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New Vice-Chancellor announced: students react

The University of Sussex has appointed Professor Adam Tickell as its new Vice-Chancellor. He will replace current Vice-Chancellor Michael Farthing on 1st September 2016.

Tickell is the current Provost and Vice-Principal at the University of Birmingham, and has previously held roles at Royal Holloway. Professor Tickell’s expertise and research lie in Economic Geography.

Christian Brodie, Chair of the University of Sussex’s Council, described Tickell as “exactly the right person to take Sussex forward as the University builds on its outstanding international teaching and research reputation.

“Adam’s personal and professional credentials reflect the attributes which made Sussex so special when it was established in the 1960s and what makes it an exceptional institution now in the twenty first century.”

Professor Tickell said: “I’ve long been aware that the University of Sussex is home to many thought-leaders and researchers who are driving positive change throughout the world, and having real influence in their fields of endeavour.

“Since it was founded, the University has had a distinctive ethos based upon a commitment to interdisciplinary learning, research and scholarship and a global outlook. Sussex’s high-quality teaching has earned it a well-deserved global reputation in the sector and I’m looking forward to working with staff to see how the University can enhance the great student experience even further.

“Given the many global challenges that we face, universities have a vital role in contributing economically and socially to society. I am both delighted and honoured to be joining the University of Sussex at a time when it is looking to build substantially on its achievements.”

An active twitter user, Tickell has posted about the upcoming EU Referendum, retweeting posts from the group “Students for Europe” and Brighton Pavilion’s Green MP, Caroline Lucas.

Earlier this year, University of Sussex Students’ Union (USSU) research revealed that students wanted a new Vice-Chancellor who cared about ‘social justice’ and ‘equality’. USSU asked over 250 students to tell them what sort of Vice-Chancellor they wanted by constructing a ‘values map’, placing a green dot next to the qualities they most liked, and a red dot by those they least wanted. The least desired quality was ‘wealth’.

Abe Baldry, incumbent president of the Students’ Union, said: “I am delighted that Adam Tickell is the next person to lead Sussex. Students were an integral part of the selection process and in interview, Adam demonstrated that he has the vision, skills and the democratic leadership style that this institution so desperately needs to succeed in the next decade.”

Baldry sat on the panel to elect Professor Tickell, the first time that Sussex’s Students’ Union President has been involved in the Vice-Chancellor selection process.

The Badger also asked Annie Pickering, Students’ Union President elect, for her thoughts on the choice. She said: “I am pleased to see [Professor Tickell] is from a social science background and hope that he will understand the importance of engaging with students and listening to students and the Students’ Union. “I look forward to building a more positive relationship with the Students’ Union and our new Vice Chancellor.”

A University of Sussex spokesperson said to The Badger: “this was an appointment hat was very much influenced by our student population. Abe Baldry, the SU’s President, was part of the selection panel and formed an integral part of the decision making process – as did the student focus groups and fantastic work carried out by the SU to gain a general consensus of student opinion… We are incredibly excited by this appointment and very much look forward to Prof Tickell starting with us in September.”

However, not everyone is pleased. A number of student activists on campus have told The Badger that they do not agree that Professor Tickell represents Sussex’s unique and radical origins. In November 2013, two months after Professor Tickell had been appointed Vice-Principal at Birmingham, the university suspended two students following an occupation of the University’s senate chamber.

The Guardian reports that the occupiers were “demanding greater university democracy, fairer pay for university staff.” The protesters also said: “the University of Birmingham should publicly take back their position that fees should be increased”.

During the same time, a protest at the university saw 14 people arrested and protesters made allegations of assaults and kettling in The Guardian and Indepeden’s news reporting.

Sussex has a large body of radical students and a history of occupations and demonstrations, the latest being the #Don’tDeportLuqman occupation in early March. The current Vice-Chancellor, Michael Farthing, oversaw the suspension of the so-called Sussex Five in 2013 following an anti-privatisation occupation.

A current Sussex postgraduate student, Callum, was at Birmingham at the time of the occupation. He told The Badger: “it was a peaceful protest, and I saw people being arrested for no clear reason, being held in the cold for hours and and even being injured. I am shocked Sussex University has welcomed someone from that university.”

The University of Birmingham confirmed that Tickell was on the senior managemnet board at the time but that he was not directly responsible: “peaceful protest is not a disciplinary offence at the University of Birmingham and the University Disciplinary Process is run completely independently of the University Executive Board. Adam Tickell was, therefore, not involved with any disciplinary proceedings.”

Freya Marshall Payne and Miriam Steiner

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