Caroline Lehany with her slab Photo: Sussex University website

A freshly laid paving slab on the pathway outside the Arts A building reads: ‘Real knowledge is knowing what you do not know’.

This statement and others are part of the growing pathway from library square to Arts A, slowly creeping over the bare slabs that had previously inhabited that space.

This slab is one of a thousand to be put down in commemoration of the university’s 50th anniversary.

According to a letter sent from Michael Farthing to alumnai of the university the slabs are part of the university’s “commitment to freedom of thought, social change and world-leading research (that) has for fifty years been helping students from around the world to fulfil their potential.”

The scheme hopes to raise £125,000, selling personalised paving slabs to alumnae at £125 pounds a slab in an effort to fund 125 student scholarships and bursaries.

It is part of the wider ‘Making The Future’ initiative which aims to raise £50 million for the university by 2016.

The project started with the expressed intent of increasing “activity across high-quality research and teaching, and engagement with business and the community”.

The initiative also has a decidedly business-oriented thrust.

The plan includes new programmes in Business and Management to draw in overseas students, employability schemes and leadership development programmes, along with a host of new buildings which are currently being constructed.

The proposal asserts that they will be: “Building on the unique architectural legacy of Sir Basil Spence.

Innovative new spaces for living and learning will re-imagine the University environment, enhancing the student and staff experience.”

Alon Aviram, candidate for Students’ Union president, thinks while at the face of it the paving slab scheme is a good thing, helping to fund the education of those who cannot afford rising education fees and costs of living, it is also part of a wider question: should universities have to privately fund scholarships?

Or, even more pressing, is this another step towards universities functioning as profit making institutions with a business-minded viewpoint?

Tom Loan, another 3rd year Sussex student, says that while cuts in government funding for education are lamentable, initiatives like this are by far the lesser of two evils.

Loud electioneering in library square this week may obscure them from your attention, but not for long.

The aim is to sell 1000 slabs, ten times the amount already there; the half snowy ground will soon be covered by the messages, memories and memorandums of alumni.

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