'In the future, students will be spending less time at the university'

May 4, 2007

Michael Farthing, new vice-chancellor of Sussex University, has outlined his plans for change

The new vice-chancellor of Sussex University is a budding playwright who is keen to share his script for change at the institution.

Michael Farthing, whose appointment was announced this week, told The Times Higher : "There are fundamental issues that need to be tackled. I will be looking at measures to ensure that Sussex is operating at a surplus within a few years."

He succeeds Alasdair Smith, who sparked rebellion from academics and students as he battled to cut Sussex's £38 million debt.

Professor Farthing, who is currently principal of St George's Medical School, University of London, and pro vice-chancellor for medicine, said his priority was to ensure staff and students embraced his agenda of change. Undergraduate provision will be first on the list.

"The university hasn't been as client-facing as it should be. It must look carefully at what students want. Students' demands have changed," he said.

The international market will be a particular focus. He said that plans to increase the number of overseas students were already in the university's strategy, but targets had been missed.

Professor Farthing said he wanted a "more flexible approach" to undergraduate and masters-level provision, with more distance learning. "In the future, students will be spending less time at the university," he said.

As evidence of his commitment to the arts, he pointed to his ambitions as a playwright - he has completed three radio plays.

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