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Press release

  • 22 December 2004
  • Review of 2004

    Some of the stories that made the headlines this year

    New-look Sussex

    Same place, new logo

    Same place, new logo

    In March, Sussex's visual identity was given a makeover. The old coat of arms was replaced with the new us logo, and the university's main prospectuses were the subject of a comprehensive re-design, to appeal to a 21st-century audience. Brochures, leaflets, merchandise, signage etc were all given the new look, while the publications team worked with design company Blast to bring about the conversion to the new Sussex.

    In describing the decision for change, Vice-Chancellor Professor Alasdair Smith, said: "Our new visual identity is the starting point for what will be a fresh look and feel for Sussex. It is based on the university's vision and values, themselves a statement of what it aspires to be: pioneering, creative, international, excellent, engaging and challenging."

    The changes, including the 2003 complete restructure of the Sussex schools system, spurred The Independent to produce a double-page feature with the headline "Is Sussex cool again?" With an 18 per cent increase in applications - well above the national average of five per cent - the answer could only be "yes".

    The further development of campus became one of the dominant themes of the year. Estates and Facilities Management unveiled its blueprint for the campus master plan in May. The aim is to respect both the university's natural and architectural heritage while providing for the campus community of the future. Looking ahead to the next 20 years, the plans include new teaching and accommodation buildings, better facilities, improvements to lighting and signage, a more welcoming arrival for visitors and sensitive, "greener" landscaping and transport arrangements.

    Debates, dissent and deadlines

    Will she make it?

    Will she make it?

    Education loomed large on the political and news agendas, with many key education issues making the headlines. Sussex was often called on to add its voice to the debate on university top-up fees, widening participation, contact hours, degree classification, admissions policies, overseas recruitment, science funding, the next RAE exercise, league tables and student debt.

    In February, members of the Association of University Teachers voted to take industrial action over proposed pay and new grading structures for staff. The union finally accepted the revised Framework Agreement in April. The National Union of Students also joined picket lines in February to protest against top-up fees.

    In May, a burgeoning University tradition added colour to an otherwise run-of-the-mill exam season news story. BBC Online wanted to know about deadline extensions for students and excuses given for late work. No deadlines, no excuses, the BBC was told, and to illustrate our point, we provided the reporter with photographs of the dissertation dash, when hapless students and attention seekers alike run the gauntlet of a cheering crowd on the annual sprint to Falmer House to meet the dissertation hand-in deadline.

    Sad farewells

    Natalie Naylor, who died in January

    Natalie Naylor, who died in January

    Second-year student Natalie Naylor's death from meningitis in January united the campus in mourning. Her rugby team organised a Yellow Ribbon campaign, which raised nearly £4,000 for the Natalie Naylor Trust, set up in Natalie's memory to raise funds for meningitis research. Other events included the University-sponsored Natalie Naylor Maiden Fillies Stakes in June at Brighton racecourse. Her parents, Chris and Graham, are now organising a campus memorial.

    Tributes were paid by eminent scientists all over the world following the death of evolutionary biologist Professor John Maynard Smith in April. JMS was the founding dean of the School of Biological Sciences at Sussex and worked tirelessly well beyond retirement. His honours included the Darwin Medal in 1986, the Crafoord Prize in 1999 and the Kyoto Prize in 2001.

    Professor Larry Trask died in March at the age of 59. The linguist was the celebrated author of several books on English usage, including Mind the Gaffe. His colleagues and peers described him as modest man whose rigorous approach earned him distinctions and accolades.

    Among the best in the world

    This year saw the first ever world league tables for universities - with Sussex proving to have a highly respectable global profile.

    The World University Rankings, compiled by researchers for the Times Higher Education Supplement (THES) and published in November, put Sussex ninth in the UK, 17th in Europe and 58th in the world.

    Staff-to-student ratios, overseas recruitment and the intellectual clout wielded by research publications were measured to produce the results. The findings also relied on opinions of 1,300 academics from across the world, who were asked to identify the top institutions in their respective fields.

    Using a different set of criteria, including the quality of faculty and their research output, the Institute of Education at Shanghai Jiao Tong University looked at 1,000 universities and placed Sussex in the top 150 internationally, the top 60 in Europe and the top 15 in the UK.

    Vice-Chancellor Professor Alasdair Smith said of the results: "I am delighted that the high quality of teaching and research at Sussex has been recognised by these objective international studies, which confirm the basis of our strong international reputation."

    And the award goes to...

    Martina Rieder, Shell Step winner

    Martina Rieder, Shell Step winner

    Plaudits were also handed out to staff and students alike. Dr Celia Hunt, a senior lecturer in creative writing at the University's Centre for Continuing Education, was awarded a National Teaching Fellowship - the teachers' Oscar, worth £50,000. The award was in recognition of her "outstanding contribution to teaching and learning".

    Biochemistry second-year undergraduate Martina Rieder graced the pages of the quality press in October after winning the national STEP Most Enterprising Student of the Year competition. Martina designed a new product and came up with cash-saving solutions for Crawley-based medical products firm Welland Medical. She beat 1,400 other entrants to the coveted title, awarded by oil giants Shell to encourage engagement between SMEs and students.

    In July, multimedia and digital systems undergraduate Ali Bergstrom-Allen was named Student Employee of the Year by the National Association of Student Employment Services. Ali's work with Brighton and Hove-based new media company Babel began as a holiday job but led to rapid advancement and mutually rewarding responsibility.

    Celebrity Sussex

    Hollyoaks' Abby becomes a fresher

    Hollyoaks' Abby becomes a fresher

    The university had plenty of associations with the great, the good and the rather interesting this year.

    Winter graduation in February saw the return of Nobel prize winner and physicist Professor Anthony Leggett to the university where he conducted his research into the theory of superconductors and superfluids.

    Receiving an honorary Doctor of Science degree, he said: "The work that helped me gain the Nobel Prize in 2003 was done while I was a Sussex faculty member and I think the relaxed atmosphere of the department contributed to my research."

    International best-selling author Lynne Truss gave trade tips to creative writing students at the University's Centre for Continuing Education in May as part of a new lecture series set up in association with the Asham Literary Endowment.

    Sussex astronomer and science writer Dr John Gribbin turned rapper in the summer to help a hip-hop band - and ended up in a wardrobe.

    Brighton band Digitek featured a track, called Scientifical, on their debut album, Keep the World Guessin'. On the track, Dr Gribbin, whose work includes research into the age of the Universe, supernovas and the search for life in space, waxes lyrical on string theory - another step up in science circles from the big bang theory of creation. He had to stand in a wardrobe while the band recorded in a bedroom, to get the acoustics right. Science aside, praise came from, among others, chart-topping Massive Attack's Daddy G: "Some tuff hip hop here, a real club banger."

    Sussex itself landed a starring role in teen TV soap Hollyoaks in September. The Channel 4 show, made by Mersey TV, attracts around five million viewers a week. Sussex had its moment in the limelight when character Abby Davies decided to seek adventure beyond the bright lights of the Chester suburb where the soap is set. Cue University of Sussex: enter stylish new prospectus, and a glowing testimonial in the script - Mrs Davies (Abby's mum): "It looks fantastic Abby. Makes me quite jealous!"

    December saw a Sussex graduate win one of the art world's most prestigious awards - and pay tribute to his former tutor. Jeremy Deller was named as the Turner prize winner for his film Texas Memory Bucket. The art history MA student developed an interest in street and folk culture during his time at Sussex, which influenced his work. After scooping the £25,000 prize at London's Tate Britain, the 38-year-old artist acknowledged his former tutor, Professor David Alan Mellor. He said: "David was the reason I came to Sussex. I like the way he looks at culture and connects disparate subjects. We share a lot of interests."

    Professor Mellor responded: "The important thing about his work is the humanity in it. I like to think that at Sussex he developed his interest in community and in showing it in all its diversity."

    The gift of education

    Charles Clarke MP and Naim Dangoor

    Charles Clarke MP and Naim Dangoor

    In December the University took the lead in celebrating the announcement of a new scholarship scheme for the 1994 Group, made possible by a £1 million donation from Naim Dangoor, an Iraqi Jew and millionaire businessman who wanted to thank the country that gave him an education and refuge from persecution in his home country. The Dangoor Scholarships will provide 1,000 scholarships of £1,000 each for students at the 16 universities that make up the 1994 Group. Sussex Chancellor Lord Attenborough hosted a special launch reception and led the thanks at London's British Academy, where he was joined by the then Education Secretary Charles Clarke MP and Higher Education Minister Kim Howells MP, leading research council figures and V-Cs and representatives from the 1994 Group universities. Sussex Vice-Chancellor and 1994 Group Chair Professor Alasdair Smith said: "This truly generous donation is wonderful news and an important first step for such collaborations."

    The Accent Foundation Scholarships - an award worth £27,000 that is unique to the University of Sussex - were also launched this year.

    Hove students Ken Nelson, studying psychology, and Farah Saleh, studying law, and Eastbourne student Marc Scruby, studying history and politics, were the first to receive financial support from the Accent Foundation for the duration of their degree courses.

    The students were selected by the Foundation as having demonstrated clear academic potential and strong commitment.

    The Accent Foundation distributes funds provided by community investment organisation the Accent Group with the aim of improving the quality of life for local communities, be it through education, leisure or work. The scholarship offers capable students who would benefit from some financial support the chance to take up places at university

    The top research stories of 2004

    DNA breakthrough In October, Dr Aidan Doherty (Genome Damage and Stability Centre) was part of a team of scientists from Sussex and the United States that identified a crucial process in DNA repair. Their discovery will hopefully lead to more effective cancer treatments.

    Natalia Beloff in the optics lab

    Natalia Beloff in the optics lab

    Cancer detection Another important development in cancer research had come at the start of the year with the news that scientists at Sussex were pioneering an early cancer detection system using non-invasive ultraviolet light. Software engineer Natalia Beloff's simulation tests on the photocathode device built on breakthroughs by cathode theorist Dr. Stuart Harmer and experimental physicist Prof. Peter Townsend. Dr Beloff said: "We hope that within a few years clinics across the country may be able to use the photocathode device to help save lives."

    Weather in space In June, we reported that the University's Space Science Centre was involved in yet another space mission. Professor Paul Gough led the research team of George Seferiadis, Nick Huber and Marianne Pouchet, who designed and built an instrument to measure space weather for the International Space Station. The final model will be launched by rocket in 2006.

    Sex and cloning In spring our thoughts turned, naturally, to love when evolutionary biologist Dr Joel Peck reported on why sex is better than cloning. "Virtually all species that are now asexual - excluding microbes - were originally sexual," said Dr Peck. "But we have also seen that these asexual organisms are prone to rapid extinction." Asexual species, concluded Dr Peck, became nastier and more selfish - not the most efficient way of ensuring the survival of a species.

    Baby cradling Mother love came under investigation too, with the observation that cradling babies on the left side of the body stimulates emotional bonding between mother and baby. Research by Sussex psychologists Victoria Bourne and Dr Brenda Todd indicated that left cradling is the best way for a mother to notice and respond to a baby's behaviour, such as tears, laughter or big yawns.

    Food and obesity SPRU's Dr Erik Millstone, who researches food policy and related issues, such as obesity, provided food for thought during 2004. He led a research project in September to help EU governments fight the flab. He also picked up the prestigious André Simon Memorial Fund award in his March, for his book, The Atlas of Food, written with Professor Tim Lang at City University. It gives a snapshot of 40 important trends affecting the world of food today - and beat offerings from celebrity chefs and food writers.

    Body image The body beautiful also featured in work from Dr Helga Dittmar who began a year-long study of female body image in relation to advertising in September (she is due to report on her findings in the autumn/winter of 2005). Dr Dittmar's earlier work on door-to-door selling techniques also made the news in recent months. Sociologist Dr Paula Black's book exploring the world of beauty salons and their therapeutic appeal in a stressful world - The Beauty Industry: Gender, Culture, Pleasure - attracted considerable media attention during the spring and summer.

    iPod generation The Apple iPod craze hit Sussex during 2004 when Dr Michael Bull's research into the mobile music technology phenomenon hit the headlines around the world. Dr Bull said: "The iPod is the first cultural icon of the 21st century." His book on the subject, Mobilizing the Social: Sound Technology in Urban Experience, is due out in the spring of 2005.

    Cigarette triggers Those intending to kick the smoking habit in the New Year might wish to cast their minds back to the work of three Sussex psychologists in January 2004. Drs Lee Hogarth, Theodora Duka and Anthony Dickinson looked at the hidden cues that make smokers reach for the cigarettes. They suggested that smokers respond to all sorts of seemingly neutral stimuli smoke and that any therapies aimed at getting people to quit would need to employ "stimulus-blocking" processes to reduce the impulse to light up.

    On the Front line In November, DPhil student Esther MacCallum-Stewart was in demand for her research into World War One. Her work has led her to, among other themes, the soldier's magazine The Wipers Times, produced by ordinary soldiers on the Western Front, and "forgotten" World War One poets. Her conclusion, in a nutshell? That Rowan Atkinson's Blackadder humour had more in common with the ordinary soldier's outlook on the war than the verses of war poets such as Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon. Esther talked on BBC's Breakfast news and with Ian Hislop for a special Remembrance Sunday broadcast on Radio 4.

    Your number's up It was a sure bet that once it came to light, research into the most frequently selected Lottery numbers would make the news. Sussex mathematician Dr John Haigh and statistician Professor Charles Goldie, investigated the "randomness" of the National Lottery winning numbers in research carried out for the National Lottery Commission in 2002. Their work uncovered some statistical anomalies that suggested the Lottery outcome might not be as random as would be expected, particularly in the case of the most frequently appearing number - 38.They even wondered if the number 38 ball should be checked to see if there was something unusual in its make-up that meant it was more likely to be sucked out of the Lottery machine. When the report was finally made public (the Commission apparently, was too nervous to publish the findings), it made front page news in the Observer. The academics had already concluded, though, that the Lottery was as random as could be expected, and that plumping for "lucky" number 38 would probably only serve to considerably reduce the size of any eventual jackpot.


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