A record 2,300 degrees and diplomas were awarded at this year’s winter graduation ceremonies.

The number is a 20 per cent rise from 2016’s winter graduation, with those graduating mainly consisting of Masters and PhD students.

Professor Adam Tickell, the University’s Vice-Chancellor, said: “Every one of them should feel enormous pride, as I do, in their achievement”.

The record ceremonies follows a boom in the number of postgraduates at the University in recent years.

One of the major reasons behind this growing number of students is thought to be the multi-million-pound scholarship programme introduced by Sussex in 2013.

The Sussex Graduate Scholarship means Sussex students who get a 1st or 2:1 in their undergraduate degree receive a reduction in their fees if accepted onto a Masters course.

Professor Tickell said: “Studying for a postgraduate degree often means juggling work, childcare and many other life commitments. We didn’t want one of those obstacles to be money, which is why we have invested so heavily in postgraduate scholarships”.

In its first year, this doubled the number of such students progressing directly onto a Master’s degree at Sussex.

Postgraduate Education Officer Rose Taylor welcomed the increasing number of Sussex students having access to postgraduate education, but voiced concerns.

She said: “I do have concerns about the university’s ability to facilitate this growing number of students.”

“Already, support for postgraduate students is lacking and it’s seen that as you’ve been at university before you don’t need this as much, but it can be daunting.”

Such an increase in the number of postgraduate students at the university is counter to the nationwide figures of those deciding to undertake postgraduate study.

According to recent statistics from the Higher Education Statistics Agency, the total number of students that pursued postgraduate courses in 2015/16 was 532,975 – a 1 per cent drop from 2014-15.

This number may be affected further in the future with maintenance grants replaced by loans from the current academic year onwards.

Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of the Sutton Trust, which campaigns to improve social mobility through education, said: “Shifting grants to loans may move them off the balance sheet, but it could also put off many low- and middle-income students and tip the balance against their going to university”.

Those graduating from Sussex represented more than 100 countries, including China, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Nigeria, Palestine, Syria, Turkey and the USA, while around a quarter were drawn from East or West Sussex.

The University’s Chancellor, the actor and broadcaster Sanjeev Bhaskar OBE, led the four ceremonies, which took place on Thursday 26 and Friday 27 January.

For the first time since the 1990s, the ceremonies took place at the Brighton Centre, while the usual venue, Brighton Dome, is refurbished

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Matthew Finn

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