A-Z of Universities: Sussex

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The Independent Online
Age: 37

History: The first of the universities created in the Sixties, it was the ultimate Sixties' place, attended by the mini-skirted Jay twins, daughters of Douglas Jay, then a Labour minister.

Address: Green field site four miles from Brighton between South Downs and the sea.

Ambience: Laid-back, modern, 200 acres of rolling green land. Campus isolated but self-sufficient. Award-winning Basil Spence design of redbrick buildings, courtyards and archways is surprisingly successful. Sublime countryside nearby for ramblers or Brighton clubs for socializers. Lots of students from London. Which makes it a cosmopolitan place.

Vital statistics: Created as a mould-breaking institution, it has maintained its interdisciplinary approach. The university is organised around schools of studies which are designed to break down barriers between subjects and enable links to be made. Perhaps that's one reason why it's lacked a distinctive identity in recent years, despite a formidable research record and a Nobel prize-winner, Harry Kroto, in the chemistry dept. Once famous for student protest and chic politics, its students still maintain a greater reputation for radicalism than most institutions.

Added value: Students in all subjects can study at an overseas university as part of their degree. More than one in five spend a year of their degree outside the UK. American studies still popular.

Easy to get into? Three Bs needed at A-level for most arts subjects; three Bs to BCD for the sciences.

Glittering alumni: Thabo Mbeki, deputy president of South Africa; Ian McEwan, writer; Julia Somerville, newsreader; Robert Wilson, chairman, Rio Tinto; Alexandra Shulman, editor of Vogue; Alun Anderson, editor of New Scientist; Bob Mortimer, comedian; Gail Rebuck, chief executive, Random House; Virginia Wade, the last Briton to win Wimbledon; Peter Wilby, editor of The New Statesman.

Transport links: Local trains and buses take you to Brighton. Trains to London take 50 minutes. Gatwick airport, 30 mins by train. Or hop on the ferry to France.

Who's the boss? International economist Professor Alasdair Smith, a canny Scot who's been at Sussex since 1981, latterly as acting V-C. He must be good because he was chosen after an international search carried out by Korn/Ferry.

Teaching: Rated 24 out of 24 for sociology, 22 for French and linguistics; 21 for electrical and electronic engineering, and media studies; 20 for history of art, architecture and design; 17 for Russian, Italian and German.

Research: Twelfth, with Edinburgh, in the research assessment exercise. History of art awarded a 5*. American studies, biological sciences, chemistry, computer science, English, history, pure mathematics, French, German, media studies and Science Policy Research Unit awarded 5.

Financial health: Breaking even.

Nightlife: Plenty of bopping in the Mandela Hall, the largest student union venue on campus. Purpose-built theatre for student productions. Or take the train to Brighton for a groovier clubbing scene.

Cheap to live in? Costs around pounds 45 a week for self-catering university room; or pounds 43-48 in the private sector.

Buzzword: Floss (to flirt).

Next week: Swansea, University of Wales.

Lucy Hodges