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Press release

  • 12 May 2006

VC leads merger plans to retain chemistry at Sussex

Following strong support at the University of Sussex Senate today (12 May), the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Alasdair Smith, will propose to the University Council on Monday (15 May) a departmental merger which would allow mainstream chemistry programmes to continue to be offered to undergraduates at Sussex.

The Vice-Chancellor, Professor Alasdair Smith, said:

"I have always made clear that I hoped the outcome of the process will be to secure a strong future for chemistry at Sussex. I am delighted to be in a position to present proposals to our Council on Monday which can achieve this."

In making this proposal, the Vice-Chancellor said he recognised the importance of chemistry activity for excellence in research and teaching across the biosciences, where Sussex has developed strength for the future.

A Life Sciences Review Group, chaired by the Dean of Life Sciences , Professor Jonathan Bacon, was set up by the Council in March to look at all options for chemistry. The Senate today considered the ideas emerging, and were unanimous and clear in wanting to support the continuation of chemistry programmes and activity at Sussex.

The approach now being proposed by the Vice Chancellor builds on the hard work and planning by the School of Life Sciences for continuing to focus the work in Sussex chemistry on the area of chemical biology, in a way which should be sustainable academically.

If approved by Council, this plan would lead to the creation of a single merged Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. Senate overwhelmingly agreed that this approach proposed by the Vice-Chancellor was the way ahead.

Dean of the School of Life Sciences, Professor Jonathan Bacon, said:

"I am very pleased that we are proposing to retain strong chemistry at Sussex. Chemistry underpins the full range of science activities in my School. This commitment would allow the School to plan for investment in areas of excellence across all its departments. This is the right choice now for the development of excellence in Life Sciences."

Head of Chemistry Dr Gerry Lawless said: "I welcome the Vice-Chancellor's recommendation to retain chemistry programmes at Sussex. And we can now go forward in confidence to build on our excellence in chemistry at Sussex."

In proposing this approach, the Vice-Chancellor said:

"There is still hard work and planning ahead to develop the detail of the financial and academic plans for making a merger work. They will still need to be given detailed scrutiny by Senate and Council at their meetings in June. But this direction now gives welcome clarity to current and potential students about the strong future of chemistry programmes at Sussex."

Bringing chemistry and biochemistry activity together in a strong single department is a direction which should help to strengthen science at Sussex. This would support work at the key interface of chemistry and biochemistry, where much new investment has been applied in recent years at Sussex. It allows joint planning of programmes and teaching, and best use of resources in terms of equipment and facilities (eg recently refurbished chemistry space) and technical support. And it looks to the future of exciting new opportunities between activities - eg biomedical applications.

Investment in up to 11 posts across the Life Sciences - in Chemistry and Biochemistry, Biology and Environmental Science, Genome Centre and Psychology - will now be looked at urgently and proposed for approval by Council in June.

Commenting on the media attention which had focussed on the decisions at Sussex the Vice-Chancellor said:

"The discussions and debate have not been easy. The debate has been wrongly represented externally as "invest or close". This is a real and positive way ahead in which we are leading."

Notes for editors


For more information, please contact the University of Sussex Director of Communications, Rob Read on 07799 644942, or Senior Press Officer Jacqui Bealing on 07906 761437


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