The University of Sussex has joined 29 other universities by signing the Civic University Agreement. Universities have signed this agreement to do more for their local communities.

The Civic University Agreement is part of the Civic University commission funded by the UPP foundation and chaired by the former Head of the Civil Service, Lord Kerslake. This commission’s report was released along with its launch in Parliament on 13 February 2019. The commission looked at how universities can better serve their local area. It has also looked at the global role that universities can play.

Vice-Chancellor at the University of Sussex, Adam Tickell, stated that: “We are proud of all that we are currently doing to make Brighton and Hove and the wider Sussex region a better place. Ensuring that the University is engaging in a meaningful way with people, organisations and communities at a local, regional, national and international level, is a key pillar of our new vision for the institution over the coming years. Signing the Civic University Agreement just strengthens our commitment to serving the community on our doorstep even further.”

The University of Sussex already has schemes, partnerships and advisory roles within the local community.

These include the Role Models project which has been running since 2014. This project centres around Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE) lessons in secondary schools, particularly focussing on running workshops on issues outside of the typical topics. Those students who are involved in running the workshops have training beforehand in order to successfully deliver these workshop sessions in local schools.

The dialogue between the Role Models and the students at the secondary schools is open and honest within a supportive environment. The project now has 120 students who work with 200 young people who attend school within the local community.

A student involved with the Role Models project, Edward Drew, told The Badger: “The Role Models Project helps empower secondary school students around issues that aren’t covered in the classroom. For many of the students it was the first time they’d had any discussion around consent, self-identity and mental health. We also covered issues including drugs and alcohol as well as healthy relationships. I think before these topics were all dictated to the students by a teacher and not fully explored or realised by the students themselves. This project has allowed them to explore these subjects further.”

The Sussex Community Legal Education initiative helps the local community by involving third year law students in local people’s legal issues. The initiative includes queries in family, employment, criminal and housing and welfare law.

Dr Amir Paz-Fuchs runs the initiative and states that “fewer and fewer people qualify for legal aid these days, so there’s never been a greater need for free, accurate legal advice. Our clinic teaches our students how to advise real people on their problems, but also sees the University of Sussex playing its part in its community. We give free, accurate legal advice to people who need it. I’d urge anyone struggling with a legal issue to contact the clinic to see if we can help.”

Monique Wagner, a third year law student involved in the initiative, echoed the words of Dr Amir Paz-Fuchs by telling The Badger “the government has cut legal aid which has restricted many individuals’ access to justice. Many clients who approach out clinic cannot afford solicitors fees. We therefore provide legal advice but we are restricted by our resources, knowledge and experience. Without the expertise of solicitors, clients are unsure whether they have a legal claim. By attending the clinic, we are able to give the appropriate advice and direction of the client’s next legal action.”

Vice-Chancellor Tickell at the University of Sussex stated “Here at Sussex we wholeheartedly subscribe to the notion that, as a university, we are responsible not only to our students and our staff, but also to the places around us. Through the transformative power of education, research and engagement, the University of Sussex is working for a better world, for the benefit of people in both our local neighbourhoods and our wider global community. By signing the Civic University Agreement, we have agreed to set out clearly, coherently and creatively how we will fulfil that responsibility in ways that will exceed the significant achievements we have already made.”

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