110 Views

Academics and MPs denounce cuts at Sussex

Britain’s higher education system is recognised across the globe as a gold standard, second only to the US. Eighteen of our universities rank in the world’s top 100. Comprising just 1% of the global population, Britain produces 7.9% of the world’s academic research publications.

However, our prized universities are not immune from the current recession. Last month, business secretary Lord Mandelson announced higher education funding cuts of £398m for 2010/11. The Institute for Fiscal Studies has warned that even deeper cuts are required for 2011/12 if ministers are to achieve their target of halving national debt by 2013.

When Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, was asked if there was still money to spend on Labour priorities despite the public-sector deficit, he replied, “Of course there is”. Yet, while money has been safeguarded to protect the health service, police, and primary and secondary schools, higher education has suffered a severe blow. This is surprising, considering the gross annual financial output of British universities exceeds that of the lucrative pharmaceutical and aerospace industries.

While Mandelson insists that universities must continue to protect standards and access to higher education, Universities UK has warned that a reduction in the public spending of money per student would seriously threaten the ability of universities in England to offer a high quality education.

The Russell Group, which represents twenty leading universities in the UK, has warned the government that the gold standard education currently offered in England will be reduced to “bronze or worse” if Labour’s proposed cuts are enforced.

Michael Farthing, vice chancellor of Sussex, has cited the reductions in government funding responsible for the proposed cuts at our university. However, many academics, staff, and students are dismayed that while we witness the most savage set of redundancies in the history of the university, members of the senior management have received pay increases, the financial books have remained inaccessible, and costly building projects are in motion to revamp the university’s infrastructure.

Local MPs have voiced their concerns about the proposed cuts at Sussex. David Lepper, Labour MP for Brighton Pavilion, told The Badger: “My particular concerns are about the loss of jobs proposed, the impact of the proposals on teaching and the continuing work of particular departments, the possible imbalance between proposed capital and other expenditure, and the future of important campus-based services such as childcare and health.”

Nancy Platts, Labour parliamentary candidate for Brighton Pavilion, said: “I am greatly concerned by plans to cut funding to universities and the way in which these are being applied to departments and the potential loss of jobs at Sussex University. At such a difficult time we need total transparency and effective consultation with staff and students before any decisions are made about how cuts are applied.”

She added: “I see any proposals to cut childcare for students as a retrograde step that will prevent some parents from continuing their education.”

Sussex alumni have also voiced their concerns to The Badger…

Dear Sir / Madam,

The news from Sussex University is distressing. The projected staff cuts in the disciplines which are central to the purpose of a university – Life Sciences, Informatics, English, History, Art History, Philosophy, Engineering, Continuing Education – while there is to be growth in the areas that are more vocational and banausic, and therefore suitable curricula for further education colleges or polytechnics (business, management, and media studies), is a complete reversal of the original idea for Sussex University, as expressed in David Daiches (ed) book “The Idea of a New University”, written especially for Sussex.

That idea was for genuine education, for helping to form cultured and informed cosmopolitans of wide horizons and wide abilities, not merely and restrictedly for training in specific lines of employment. It had as an ideal the Aristotelian idea that education is for life, not merely for work.

These projected cuts and changes are a diminution of Sussex, a betrayal of its original purpose, and a real loss: because the world needs people of the kind Sussex came into existence to encourage.

It is a savage irony that Sussex should be cutting back and turning to the banausic trades, because these very trades – not least banking – have let us down and forced a recession upon us that makes such cuts necessary. If this is not a case of licking the hand that has beaten us! – instead of reasserting the highest ideals of a genuine university education aimed at fostering the critical, sceptical, thoughtful attitude which will challenge a society that turns everything into a question of cash – as the present administration of Sussex University itself is doing.

Professor Anthony Grayling,
Birkbeck, University of London.

Professor Grayling is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and the Royal Society of Arts. He was an undergraduate at Sussex between 1968-71, studied for an MA here in 1974-5, and continued to teach at Sussex part-time from 1976-9 while undertaking his doctorate at Oxford.

Dear Sir / Madam,

A document has come into my possession which might be of interest to your readers – an email, in fact, which the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sussex, Michael Farthing, has sent to all undergraduates, explaining to them his plans for “the development of the University”. These plans consist of the sacking of over 100 staff and the closing down or reduction of a number of “areas”, so that the word “development” is somewhat ironic, but in keeping with the tone of the document, which is couched throughout in the worst bureaucratese. Thus: “Our aim is to continue to invest in successful areas in the University and grow our income where possible.”

As one might imagine, this is not good news for those disciplines which have always been seen as at the heart of the Humanities side of English universities. “In some areas”, the VC says, “there are no opportunities for sustainable growth and we need to make targeted reductions in those areas while continuing to develop our Univer-sity as a broad and balanced research-intensive institution across the arts and social sciences.” It is difficult to see how this last aspiration is to be met when it is followed by this: “In a number of schools we are now seeking financial savings, including Engineering and design; English; History, Art History and Philosophy; Informatics; and Life Sciences.” By contrast, predictably: “In academic schools with recent growth and good prospects for the future, we are pressing ahead with our growth and development plans, including the schools of Business, Management and Economics; Global Studies; and Media, Film and Music.”

Though he insists that “staff affected by the changes will receive our support and help”, none of the people so affected that I have talked to has received any such thing, and, indeed, it is difficult to see what form such support and help might take. The VC also insists, in his execrable English, that he is committed to “maintaining excellence in the student experience”, promising that “we will support your teaching, and we are not proposing to reduce contact hours” – presumably he will achieve this by working the remaining faculty even harder. “We will continue to invest in improving the student experience at Sussex”, he concludes. “One of our absolute priorities through this difficult process is our commitment to students and to the quality of the education and student experience we provide.”

Clearly, this university at any rate is being treated strictly as a business, with the least profitable branches closed and the most profitable ones developed. No doubt, in the light of the proposed changes to research funding criteria and the cuts recently announced by Lord Mandelson, vice-chancellors around the country are doing exactly what Farthing is doing. The question this raises is: Are universities really businesses? And if not, what are they? Are they to become forcing houses for the immediate economic development of the country and nothing else (i.e. are Business and Media studies to replace Engineering, English, History and Philosophy)? If that is what the country wants, so be it. But we should be clear that it means the end of universities as they have been known in the West since the Middle Ages.

Gabriel Josipovici, British novelist and literary theorist. As published in The Times Literary Supplement, Thursday 7th January 2010.
Josipovici taught at Sussex between 1963-98.

Get the best viral stories straight into your inbox!

Don't worry, we don't spam

Leave a Reply

Join the Badger Team

Apply today!

Latest Posts

Union obliterates the debate – unwritten requirement used to shut down free speech debate
Campus News
512 views1
Campus News
512 views1

Union obliterates the debate – unwritten requirement used to shut down free speech debate

Jordan Wright - April 27, 2018

Student society Liberate the Debate’s most recent event was cancelled over a lack of compliance with the Students' Union's (USSU) requirement for a neutral chair - a…

Verve Couture – Musicality, kitsch & ignition: the beginning of a series
Arts
54 views
Arts
54 views

Verve Couture – Musicality, kitsch & ignition: the beginning of a series

Ricardo Reverón Blanco - June 17, 2018

Pictured: Zac Black At Proud Cabaret audiences were spellbound as if at night at the circus, yet this was not like Angela Carter’s magical realist novel; Verve…

Fleabag on stage at The Old Market – review
Arts
95 views
Arts
95 views

Fleabag on stage at The Old Market – review

Florence Dutton - June 11, 2018

[caption id="attachment_35513" align="alignnone" width="2400"] Fleabag at Soho Theatre[/caption] Last Monday at 8pm at Brighton’s The Old Market, I sat myself down in my theatre seat eagerly awaiting…

Fleabag preview
Arts
94 views
Arts
94 views

Fleabag preview

Florence Dutton - June 2, 2018

[caption id="attachment_35513" align="alignnone" width="2400"] Fleabag at Soho Theatre[/caption] Following the mass success of the Bafta award-winning BBC Series, DryWrite and Soho Theatre are about to hit the…

Brighton Festival: Ezra Furman at the Dome
Arts
117 views
Arts
117 views

Brighton Festival: Ezra Furman at the Dome

Georgia Grace - June 1, 2018

Having completed my final semester of university with modules on punk history and queer arts, it was fitting that I rounded off my end-of-assessment celebrations by attending…

Arts
139 views

The Tempest review

Georgia Grace - May 30, 2018

As the sun begins to set over Hove Green, tinnies of Red Stripe are cracked open, tartan blankets are strewn, and families tuck into their picnic hampers.…

A Glass Half Empty review
Arts
151 views
Arts
151 views

A Glass Half Empty review

Georgia Grace - May 27, 2018

For those of us coming to the end of another year of university study, the prospect of careers, marriages and babies may seem a long way off.…

DollyWould at The Old Market review
Arts
142 views
Arts
142 views

DollyWould at The Old Market review

Alex Hutson - May 27, 2018

Sh!t Theatre’s DollyWould is a hilarious, thoughtful and experimental performance piece. The award winning show has the Sh!t Theatre duo integrating comedy, storytelling, personal experience and music.…

UCU Launch Petition to End the ‘Hostile Environment’ at Sussex
Campus News
229 views
Campus News
229 views

UCU Launch Petition to End the ‘Hostile Environment’ at Sussex

Billie-Jean Johnson - May 26, 2018

The Sussex branch of the University and College Union (UCU) has launched a petition calling for Vice-Chancellor Adam Tickell to end the 'hostile environment' at Sussex. The…

Arts
107 views

Shakespeare in the sun – The Tempest preview

Georgia Grace - May 24, 2018

In a world of dystopian King Lears and female Hamlets, Shakespeare’s classics are constantly being reimagined for the modern day. There’s something oddly refreshing then about the…

Review: Nick Cave Double Bill at The Old Market (TOM’s Film Club)
Arts
212 views
Arts
212 views

Review: Nick Cave Double Bill at The Old Market (TOM’s Film Club)

Sophie Coppenhall - May 23, 2018

What a phenomenal contrast these two films present when watched side-by-side. In essence, together they are capable of tracing inner and outer metamorphoses of their subjects. The…

Dollywould at The Old Market preview
Arts
142 views
Arts
142 views

Dollywould at The Old Market preview

Alex Hutson - May 22, 2018

From the 22nd May - 25th May 2018 DollyWould will be showing at The Old Market. An exciting new show, presented by Sh!t Theatre, who won the…

Exhibition: Io-sono Fedilouu
Artist Focus
213 views
Artist Focus
213 views

Exhibition: Io-sono Fedilouu

Ricardo Reverón Blanco - May 16, 2018

Last week artist Fedilou made her debut exhibition in the downstairs space of Morelli Zorelli, a quaint vegan Italian restaurant in Hove, featuring a collection of intimate…

Interview with Philosophy faculty and COGS director Ron Chrisley
Interview
148 views
Interview
148 views

Interview with Philosophy faculty and COGS director Ron Chrisley

Nikolaos Manesis - May 15, 2018

Ron Chrisley is a Reader in Philosophy, on the faculty of the Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science, and is the director of COGS (Centre for Cognitive Science).…

Adam review
Arts
217 views
Arts
217 views

Adam review

Ketan Jha - May 13, 2018

If you have been a stranger to the stage this spring and decide to see one contemporary show, let it be Adam. This reviewer went in entirely…

Brighton Fringe Preview: Nick Cave Double Bill at The Old Market (TOM’s Film Club)
Arts
239 views
Arts
239 views

Brighton Fringe Preview: Nick Cave Double Bill at The Old Market (TOM’s Film Club)

Sophie Coppenhall - May 13, 2018

In celebration of iconic Brighton local, legendary alt-rock musician (and episodic actor) Nick Cave, TOM’s Film Club are hosting a double-bill screening of his films at The…

Whimsical fairy-tale meets class war – Standard: Elite review
Arts
276 views
Arts
276 views

Whimsical fairy-tale meets class war – Standard: Elite review

Georgia Grace - May 11, 2018

Meta-theatricality and interactivity are becoming all the more vogue in contemporary theatre, and in a world where the arts are becoming increasingly open and democratised, I find…

A Year of Art Society: The Best Picks
Artist Focus
191 views
Artist Focus
191 views

A Year of Art Society: The Best Picks

Alex Leissle - May 9, 2018

  [gallery type="slideshow" ids="35385,35386,35387,35388,35389,35390,35391,35392,35393,35394,35395,35396,35397,35398,35399,35400,35401,35402,35403,35404,35405,35406,35407,35408,35409,35410,35411"]

More Brit(ish) than ever: A review of Afua Hirsch at Brighton Festival
Books
200 views
Books
200 views

More Brit(ish) than ever: A review of Afua Hirsch at Brighton Festival

William Singh - May 9, 2018

Afua Hirsch’s 2018 book - part memoir, part polemic - provokes mixed feelings. So too did her discussion of the topic at this year’s Brighton Festival. Don’t…

Ethnic-bioweapons: between conspiracy and reality
Science
256 views
Science
256 views

Ethnic-bioweapons: between conspiracy and reality

Luke Richards - May 8, 2018

Bioweapons exist, while ethnic-bioweapons are whispered conspiracies. Pandemics can fairly hazardous to human life, the 1918 Flu Pandemic killed 20-50 million people. A man made pandemic could…

Breaking: Spring referenda results announced
News
266 views
News
266 views

Breaking: Spring referenda results announced

Jessica Hubbard - May 4, 2018

Students have voted to support the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement, reject Prevent and adopt new Gender Equality policies. Results for the Students' Union referenda were…