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What kind of Vice-Chancellor do Sussex students want?

Following a consultation period with students and staff, on 3 December the University began to advertise the new Sussex Vice-Chancellor’s job. Throughout this term, the Students’ Union have been finding out what kind of person students want to be in charge of their University.

The Vice-Chancellor is the individual responsible for the direction of the University both academically and commercially. Prof. Michael Farthing, current Vice-Chancellor, will be stepping down in August after nine years in the position.

For the first time in the University’s history, a registered student will be on the selection panel for the new Vice Chancellor. Abe Baldry, President of the Students’ Union, will sit on the panel interviewing shortlisted candidates. He said:

Abe, PresidentIt’s great that for the first time at Sussex, students are being represented on the interview panel. When speaking to other students I’ve found that they genuinely care about the future of Sussex. I’ll be doing everything I can to represent students throughout this process and to recruit someone who has the right interests at heart.

The University hosted an online consultation earlier this term to gather suggestions for the new Vice-Chancellor’s job description, however, based on feedback sent to Union staff and officers, students found the University’s online consultation form difficult, or even inaccessible. As a result, Union staff and officers decided to get input directly from students, by spending Friday 23rd October in Library Square talking to over 250 students about what kind of person they’d like to see running the University.

ABe, Rose and Sarah with the Values map

Firstly, students were asked to fill in a values map, a selection of words and phrases describing personal and professional values. Using red and green stickers, students identified the values they would most like to see expressed by the next Vice-Chancellor, and the values they were less keen on. Below we’ve tabulated the amount of green (positive) and red (negative) stickers next to the most and least desirable values.

Most popular values (top five)

Least popular values (bottom five)


Green (+1)

Red (-1)



Green (+1)

Red (-1)


Social Justice
































Protecting the Environment     




Respect for Tradition     




These findings tell us that students would like to see a Vice-Chancellor chiefly motivated by intrinsic values (values with broader social reach and benefit, aiming towards a more sustainable and equitable society) as opposed to extrinsic values (accumulation of power, wealth and social recognition)

Following this, students were asked to write comments about what they’d like to see the next Vice Chancellor do, and questions they would ask if they were interviewing them. Comments and questions included:

Focus on education rather than as a business
Being more present and have more of an appearance on campus
Introduce themselves to the students, so that we actually know who they are as I don’t even know who the current one is
Not afraid to lobby the government
No more privatisation
Do you see yourself as leader or a facilitator?
Will you sell the remaining shares of SEF (Sussex Estates and Facilities) to interserve?
Do you think league table success should come above student welfare/satisfaction?
Do you think it’s fair that some students are leaving University with £50,000 worth of debt?
Will there be better support for Student Support Unit, Student Life Centre and Psychological and Counselling Service?

Based on this feedback and contact before and since, the Students’ Union recommends the university hires someone who values social equality, acts in a socially, ethically and environmentally responsible manner, proactively consults with staff and students on key decisions, and who is creative and ambitious with their ideas, solutions to problems at the University.

The Students’ Union recommends that the ideal candidate will be driven by universalism and benevolence, and not motivated by prestige, power and tradition. We recommend that a group of students should have the opportunity to meet the candidates and put forward questions as part of the selection process.

View the full report and recommendations

There’s a number of things you can do to let the University know what kind of Vice-Chancellor they should recruit:

  • Use #NewSussexVC on social media to share your views.

  • Send your suggestions to the elected officers. (link to webpage)

  • Email Perrett Laver, the Westminster executive search company appointed by the University to assist the recruitment process. (email link)

You could even apply to become the next Vice-Chancellor here. Applications close on 12th January 2016.


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