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Press release

  • 15 May 2006

Council endorses merger plans to retain chemistry at Sussex

The University of Sussex Council today (15 May) endorsed proposals from the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Alasdair Smith, to bring about 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, as part of the range of excellent academic activities in our School of Life Sciences. I am delighted that Council has today approved an approach which can ensure we achieve this."

In putting these proposals forward, the Vice-Chancellor said the plans recognised the importance of chemistry activity for excellence in research and teaching across the biosciences, where Sussex has developed strength for the future.

Council noted the very strong support from Senate and the School of Life Sciences in wanting to continue high quality chemistry programmes and activity at Sussex.

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. Papers and ideas from the Group were discussed at Senate and Council.

The approach that will now be taken forward 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.

This plan will lead to the creation of a single merged Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, which will be able to offer academic programmes in Biochemistry and Chemistry and in exciting interface areas, such as medicinal chemistry.

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

"I am very pleased that we will be retaining strong chemistry at Sussex. Chemistry underpins the full range of science activities in my School. This commitment will 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 endorsing the approach, Council noted there remained hard work and planning ahead to develop the detail of the financial and academic plans for making a merger work.

The Vice-Chancellor said:

"I am confident that we can take these proposals forward in a robust and sustainable way. The plans will 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 will 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 - can now be looked at urgently and proposed for approval by Council in June.

Notes for editors

For more information, please contact the University of Sussex press office on 01273 678888, email

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