61 - Sussex - 16

55 years of a university at Falmer

This is the temporary home of what is intended to become a database of information about student life at the University of Sussex from its foundation in 1961 to the present day.


One feature of the site will be a resource giving major events in the life of the university decade by decade and hopefully year by year. Here is a taster.

The 1960s

In the 1961/62 year there were just 52 students and the Falmer Campus was still under construction. The University of Sussex was based in two houses and a church hall

Falmer House under construction, 1962

near Preston Park station. Falmer House was completed by October 1962 and was the focal point of the University. The Meeting House opened in 1966, after a considerable controversy about what its role should be. Successful Brighton businessman Sir Sydney Caffyn donated a large sum to establish a Chaplaincy at Sussex, but the idea of a prominent Christian Chapel in the centre of campus did not fit with the forward-looking secular “idea of a new university” and Senate forced a rethink and the current name and substantially different design was agreed.

By 1968 Sussex students had gained a reputation for activism with the “red paint incident” gaining national notoriety. There were over 3000 students at Sussex, a Union with three sabbatical officer posts, and all the moats had water in as intended. By the end of the 60s the New Refectory building (Bramber house) had opened: the old Refectory in Falmer House became universally known as the Old Refectory although some catering still took place in Falmer Bar and the top-floor Snack Bar.

The 1970s

October 1970 saw The Who play at the Old Refectory. Student activism had not gone away and a UGM decided to make donations from Union funds to charity War on Want and a local campaign against Education Secretary Margaret Thatcher's threat to remove school milk. These payments were challenged in court by law student Tony Baldry (later a political aide to Thatcher as Tory leader and now a Conservative MP).

As more students, including those with families, came to live on campus there was a need for more social facilities on campus than the University was prepared to provide. So it was that the University of Sussex Tenants' Association (USTA) came into being.

In 1973 a serious accommodation shortage arose: students rejected the outdated idea of lodging in seafront guest houses, and called for a new type of campus accommodation rather than more Park Houses (the fifth, Kent House, was built to a lower standard than the earlier two pairs of houses). A student campaign led by USTA, including an occupation of Sussex House to provide sleeping accommodation, resulted in the scrapping of plans to build a twin house for Kent, and an agreement to end the guest house scheme and involve students in planning the next phase of accommodation. This, of course, resulted in the building of East Slope Residences.

University Radio Falmer started broadcasting on 945kHz medium wave in 1976, and a year or two later East Slope Bar opened, the third student-run bar after Park Village (1971) and York House (1975).