by Megan Friddle (Emory University)
The University of Sussex, established in 1961, is known for its progressive campus atmosphere and its enviable location about an hour outside of London, tucked between the South Downs National Park and the seaside city of Brighton.
Many UK universities highlight the interdisciplinarity of their taught and research postgraduate courses. Sussex is definitely among this group, with particularly strong evidence to support their claim. This includes top-ranked programs in International Development Studies and American Studies, a thriving neuroscience research agenda, and the university’s role as a founding member of CHASE–the Consortium for the Humanities and Arts South-East England–a doctoral training partnership providing support and funding for PhD students. In addition, Sussex also offers a unique opportunity for students and faculty interested in working at the intersection of STEM, policy, and business through the work of the Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU). Founded in 1966, SPRU offers taught master’s courses and PhD study in areas related to sustainability, technology and energy policy, and innovation management.
Our day-long visit to Sussex included a campus tour, which highlighted the unique–and “listed” (protected)–mid-century brick and concrete architecture. This style is certainly not to everyone’s taste, but I found it cohesive and welcoming. (Hogwarts-esque it is not.)
Of particular note is the Meeting House (Basil Spence, 1966), a circular multi- and inter-faith space with a sanctuary enclosed by a deconstructed stained glass grid of glowing jewel-toned panels of rectangular glass. Sussex also has a recently renovated performing arts building, named for former Chancellor Richard Attenborough and re-opened in 2015, with a flexible auditorium area and several additional spaces for film screenings, art installations, classes, and socializing. The interior design offers a nod to the history of the building and the period of the university’s genesis.
The afternoon portion of the program offered presentations from some of Sussex’s strongest academic courses and institutes, all of which emphasized the university’s commitment to collaboration and exchange. This is reflected in the student body as well, with about one-third of Sussex’s 15,000 students coming from outside the UK. Unlike many UK institutions, Sussex is on a semester system, making it easier for US students and faculty to participate in semester-long exchange programs, and vice versa.
The NAFA program at Sussex concluded with an evening tour of nearby Brighton. Our guide, Sussex lecturer Dr. Geoffrey Mead, emphasized the contrasts at the heart of the city: summer and winter, wealth and poverty, a city of students and a city of tourists, and the geographic and architectural clues left by an old city constantly in the process of reinventing itself.
More photos (by Elizabeth Colucci) of the evening Brighton tour: