There were excellent results for Sussex in the latest Research Excellence Framework (REF 2021), which have triggered a five-place rise for the university in our research quality index. Psychology, sociology, education, English, history, art and design, and communication, cultural and media studies produced some of the best work. Overall, 89 per cent of Sussex’s work was assessed as world-leading or internationally excellent (the top categories). In the 2022 QS World University Rankings by subject, Sussex tops development studies for the sixth consecutive year.
Sussex celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2021. Occupying acres of rolling parkland on the edge of the South Downs National Park, it features listed 1960s architecture by Sir Basil Spence. The university has transformed its 1970s East Slope accommodation into terraced townhouses, with flats arranged in clusters. The new residences feature common rooms and communal laundry rooms as well as bookable study spaces and secure cycle parking.
Sussex must be counting on the Student Centre and improved accommodation to mark a sea change in student satisfaction. In our analysis of the latest National Student Survey, Sussex is once again 110th for satisfaction with teaching quality – quite a tumble since it appeared in our top 20 six years ago. The university falls seven places to 92= for satisfaction with the wider undergraduate experience. The faltering scores continue to hold the university back in our main academic rankings.
Teaching is predominantly in-person for 2022-23, although Sussex continues to make use of online platforms and activities to some extent, depending on the module. Some exams and assessments continue to be online where possible, while practicals, presentations and recitals take place in-person.
Sussex gained silver in the Teaching Excellence Framework, winning praise for its “outstanding” employment strategy, designed to help students develop transferable employment skills. Undergraduates are encouraged to take work placements, study abroad and learn a language to broaden their experiences. Students are also able to structure their course with a 75/25 per cent split between time spent on major and minor subject areas.
Mentoring, internships and graduate opportunities are available and the university has more than 10,000 registered employers of all sizes and sectors on its careers database. About 600 are close partners that regularly host interns, engage in recruitment activities and provide mentorship. There is also support for student start-ups, freelance careers and social enterprises via the Sussex Entrepreneurship programme. However, with 70.6 per cent of graduates in high-skilled jobs or postgraduate study 15 months after finishing their degrees, Sussex drops three places to rank 80th for graduate prospects this year, following a 25-place fall the year before.
The university does better at keeping students on track with their courses. Winner of our University of the Year for Student Retention award in the previous edition of our guide, Sussex continues to have a dropout rate far lower than the benchmark figure based on the social and academic background of the intake. Students are more likely to achieve above-average success and progression if they are engaged with university beyond their classes, Sussex has found. The Student Connectors initiative, for example, creates paid employment for students who work directly with university staff to devise rolling improvements to life on campus.
A successful joint medical school is shared with the neighbouring University of Brighton, and students split their time between the Royal Sussex County Hospital and the two universities’ Falmer campuses.
Six degrees are due to begin in 2023 – in automotive engineering; applied social science; computing for digital media and games; geography, sustainable development and climate change; creative writing; and English and creative writing. Applications were up by 19 per cent in 2021, returning them to their usual levels following a dip the year before. Entry standards remain in the top 50.
To address inequality, Sussex has welcomed its first pro-vice-chancellor for culture, equality and inclusion and has set targets to halve the gender pay gap, hold a Race Equality Charter and become a Disability Confident Leader by 2025. Sussex became a University of Sanctuary in 2020 in recognition of its welcoming culture and has pledged to further develop its support for forced migrants.
Sussex’s new sustainability strategy aims to make it one of the most sustainable universities in the world. Its energy is drawn entirely from renewable sources and there are plans to boost biodiversity in its rewilding and wildflower areas. The university has risen to seventh place in the UK and 37th globally in the 2022 Times Higher Education’s World Impact rankings, which recognise universities’ achievements on delivering the United National Sustainability Development Goals (SDGs).
Sussex is 87th in our social inclusion index. With 9.6 per cent of the intake registered disabled, the university is 31st on that measure. The Sussex Bursary, which awards £1,000 in the first year to students from low-income households and £500 in subsequent years, helps about 25 to 30 per cent of the intake. A range of academic scholarships is available for those studying music, business, sport or the environment.
On-campus sports facilities can be used via memberships or on a pay-and-play basis. Two sports halls, glass-backed squash courts, a well-equipped gym, a dance and martial arts studio and outdoor pitches are among the facilities.
Sussex has about 5,055 residential spaces for students, almost all on campus – enough to guarantee a room to all first-years who apply by the deadline. It can usually also provide accommodation to late applicants, depending on availability. A few minutes away by public transport, Brighton’s nightlife, diversity and seaside stretch are hard to beat.