Vice Chancellor's Office

VC's Year Ahead Address: 6 October 2017

Presentation slides

VC's Year Ahead Address presentation 6 October 2017 [PDF 565.14KB]

Video

Questions received online and via text message

Assessment and feedback

How much time have we spent speaking to students face to face about assessment and feedback?
My feeling is that we haven’t done enough to understand from students what the issues are with assessment and feedback. Sometimes it can be in how we are communicating and providing assessment and feedback. Some schools are particularly good in this area, such as Global Studies, so we must learn from each other. However, most importantly we must listen to our students. We are conducting a far-reaching survey with all students, launching on Monday 30 October and running throughout November, to try and establish how we can improve.

Culture

How is Sussex progressing, and are there any plans to enhance the activity into a tangible programme of change associated with the CHUCL project?
The CHUCL project is going really well. Professor Alison Phipps and team are at a really important stage in the programme and there’s still time for everyone to get involved. Please do attend one of the Action Enquiry sessions and have your say. We really appreciate our community taking the time to shape the culture at Sussex.

Campus development

Now that campus is basically full, what plans are in place to make sure that we’re using the space as intelligently as possible?
Campus is full in places, but there are opportunities to make sure we use the space more effectively. Our new Director of Estates, Simon Neale, is going to be doing a very fundamental review to make sure that we can optimise the space that we’ve got. As we build new developments, it gives us the opportunity to use other spaces more effectively. Falmer House will become empty in a couple of years’ time, and that will give us the opportunity to use that space creatively.

If Falmer House is being emptied, where will R&E Services be located?
It’s too early to say how we will choose to use Falmer House. We will start discussions in 2018 with the local council and with Historic England about the possible future use of Falmer House and, once we decide on any proposed changes, we will certainly be talking to our campus community about these plans. This will naturally include any potentially affected teams.

What are the proposals for the expansion of teaching space elsewhere?
At the moment our focus is on making our campus work as effectively as possible for us. I know there is an ongoing desire to free up teaching space – and there have been discussions about that happening off campus, but I believe we can make improvements on how we manage what we already have. This also includes investing in improving and updating our teaching facilities and spaces.

Staff welfare and development

Where is this year's staff satisfaction survey?
We’re looking at different ways in which we can ensure we receive feedback from our staff and - most importantly - act on this information. I know that Sheila Gupta, our Director of Human Resources, has been working with her division on this and we will be sharing more information with all staff very soon.

Teaching and learning

Can you tell us about the progress/process in developing a new Education/Teaching & Learning Strategy for the University?
On Monday 30 October, we will be sharing the latest stage of the overall University strategy– we’d really like to get your opinion at this consultation phase. As you can imagine, the education and students element of the strategy is key. Please sign up to one of our strategy consultation workshops – and have your say.

Will the new academic workload be transparent?
Yes, it is absolutely intended to be transparent. There will be a pilot phase first of all.

Research

Could you say something about Sussex's research performance?
Our research performance is really mixed: at our best we are as good as we possibly could be. We do great research for not very much money; we would like to do great research with more money. Our research grant income is low in certain areas and we really need to work very hard to grow it.

What are your expectations for the University’s performance in the next REF, and what would you like to see happening to ensure that we’re ready for it?
I have high expectations, and I know there is dedicated work happening to make sure we’re ready. Preparing for the Research Excellence Framework is a considerable effort and it requires everyone to pull together. I am also really keen for staff involved in research to engage with the strategy consultation and respond to the research framework – this is your opportunity to help shape how we transform our capabilities and the impact we make.

Please can you advise any plans for encouraging more public lectures? They would be brilliant for staff, students and public to have an awareness of research being undertaken across faculties.
At the moment we’re aware that we really need to push awareness of our current public lectures and we’re looking at how we do that through our website as well as internal and external promotional channels. I would like more people in our local community and important stakeholders to be attending the wide number of events we are already holding. It’s something I know teams in Professional Services are looking at.

How can we best link up research and the student experience? Is it time to dedicate resource to research-driven student and public engagement?
This is an excellent question. I would like to hear your ideas – this is exactly the kind of thinking we are encouraging our staff to make through the new strategy framework.

What is the Uni going to do to support academic staff to work better to attract interactions with business, as far as research is concerned?
Michael Davies, our Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research), is drawing up the terms of reference for a review of our business engagement activities and we’ll get that under way very quickly. The challenge is a big one and we need to do it properly. You’ll see that in our strategic framework we have put major emphasis on external engagement across all areas of the University - and business and industry is a priority area. We’d like to hear your thoughts too, so please join in the strategy consultation phase – starting on Monday 30 October.

Sustainability

What are the three main challenges for the University to educate the new generations to contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals? Are there specific US projects to support these world challenges?
As an institution we are fully behind the Sustainable Development Goals, which are being expertly looked at by the Sussex Sustainability Research Programme (SSRP) as well as many other academics and research groups at the University. I believe strongly in leading by example when it comes to educating younger generations about what we can all do in our day-to-day lives to contribute to becoming more environmentally aware. Here on campus we recently launched our ‘Go Greener’ campaign, which started with the switch-on of the largest photovoltaics project in higher education, with solar panels now installed in 29 of our buildings. We are also making changes to many other areas such as encouraging cycling to campus (with our Cycle to Work scheme for staff and more bike racks), plus we will be installing hand dryers in all bathrooms and removing paper towels. Soon you will hear more about our socially responsible investment policy.  But it can’t stop there – we have to introduce a whole culture change across our campus. You will see more of this in the days and weeks to come. The challenge is to keep this a top priority – and that means everyone playing their part and for the University to help everyone in our community to make being more environmentally friendly something that is easy for them to do. 

Professional Services

There are rumours of cuts to investment in widening participation and First Generation Scholars. What is the University's position on this?
The University is fully committed to widening participation and we are proud of the fact that our latest OFFA agreement shows that we offer one of the most generous packages of support in the UK – second only to Oxford in the south-east. This covers our agreement for the 2018-19 intake of students. Every year, as we face new economic realities we will need to balance our spend across all University departments; however, I can assure you that we have every desire to ensure that we continue to be one of the leaders in this area – our commitment to widening participation is firmly ensconced in our roots. 

The year ahead

After your drop-in session on Friday 29 September, will you be holding any more?
We’re looking at possible dates for more sessions in the next few weeks and will make these known as soon as we have confirmed them.