University of Sussex Students' Newspaper

Brighton vs Sussex: Out of my League

Lucy Spencer

ByLucy Spencer

Apr 16, 2024

“Whereabouts are you studying at the moment, Lucy?” asks a friend of my parents/nosey landlord/overly-friendly Uber driver. My heart sinks, knowing I’m about to rehash a conversation I’ve had about 100 times since beginning my BA back in 2018.

“In B…B…Brighton,” I stammer in response, knowing that they’re about to unconvincingly wax lyrical about the University of Brighton, its campuses at the diseased heart of the city, and the relaxed approach to teaching. Part of the reason I panic is because I, too, harbour an irrational yet deep-seated prejudice against our neighbouring school, but I also fear being thought of as a snob. So I don’t want to monologue to a cab driver that while, yes, I am living and studying in BN1, I am attending the far more prestigious University of Sussex. I now just order Ubers from Refectory Road; it’s easier that way.

The rivalry between Brighton and Sussex is a fairly new phenomenon – chiefly because both institutions are relatively new. Though Oxford University is older than the Aztec civilisation (yes, really), the schools in East Sussex might just about be older than a tin of beans at the back of your cupboard. While the University of Brighton was founded a whopping 166 years ago (as Brighton College of Art), it only received university status in 1992. The University of Sussex, on the other hand, was granted university status in 1961, making it a boomer to Brighton’s millennial-disguised-as-a-Gen-Z.

This is a fitting description considering the characteristics of the scholars at the two establishments: some of our alumni and faculty love to brag about their accomplishments, and look down upon those on the come up. I recently had a guest lecturer boast about Sussex’s renowned research-intensive status and, in the same breath, patronise a “local university” whose ethical approval forms are, apparently, not as…um…ethical as ours. Additionally, I’ve also witnessed toilet paper in the University of Sussex’s library defaced with the words, “a 2:1 from Brighton”.

Not only are these incidents immature and condescending, but ick-inducing when considering each university’s place on the Complete University Guide’s 2024 league table. The catalogue, which takes into consideration entry standards, student satisfaction, research quality, and graduate prospects, ranked the University of Sussex number 50 in the UK, and our rival number 68. Our snobbery is particularly embarrassing because Brighton managed to climb 13 places in the chart since last year, whereas we dropped by nine. The University of Brighton also scored higher than us in terms of graduate prospects, but at least we’ll be able to brag about our alma mater to the staff at the JobCentre, right? And, let’s be real, neither Sussex nor Brighton holds Oxbridge status. Our rivalry is more Bolton Wanderers vs Wigan Athletic than Arsenal-Tottenham.

My partner, Ryan, is a graduate of the University of Brighton, making our relationship a modern adaptation of Romeo and Juliet. In response to my asking him why he chose Brighton over Sussex, he responded, “Brighton’s Broadcast Media course at the time seemed a lot more practical than what Sussex was offering. I knew in the back of my mind it had a worse reputation in terms of academia, but that didn’t matter to me since I wasn’t too interested in conducting research or writing a heavy dissertation.”

After graduating, Ryan began working in the industry, creating films for the NHS, proving that graduate outcomes are not dependent on a university’s league table position. Basing your choice on league tables is as ridiculous as hitting up the palm readers on Brighton Pier so they can tell you where to go. You might as well make your decision based on the acceptance letter received by the other member of a doomed situationship. League tables fluctuate!

How some of us are treating Brighton students is perhaps how the Oxbridge community would treat us. While I chose to come to this school for the beach, I don’t need the sea to feel waves of inferiority wash over me every time I remember that SPA’s Best Journalist of the South-East region was an Oxford scholar. And let’s be real – updated league tables mean new generations of Sussex students are in no place to look down at the University of Brighton. Doing so makes Sussex seem like the boomer she is. So let’s stop now.

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