It is daunting to imagine what it will be like in the small hours of Sunday morning this weekend, sleeping rough on Brighton’s seafront. Unfortunately for a growing number of people in Brighton this is a nightly prospect.

I am fortunate that for me, sleeping rough is a choice. I, along with another University of Sussex colleague and senior figures from charities and businesses, will be taking part in the CEO Spring Sleep Out to raise funds for the Martlets, Rockinghorse, Grace Eyre and Off The Fence, four deserving causes selected by Brighton and Hove Mayor Dee Simson.

It won’t be the most comfortable night’s sleep. I’ll only have a sleeping bag and cardboard box to protect me from the elements and the pavement beneath me.

However, we will have access to hot drinks and toilets so I will be acutely aware I will be experiencing a pampered version of sleeping rough. This will be a world away from the terrible ordeal rough sleepers have to endure night after night.

I have been motivated to give up my bed for the one night to raise awareness and money for the charities that can help and support homeless people in the city.

It is also empathy with the homeless community that has compelled me to take part.

Anyone who lives in Brighton or visits regularly could not have failed to notice that the number and visibility of homeless people on the city’s streets has increased significantly in recent years.

I have lived in Brighton for about six years so I have seen how the homeless population has changed.

The scale of the problem leaves me feeling helpless when walking in parts of Brighton and seeing lots of homeless people in a small area. You can’t help everyone.

It’s very sad to see people reduced to living like this in such a wealthy country. It should never become normalised as a situation we can just accept.

That’s the main reason I wanted to give something back to the charities that are supporting homeless people.

I know I’m not the only one who feels like this. I know how important the issue of homelessness is to the students at Sussex.

The issue was brought to our governing council very recently by the Students’ Union president Frida Gustafsson who presented a report on how they had been listening to the concerns of students.

From that they had drawn up a list of priority issues that students felt strongest about and homelessness was high on that list.

Since joining the university as pro vice chancellor for education and students last year, I have been so proud of how passionately our students feel about Brighton and Hove and how motivated they are to help with important issues within our communities.

Before coming here I knew the history of Sussex and the role our students have played down the years in wanting to tackle social inequality and social injustice.

I’m really excited about the university’s plans and vision to harness that energy and passion as part of our Sussex 2025 strategy for the years ahead.

Our vision is a better university for a better world and our students have enormous potential to fulfil that aspiration on a local, national and international scale.

A better world is one where we don’t have people in poverty, people who don’t have a home, or stability or certainty in their lives.

I know this really resonates with our students who care passionately about social issues, who are interested in learning about why social inequalities exist and how they can help eradicate them.

One of the pleasures of my role is discovering the wonderful ways our students engage with communities. It ranges from sleeping rough for charity as both the female lacrosse team and Help The Homeless Society have done recently, to the Dog Walking Society who walk the dogs of local families in Stanmer Park.

We want to help foster our students’ civic ambitions and make it easier for them to act upon their desire to volunteer or do something to benefit their community.

We are looking to introduce a Sussex awards scheme so students who do volunteering activities for communities will be recognised.

The award is intended as an acknowledgement of how our students go above and beyond and give back to their communities.

I know it won’t be easy to eradicate the issue of homelessness or other issues of deep social inequality anytime soon.

But through daily contact with the students – and witnessing the amazing work being done through individuals, charities and organisations across Brighton and Hove –I’m hopeful about the future of our city, our country and our world.

Dr Kelly Coate, pro vice-chancellor for education and students at Sussex University