Happy birthday, University of Sussex

Fred Gray (a speaker on the 29th November forum) has edited a new book, ‘Making the future. A history of the University of Sussex’. This beautifully-illustrated account of the first fifty years of the university (1961-2011) consists of chapters by almost 70 different authors. Here are the voices, and the varied and well-presented images, of former and current staff and students. Their narratives are framed by Fred Gray’s introductions his overview and his account of continuing education (the field in which he became a professor).  

The theme of the liberalism of the sixties and seventies runs through the book as does the engagement with the distinctive and original curriculum. There are some parallels to be made with the OU, the influence of Asa Briggs on both places being one of them and the ‘early leavers’ scheme is another. One might also compare it to the University of Twente (founded 1961 as the first campus university in the Netherlands it insisted that engineers study social sciences) and it also influenced Kent, Lancaster, UEA, Stirling, Essex, York and Warwick.  

The Written Archives of the BBC  includes a paper (WAC R103/216/1) written in the mid 1960s about ‘curriculum planningg in England’s new universities’. It was filed with material about the OU, rather suggesting that the BBC made a connection. The author refers to Sussex as ‘the model for all the new universities’ and goes on:  

the impression I get is of it trying to bend over backwards to accommodate the idea of a general education without altering the degree structure in any radical way. This results in such oddities as being able to major in physics in the school of social studies at Sussex.   

 Fred Gray’s assessment of Sussex helps us understand the history of the OU and the post-war expansion of higher education.  

One Response to “Happy birthday, University of Sussex”

  1. Jorrit de Boer Says:

    Sussex is actually mentioned – around 1986 – in the Twente archives as a kind of ‘brother’-university of and an example for Twente

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