Michael Farthing

Professor Michael J. G. Farthing (born 1948) is a British physician, medical researcher and academic administrator. He was the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sussex (2007–2016), having succeeded Professor Alasdair Smith in September 2007. Prior to his appointment as Vice-Chancellor at Sussex, his academic career was in Medicine, specialising in Gastroenterology. In 2019, Farthing was elected Master of the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries.


On becoming Vice-Chancellor at Sussex, Michael Farthing has led the creation of a new strategic plan for the University, Making the future,[1] which sets out an ambitious growth agenda for Sussex, planning to grow its research income, double international student numbers and increase engagement with the business community. The plan also puts significant investment into the campus itself, with new academic buildings and residences on campus to support academic growth and to respond to student demand.[2] In July 2012 Michael Farthing demonstrated his medical expertise gained and closed the university’s Centre for Community Engagement (CCE), leading to a number of redundancies. CCE had played an important role offering lifelong learning and part-time degrees and short courses for those in employment and otherwise unable to attend university.[3]

The term Making the future draws from a phrase used by the first Vice-Chancellor, Lord Fulton, which said that higher education at Sussex was concerned with making the future.

Michael Farthing has also led a move to greater international activity by the University, personally leading the creation of partnerships with institutions in China.[4] This internationalisation has led to the appointment of a member of the executive specifically to lead this area of University work for the future.[5]

Under his leadership the University has also been restructured to create 13 schools of studies (beginning in August 2009), including the Brighton and Sussex Medical School, dramatically altering the scope for interdisciplinary communication and collaboration for which Sussex has been known. These new schools are headed by leading academics appointed from within the University and from institutions elsewhere.[6]

A regular column in the University's Bulletin used to set out his vision for the development of the University.[7] He also used to hold termly meetings with staff, podcasts of which are available.[8]

When in office, Farthing disbanded the renowned Linguistics Department — a move condemned by Noam Chomsky as "a serious blow to the intellectual life of the university"[9] — and cut funding to many others. Whilst he is credited with having improved the University's finances, his large-scale culling of academic and other staff initiated in November 2009 was unpopular, and provoked strike action by the UCU lecturers union and widespread civil disobedience by students on the campus. In addition to the wide criticism by faculty and students alike of Farthing's proposals, there have also been a number of protests and occupations taking place at the University. Farthing announced his intention to resign the post of Vice-Chancellor in September 2015 [10] and will replaced by Professor Adam Tickell [11] from September 2016.

Controversy over protestEdit

In early 2013 the level of student protest at Sussex over privatisation resulted in Farthing publicly considering the defunding or underfunding of the Student Union[12] and in December he took action to suspend five students associated with recent occupations of administration buildings and restrict them from returning to campus.[13] An early day motion calling on Professor Farthing to retract the suspensions was signed by 13 Members of Parliament.[14] The students were eventually reinstated, and the University of Sussex was forced to publish a public apology by the OIA Ombudsman and pay them compensation. One of the suspended students sued the University for defamation and a Court ruled against the University, awarding £20,000 to the student.

Career in MedicineEdit

Prior to his appointment as Vice-Chancellor of Sussex University Professor Farthing's career was in medicine, and he continues to hold a number of relevant posts. He graduated from University College, London (UCL) and the University College Hospital Medical School in 1972 and held posts in Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge, and St Bartholomew's Hospital ("Barts"), London, specialising in Gastroenterology.

In the early 1980s Farthing was a Wellcome Tropical Lecturer and held overseas posts as visiting lecturer and Assistant Professor in India, Boston and Costa Rica, before returning to Barts. [15]

In 1990 he was appointed Professor of Gastroenterology at St Bartholomew's Hospital Medical College and held this post for five years. During this period (from 1993–97) he was also a member of the Clinical Interest Group for the Wellcome Trust.

From 1995 to 1997 he was Dean of the Faculty of Clinical Medicine at Bart's and the Royal London School of Medicine and Dentistry. During this time (1995-2000) he held the post of Professor of Gastroenterology at Bart's and the Royal London School of Medicine and Dentistry and Trustee and Director at the Barts Foundation for Research from 1996-2000. During this period he also oversaw the postdoctoral work of Rebecca Fitzgerald.

In 2000 he moved to Glasgow and became Executive Dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Professor of Medicine at the University of Glasgow. Following this, he was Honorary Consultant Gastroenterologist for the St George's Healthcare NHS Trust from 2003-7.[16][17]

He concurrently held the positions of Principal, [St George's, University of London] from 2003-7, and Pro-Vice Chancellor for Medicine University of London from 2005-7.

From 2009-2011 Farthing was Chair of the Health and Social Care Policy Committee of Universities UK and continues to be a member of the Universities UK Board.

He has held numerous positions in specialist societies. These include Secretary of the British Society of Gastroenterology from 1990 to 1994; Chair of the Scientific Committee UEGF 2004-9; President of the British Society of Gastroenterology from 2007-8 [18] and President of the United European Gastroenterology from 2014-15.

Farthing has had a number of Board positions, including Non-Executive Director of the Greater Glasgow NHS Board from 2001-3 and Non-Executive Director of the South West London Strategic Health Authority from 2003-2007. He is currently a Non-Executive Director of the Brighton and Sussex University Trust and has been Chair of the Quality and Risk Committee for the Brighton and Sussex University Hospital Trust since 2013.

He has also had numerous Government and national body roles. These include Co-ordinator (Gastroenterology) for the UK/Poland Health Agreement first from 1990–92 and then 1992-94,and member for the Education Committee and Undergraduate Board of the General Medical Council, both from 2001-8. As a member of the Education Committee of the General Medical Council, Farthing played a part in curriculum planning for the new Medical School established jointly by the Universities of Hull and York,[15] opened at the same time as the similar establishment created by Sussex along with the University of Brighton. Farthing served as chair of the Committee on Publication Ethics (Cope).[19]

He has served on the editorial board of numerous international and national publications, and in 1996-2002 was the editor of 'Gut' periodical, as well as being a member of several Research Councils, including the Medical Research Council Systems Board Grant Committee from 1988-1992.

In the course of his academic and medical career he has won a number of awards. They include the British Society of Gastroenterology Research Medal (1987); the International Cannes Water and Medicine Prize (2000); the Gideon de Laune Medal from the Society of Apothecaries and the Henry L Bockus Gold Medal from the World Gastroenterology Organisation.

Farthing is currently Vice-Chair for the UK Panel for Research Integrity in Health and Biomedical Sciences; has been Honorary Consultant in Gastroenterology to the British Army since 1991; and is a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences.


  1. ^ "Our strategy : About us : University of Sussex". Sussex.ac.uk. Retrieved 21 April 2014.
  2. ^ "Bulletin - 11 July 2008". Sussex.ac.uk. 11 July 2008. Retrieved 21 April 2014.
  3. ^ Grove, Jack (25 January 2012). "Sussex to close community engagement programmes | General". Times Higher Education. Retrieved 21 April 2014.
  4. ^ "Bulletin - 6 November 2009". Sussex.ac.uk. 6 November 2009. Retrieved 21 April 2014.
  5. ^ "Bulletin - 11 September 2009". Sussex.ac.uk. 11 September 2009. Retrieved 21 April 2014.
  6. ^ "Bulletin - 31 July 2009". Sussex.ac.uk. 31 July 2009. Retrieved 21 April 2014.
  7. ^ "Opinion and comment : Resources : Vice Chancellor's Office : University of Sussex". Sussex.ac.uk. Retrieved 21 April 2014.
  8. ^ "Open forum for staff : Resources : Vice-Chancellor's Office : University of Sussex". Sussex.ac.uk. Retrieved 21 April 2014.
  9. ^ "University of Sussex - Chomsky joins fight for linguistics". Times Higher Education. 2 April 2009. Retrieved 16 December 2009.
  10. ^ "Sussex vice-chancellor Michael Farthing to step down". 22 September 2015. Retrieved 14 August 2016.
  11. ^ Sussex, University of. "University of Sussex appoints Adam Tickell as Vice-Chancellor". Retrieved 14 August 2016.
  12. ^ "Funding warning to protesting University of Sussex (From The Argus)". Theargus.co.uk. 19 February 2013. Retrieved 21 April 2014.
  13. ^ Abby Young-Powell. "Five students at Sussex Uni banned from campus for 'peaceful protest' | Education". theguardian.com. Retrieved 21 April 2014.
  14. ^ "Early day motion 852 - SUSSEX UNIVERSITY STUDENTS - UK Parliament". Parliament.uk. Retrieved 16 July 2014.
  15. ^ a b "Prof Michael Farthing". University of Sussex. Archived from the original on 3 May 2009. Retrieved 10 October 2009.
  16. ^ "Biography of Professor Farthing". University of Sussex. Archived from the original on 3 August 2007. Retrieved 10 October 2009.
  17. ^ "Sussex appoints new VC". The Guardian. 1 May 2007. Retrieved 3 July 2008.
  18. ^ "BSG Council 2007-2008". British Society of Gastroenterology. Archived from the original on 30 March 2009. Retrieved 10 October 2009.
  19. ^ Crace, John (11 February 2003). "Peer trouble. How failsafe is our current system at ensuring the quality and integrity of research?". The Guardian. Retrieved 3 July 2008.