Reforms lead to outcry at Sussex

February 8, 2002

Sussex University students demanded last week that vice-chancellor Alasdair Smith publicly explain the radical reform they fear will "tear apart" the university's distinctive schools system.

Professor Smith attended a student union general meeting to hear students' fears about the restructuring, due to start in 2003. Four large schools, an institute and a joint medical school with Brighton University will replace the 11 existing schools and continuing education centre.

Students were worried about the possible end of interdisciplinary teaching, fewer seminars and the effects of jobs cuts linked to a research funding shortfall. They also felt that they had been ignored in consultations, which started in 2000.

Student union president Dan Glazebrook said: "Students are angry because they don't know what's happening. Lots of students are very proud of the fact they are in different schools."

Professor Smith said the strengths of the present system would not be lost. The reform was an attempt to make Sussex more attractive to prospective students by simplifying structures. The university had surveyed students in 2000-01 and spoken to student union members. Pro vice-chancellors who met focus groups of Brighton teenagers found that they thought the links confusing.

Professor Smith said later: "What's been exposed is a problem with the student community because of the long timescale. Now we've got a group of students who weren't really involved in discussions in the past but who are interested in the future."

Janet Collett, local secretary of the Association of University Teachers, said staff had mixed feelings. Many arts faculty were excited about the new curricula. Others were unhappy about a loss of breadth and mobility.

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