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Press release

  • 27 November 2006

University of Sussex Vice-Chancellor to step down in 2007

The Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sussex, Professor Alasdair Smith, announced today (27 November) that he will be stepping down in August 2007, after nine years in the post.

Professor Smith said that his reasons for this timing were focussed on Sussex's future. With teaching, research and business opportunities to prepare for beyond the national 2008 Research Assessment Exercise, he said that 2007-08 will be: "an important year of opportunity for Sussex. It is best if a new Vice-Chancellor is in position at the start of that academic year."

The Vice-Chancellor explained he had already agreed at the start of his second five-year term in 2003 that he would not stay on beyond 2008: "Institutions need new leaders and new ideas from time to time. After careful reflection over the summer and discussion with the Chair of Council, I have decided that the best timing for the University would be for me to hand over to a successor in 2007 rather than 2008."

Sam Younger, Chair of Council, the University's governing body, said that he applauded this thoughtful and considered approach, and added that "Alasdair's leadership over the last eight years has moved Sussex forward significantly, and he has given the University, and his successor, a solid platform for meeting the challenges ahead."

Professor Smith also said that, having now put the new executive leadership team in place at Sussex (with three new Pro-Vice-Chancellors appointed from September 2006 and new senior management structures now operating), he believed that his successor would have an excellent base from which to take forward the University to its 50th anniversary in 2011 and beyond.

After joining the University in 1981 as Professor of Economics, and then serving as Dean of the School of European Studies, and Senior Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Professor Smith was appointed for a five-year term as Vice-Chancellor in 1998 and reappointed for a second term in 2003.

During his period as Vice-Chancellor the University has grown from 9,200 students (7,000 undergraduates and 2,200 postgraduates) to over 10,600 (7,450 UG and 3,150 PG), and income has grown from £76m (1997-98) to £111m (2005-06). In the 2001 RAE, Sussex research in all areas was assessed as of national or international standing.

Professor Smith has also overseen significant organisational change and regeneration at Sussex, including the major reorganisation of Sussex Schools of Studies, and the associated renewal of the Arts curriculum, in 2003, and the revision to the Science curriculum in 2006.

As well as a rise in PG and international student numbers, applications for UG study at Sussex have grown particular strongly over recent years with over 18,500 applications for places in 2006, compared with around 12,000 in 1998, a time when applications to Sussex were actually falling year on year.

Sussex has also seen significant academic development and growth in this time, with the creation of the highly successful Brighton and Sussex Medical School (BSMS), jointly with Brighton University, and the world-leading Genome Centre, both of which opened in 2003.

The campus itself has been transformed with new student residences, the Freeman Centre, extensions to the Innovation Centre, the BSMS and Genome buildings themselves, and the current refurbishment of campus teaching facilities. Development is continuing with additional student residences opening in autumn 2007.

Professor Smith also put in place new leadership and senior management arrangements in 2006, with three new Pro-Vice-Chancellors appointed externally taking up their posts in September 2006. They are working with an executive team including the Registrar and Secretary and Directors of Finance and Human Resources, and alongside an extended senior managers' forum of senior managers from academic Schools and professional units.

Professor Smith has also played a leading role in HE nationally, acting as chair of the 1994 Group until 2005. He is currently the Chair of UCEA, the University employers' association, and on the Board of Universities UK.

A process to identify and appoint a new Vice-Chancellor is now under way, with a joint selection committee of the University's Council and Senate (the University's academic governing body) being proposed to lead the process. Under the University's Statutes, the appointment is made by Council, following consultation with Senate, at a meeting specially convened for the process.

The Council meeting on 15 December will discuss and approve the process, the composition of the joint selection committee and its terms of reference, taking views from the Senate meeting on 8 December. The committee is then expected to start its work immediately, with its first meeting on 19 December.

The University is expected to appoint search consultants to support the process and advertise the position in the New Year, following consultation with the University community.

Notes for editors

For more information please contact the University of Sussex Director of Communications, Rob Read, on 07799 644 942, or the University's press officers, Jacqui Bealing and Maggie Clune, Tel:  01273 678888,  Mobile: 07906 761437   Email:


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