Vote of No Confidence: University of Sussex Vice Chancellor, Michael Farthing should resign

Reasons why Farthing must go

1)   Undermining the Student Body

Over 600 students voted a motion of no confidence in the vice-chancellor and the Vice-Chancellor’s Executive Group. This means that 3.5% of the student population does not see Michael Farthing and his management to be capable of running the university. This motion has constantly be an everlasting theme during the last few years of cuts and outsourcing complaints. The current suspension of five Sussex students has done little to settle the choppy waters between the academic body and university management.

John Duffy has denoted concerns and aims of the occupation are met with “a tiny minority – many with no connection to the University.” Ideas that the occupy movement and general strikes does not reflect the concerns of the majority of students has justified the VC and his management to effectively ‘ignore’ these concerns.

However over 3,000 people actively follow the Occupy Sussex page on Facebook, and many others have signed petitions and letters against the outsourcing of services on campus. Furthermore, there were 9,372 signatories against the suspension of Farthing’s 5. A quick search on Google would show that there is general discontent towards university management by a collection of alumni, students and staff.

Lastly, the university does very little to support the Student’s Union. At one point the union was facing bankruptcy after being charged 81,000 pounds in rent for Falmer House for an academic year. Considering that they are willing to indefinitely lose 171,000 pounds from a bad investment in an Icelandic bank back in 2007, it seems as if the university is happy to see the SU go bankrupt over what they see as change money.  More so, elected officers and representatives from the student body have very little agency to comment or share their opinion in council and senate. Although the HEFCE reports show that the university has a satisfactory student participation score, this measurement does not show the extent of which students are allowed to challenge university policy through official means.  

The reason why the occupation was formed in the first place was from growing frustration at the university who would not listen to student concerns via official channels of communication. This should and would not happen at any other reputable university that is highly dependent on student fee income. In terms of communicating to the student body, Farthing and his management team have failed. At the end of the day we are paying his salary. So shut up and listen!


2)   Expansion

Over the course of 5 years, the University of Sussex is to invest 500 million pounds into its expansion programme. The recommended surplus of a university is 4-5 percent to ensure that the university will not affectively go bankrupt. Two thirds of this budget is to come from the university’s own pocket. But at an average surplus of 6 percent over the last 3 years and a projection of 3 percent in 2013/14 how is the going to fund the expansion and continue to run the university? This is considering that the university was making a loss for a few years before 2009. The obvious answer is to firstly charge more for overseas students and secondly borrow more from the bank and investors. This will put the University of Sussex in a vulnerable financial state. This is on top of the cuts and outsourcing efforts made by university management to mitigate both their costs and liability.

To put into context how unrealistic the expansion plans are, Brighton University spent an aggregate of 125 million pounds on investment into new infrastructure over the course of 10 years, whilst maintaining a healthy surplus of an average of 5 percent. This is fifth of the expenditure that Sussex is hoping to spend over double the amount of time Sussex hopes to complete the expansion.

The fact that the expansion plan to have 18,000 students at Sussex is going to break the bank, amount to more cuts in world class departments and undermine the great work and determination of the staff and students of this university. The fact that John Duffy in his Q&A session last year used expansion as reasoning for the cuts and outsourcing, the university should be justifying the need to expand in the first place. If Farthing and his management cannot give a good reason why the university has to endure this process then he should resign.

If you share the same discontent for Farthing and his management, please find the Farthing Must Go page on Facebook.