Sussex invites staff to decide on future direction

November 9, 2007

Sussex University's new vice-chancellor is asking his staff to help decide what the university's ambitions should be for the next ten years.

Michael Farthing wants staff members to respond to an anonymous survey on the university's teaching and research strategies.

In a candid approach praised by the University and College Union, the survey puts forward some radical options and explains the consequences for staff of various strategic paths and makes clear that changes are needed if the university is to remain competitive.

If Sussex wants to attract and retain the best staff, it will "undoubtedly mean raising the bar in many aspects of the university's policies and standards of performance", the survey suggests. It asks: "To what extent are staff prepared to embrace this change in return for commensurate reward?"

Similarly, if Sussex is to be rated among the very best institutions, "a significant step change in research performance while maintaining good taught provision" will be necessary. "Is this a realistic or appropriate expectation for the university?" the survey asks.

Professor Farthing is also consulting on whether the university should:

- Focus its research so the university changes from a multi-discipline institution to a niche player;

- Confine teaching to areas where research is strongest;

- Focus the student curriculum solely on the attainment of workplace skills;

- Remain primarily a provider of full-time, campus-based, undergraduate education or move into other markets such as part-time, off-campus study;

- Move its teaching methods away from the master-apprentice model and recognise that lecturers need to play a different role;

- Share its brand and work in partnership with others to deliver its vision, aspirations and goals.

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