information shows how we deliver that value for money both to students, especially Home Undergraduates funded by the Student Loans Company, and to the taxpayer.

University funding

We are a complex organisation, delivering education and research as our main activities, but also providing additional services, such as consultancy. We publish detailed annual accounts and an accessible summary of our finances. The summary shows the key areas of income and expenditure of the University.

It is vital for the University to make an accounting surplus so that we can continue to update and improve our IT service and our buildings and physical spaces. This reinvestment in our infrastructure ensures we provide the highest quality experience for staff, student and research sponsors.

As a charity established by Royal Charter, we have no shareholders and our funds are not distributed outside the University. All surpluses are retained and invested in the future of the University. This generation of surplus and its reinvestment into our education provision and research is one of the key ways we deliver value for money to the taxpayer and to students.

Our recent investments for students include:

  • A new Student Centre to provide a range of support services
  • Greater opportunities for online learning and flexible degree courses
  • Virtual learning tools, such as lecture-capture service Panopto and online learning platform, Canvas

We bring benefits to the taxpayer through:

  • Supporting research in key areas of knowledge that benefit society, including sustainability, children’s and adults’ mental health, the future of work, new digital technologies, the conservation of endangered plants and species
  • Providing expertise and advice for governments and policymakers, such as the UK Trade Policy Observatory (UKTPO)
  • Providing high-quality education opportunities for a broad cross-section of society, particularly in supporting those from non-university backgrounds (widening participation)
  • Equipping graduates with a range of transferable, ‘world ready’ skills, such as collaborative working and creative problem solving, that are essential in the workplace

As with other multi-disciplinary education providers, the funds we receive are used across the University to support and subsidise a range of research and teaching activities. This means that, although not all areas of the University generate surplus, the money is distributed to sustain research and teaching across a broader range of academic endeavour.

For transparency, we perform analysis on an annual basis using the TRAC-T (Transparency Review Approach to Costing- Teaching) conventions and we make annual returns to the Office for Students. This shows that, on an annual basis, our income for Home/EU Undergraduate teaching produces a result which is around break-even after allowing for a Margin for Sustainability and Investment. This fulfils the same purpose as an accounting surplus and allows for future investment.

The chart below represents the portion of our income and expenditure relating to the £9,250 student fee payable by Home and EU undergraduates, showing how it is spent by types of activity.

The following chart represents the portion of our income and expenditure relating to the £9,250 student fee payable by Home and EU undergraduates, showing how it is spent by types of activity.

Chart to show how the £9,250 student fee (payable by Home and EU undergraduates) is spent:

  • Teaching
    £3,293 - 35.6%

  • Administration
    £1,782 - 19.3%

  • Future Investment
    £1,143 - 12.4%

  • Student Services
    £955 - 10.3%

  • Library & IT
    £925 - 10%

  • Marketing
    £701 - 7.6%

  • Widening Student Access
    £452 - 4.9%

As well as the cost of tuition, student fees cover a range of academic services. These include the Library and IT services, widening access under our access and participation plan with OfS, student marketing, student services, and a portion of the relevant areas of the University’s administration, such as our finance teams and estates section.

Critically, it also includes £1,143 for future investment. While it may seem odd to some students that some of the fee is retained to be spent on investment for the future, current students are benefitting from the relevant portion of our past activities that has built the buildings and supplied the IT infrastructure during their years of study.

Value for money for students Q&A

We know our students develop a deep and lasting affection for Sussex. We also want you to feel that it was money well spent.

As a Sussex student, you are paying for an education experience that not only gives you an excellent grounding in the subject of your choice, but also prepares you for life after graduating.

That’s why we have a range of services that support you professionally, mentally, physically and financially to ensure that you get the most out of your time here.

  • What does my student fee cover?

    About half of the university’s income is from students’ fees, with additional money coming from other sources such as research grants and government grants. Your student fees cover the cost of your education and exams. The largest percentage of the University’s income is spent on teaching costs.

  • How can I be sure that the education I’m receiving is of the highest quality?

    Your courses and modules have been designed by academics who are leaders in their field. Sussex is a research-intensive university, which means that the majority of our academics are carrying out research of international importance. They bring their learning into their teaching to ensure that courses are intellectually rigorous and that you are receiving the latest thinking and knowledge in their discipline.

    We also have an extensive team of staff with professional expertise in higher education practice. Their input supports all aspects of your learning, from timetabling your classes and lectures, to ensuring that the quality of your degree matches the sector’s standards [as measured by the Quality Assurance Agency].

  • How will my education prepare me for the jobs market?

    Our aim is to enable our students to flourish in whichever career or field of work they choose. You will find that your greatest asset as a Sussex graduate - and as a global citizen - will be your ability to think critically, independently, creatively and compassionately.

    On a practical level, our Careers and Employability Service can help you identify the professional pathway that’s right for you.

    Through our Career Hub you can search for jobs, book one-to-one appointments with our advisers, take a workshop on how to write your CV, and find out about internships and industry requirements. We also organise events for you to meet successful past graduates and businesses, and we run an annual careers fair.

    With the world of work continuing to evolve in new directions, we’re mindful that our support must be relevant and forward thinking. That’s why we are creating a specialist team to advise on entrepreneurship and enterprise, and to help you develop your own business ideas – if that’s your ambition.

    We also run workshops and webinars on essential workplace skills, such as effective communication, organisation and planning, how to be adaptable, and how to build resilience. And we will continue giving you career support for up to three years after you graduate.

  • How much contact time will I have with tutors?

    University life is different from school in that a larger part of your time will be spent in independent learning, supported and guided by our academic faculty. This is your opportunity to develop your critical thinking and time-management skills, and show that you have the ability to be self-directed.

    For arts and humanities students, this means that outside of weekly seminars, lectures and tutorials, you’ll be researching resources, carrying out practical exercises, and writing up essays and assignments.

    If you’re a science student you are likely to be spending time in labs or on field trips, with or without supervision depending on the task, or in workshops and small groups.

    In addition to providing written feedback on your assessments, your tutors hold regular one-to-one sessions for you to discuss any issues related to your course.

  • How much say do I get in my education?

    We know it’s important to listen to students in order to provide the university experience they expect, while at the same time maintaining the highest professional standards for teaching and learning.

    Through regular meetings with the University of Sussex Students’ Union and the Student Experience Forum, we gather feedback on how we can improve our courses and provide services that meet their needs and expectations.

    Together with USSU, we run the Student Rep Scheme. Reps are elected undergraduate and postgraduate students who can represent the views and interests of students in their subject, department or school cohort, and give feedback on issues or concerns to relevant University leadership teams.

    Our intention is to respond swiftly and appropriately to any concerns and to involve students in the decisions that affect their education.

  • What learning materials, facilities and physical spaces do you have to support my education?

    We regularly review our learning materials and study spaces to match our students’ requirements.

    Our Library is open 24 hours and has more than 78,000 journals and half a million books, alongside specialist resources and digital archives. The building has a variety of spaces to suit all study styles, including quiet areas and sections for collaborative working.

    Our specialist facilities on campus include a state-of-the-art music recording studio, a professional broadcasting studio and editing suite, and the Future Technologies Lab for teaching in engineering and robotics.

    Our university arts centre, The Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts, has a range of studio and study spaces as well as a high-spec auditorium. It regularly hosts degree shows and concerts for students on many of our practice-based courses, including Music, Drama, Product Design, and Media Production. As an interdisciplinary arts hub, it also connects the University with wider regional, national and international arts communities, and presents a seasonal programme of performance, dance, live art, film, music, discussion & debate and digital practices.

  • What study skills support do you provide?

    If you have a disability, we have trained staff to support you and appropriate equipment available to assist your learning.

    For students who would like to improve or hone their academic skills, we run workshops and webinars on a variety of topics, such as essay writing, academic referencing and research skills. We also host sessions on creating podcasts and blogs.

  • How do you support my IT needs?

    We are currently investing in upgrading the wi-fi access across campus as we know that keeping in touch and having great connectivity is important to students. We also provide access to hundreds of computer terminals and laptops on loan and provide 24-hour IT support, as well as run workshops for students on how to use software and apps.

    We are constantly investing in and updating our apps and software to support your learning needs, such as our new online study platform, Canvas, and our lecture capture service, Panopto. This latest development is widely used by students, who say this is exactly the kind of technology that enhances their study experience.

  • What do you provide to support my physical and mental wellbeing?

    We recognise that in order for you to make the most of your studies at university, you need to be able to stay fit, well and happy. This is why we have great subsidised sports facilities, with two well--quipped gyms and sports halls, two 3G outdoor pitch, racket sports, a dance studio and squash courts. The university supports more than 40 sports clubs run by the Students’ Union.

    For your mental wellbeing we also have a counselling service, with trained staff to guide you to appropriate support services, and a multi-faith centre (The Meeting House) for religious services and quiet contemplation.

    Popular community activities on campus include mindfulness sessions in the Meeting House and a regular stomp across the Downs with Students’ Union’s Dog-Walking Society. The Union supports more than 230 societies to cater for all interests, from sports and music activities to the Board Game Society and the Harry Potter Society.

    New developments on campus include a Student Centre, which is intended to be a central location for a range of student services, as well as a new study space.

    We also recognise the importance of living and studying in a pleasant environment and take great pride in our campus to keep it clean, safe and well maintained. Located on the edge of the South Downs National Park, our green space is among our prime assets.

  • How can do you help me keep down the cost of my accommodation and food?

    We realise that most students want to keep their living expenses to a minimum.

    We offer a range of accommodation to suit most budgets, both on campus and off campus. We provide a clear pricing index to ensure you are aware of all costs. First-year students and post-graduates are guaranteed university-managed accommodation if they meet our criteria.

    Our Housing Services team provide guidance and advice for those renting in the private sector.

    Our catering providers, Sussex Food, run a number of cafes and restaurant across campus serving healthy and nutritious food for those on a budget. Sussex Food also provides online advice on shopping, food preparation and recipes. In addition we host a weekly street food market and have an on-site supermarket.

    If a student experience extreme financial difficulty, the University can provide interest-free loans.

  • How do we deliver value for money to the taxpayer?

    In delivering high quality education and world class research we are seeking to embed value for money considerations into all our decision making. We are prioritising investment to maintain and improve our estate and IT infrastructure which support the staff and student experience. In recent years we have made significant investment in new student learning technologies and into upgrading all our general teaching space.

    We have renewed our residential estate through a partnership with Balfour Beatty which allows the University’s capital to be focussed on student and staff experience while ensuring that we create welcoming and safe home environment for students who come to Sussex. We have also invested in ground breaking multi-functional facilities such as the Attenborough Centre for Creative Arts where students can learn in state of the art performing arts spaces, where researchers can try out new ideas and facilitate artistic and cultural events which engage academics, students and members of the public in one space.


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