Students Staff

28 July 2017

Discount ticket offer to see GB’s top basketball stars

Filed under: Latest news, Sport, What's on — Tags: , — Communications Office @ 10:09 am
GB Basketball in action

Photo credit: Mansoor Ahmed/Ahmedphotos

The University is partnering up with British Basketball for the GB vs Greece Senior Men’s International game next month at the Copper Box Arena in London.

And as an official partner for the game on Saturday 19 August, staff and students at the University can enjoy a third off the price of the tickets.

The University is also extending its relationship with British Basketball as a training venue for its Under 20 Men’s team.

British Basketball Chief Executive, Lisa Wainwright, said: “The University of Essex has always provided us with outstanding facilities and services whenever we host camps or events there. We’re looking forward to working with them on the game.”

The University’s Director of Sport Dave Parry added: “The University of Essex is proud to be a commercial partner of British Basketball for the match against Greece. We are committed to supporting the game of basketball from grass roots to elite performance, through our community projects and junior teams, up to our basketball scholarship programme.

“We are delighted that we are again hosting Great Britain teams for training camps at our facilities, and hope to continue to do so in future, particularly when our new £11m three-court facility opens later this year.”

• Check the British Basketball website for further details of tickets with the discount code.

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Loughton library opens

Filed under: Latest news — Heather Leathley @ 9:21 am
An image of our new Library

Our new Library at East 15

The new library and IT hub at Loughton has opened on the first floor of our new building at the Hatfield House campus.

The purpose-built room improves the capacity of the library by a third and also provides IT facilities for the students. The opening hours are being extended from 8.30am to 11.00pm  every weekday and it will also be open from 10.00am to 5.00pm every Saturday.

Tucked away on the first floor there is also space for a snug, where students can relax or practise read-throughs for their next performances. Take a look at our photos on Flickr.




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26 July 2017

Welcome 2017 – your role in helping new students feel they belong

Filed under: Latest news, People pages, Student experience — Communications, CER @ 3:40 pm

Did you know that students who feel a stronger sense of belonging are more likely to complete their degree, and demonstrate higher achievement in their studies? During Welcome 2017, we can all play a part in helping students feel that they belong. 

We spoke to Dr Gillian Sandstrom and Head of Residence Life, Victoria Frost, about how even saying “hello” to someone new can make a big difference to their experience settling in at Essex.

Dr Gillian Sandstrom

Dr Gillian Sandstrom

  • Tell us about your study Social Interaction and Well-Being: The Surprising Power of Weak Ties.

When I first arrived on campus there was quite a distance between the research lab and my supervisor’s office, and that walk took me past a hot dog stand. Somehow I developed a “relationship” with the lady who worked there; I would smile at her and say “hi” whenever I walked past. I realized that this always made me feel a bit better, like I belonged on campus. I ended up studying this phenomenon for my PhD.

I found that people who had, on average, more daily interactions with weak ties (i.e acquaintances) than other people were, on average, a little bit happier. Also, on days when people had more interactions with weak ties than they usually did, they tended to be a bit happier than they usually were.

I’ve been at Essex for two years now, and almost every time I walk across campus now, I see someone I know. It makes me feel at home here.

  • What can staff do to build these weak ties with students?

Just say “hi!” I ran a study involving my students. For one group, I stood at the door and greeted students as they arrived. Another group wrote their names on name boards, which were displayed on their desks. The third was a control group, which received no greeting and no name boards. Students in both of the experimental groups reported higher interest/enjoyment than students in the control group. This is something simple, that any instructor can do. Just make sure it’s genuine; if the students think your heart isn’t in it, it probably won’t be effective.

It’s not just academic staff that can build these connections with students. I stood on the pavement outside Starbucks, and bribed people to help with my research, by giving them Starbucks cards, which they had to use right away to buy a coffee. I asked some people to have their money ready and avoid unnecessary conversation.  I asked other people to have a genuine social interaction: smile, make contact, and have a brief conversation. When surveyed I found that people who had a minimal social interaction were in a better mood, enjoyed their experience more, and felt more connected to other people. This means everyone can make a difference, whether you’re in food services, cleaning services, security, or anything else.

  • What are the benefits to weak ties – apart from wellbeing?

Besides making both parties feel good, weak ties can provide a sense of belonging. One of my undergraduate students ran a survey assessing students’ campus involvement, use of support services, and social relationships, and how these were related to interest/enjoyment and belonging. Students who reported that more staff greeted them on campus also reported greater interest/enjoyment and a greater sense of belonging. This is crucial, because research shows that students who feel a stronger sense of belonging are more likely to complete their degree, and demonstrate higher achievement in their studies.


Victoria Frost is head of Residence Life and Student Development as part of our Student Support service.  She plays a vital role in the smooth running of our Arrivals and Welcome programmes and believes that we all have a part to play in creating the right welcoming atmosphere for new students.

Victoria Frost

Victoria Frost

Tell us about the “belonging” theme being applied to Arrivals and Welcome this year – what are we trying to achieve?

There’s a student development theory by Nancy Schlossberg called Mattering and Marginality. If a student feels like they matter to someone at the university, they get more involved in their university experience and develop and learn more. Feeling marginalised can be defined as a sense of not fitting in and can lead to self-consciousness, irritability, and depression. People are more likely to feel marginalised during transition periods, like starting university. It’s so important that students feel like they belong at the University of Essex.

  • How can the principles of “weak ties” be applied to Arrivals Day and Welcome?

We would love it if staff helped students find their way around, showed them the Find Your Way app, engaged them in conversation or introduced them to other students. If you see someone who looks lost, scared, or uncomfortable, go up and ask if you can help. Think about what you can do to help students get to know each other, in departmental events, in lectures, while they’re waiting in a queue. Even just smiling and saying hello can make a difference.

  • What about those who aren’t in student-facing roles? Can they play a part?

Absolutely! Everyone is involved in making students feel like they matter. Most staff will encounter students at some point in their day. You’re likely to pass someone walking to your office, or back home again. It might be during lunch, or walking to a meeting or someone else’s office. Wherever you see a student, there’s an opportunity to use a weak tie, to make them feel like they matter.

  • If I see someone looking lost or alone – should I approach them? Even though that isn’t my job?

Please do. Colchester Campus can be really confusing to navigate for new people (actually, sometimes even for those of us who have been here for years!). It can make a big difference to just offer some help. Whatever you’re able to do.  Helping a student to build confidence and develop competence can help them feel like they belong here.

  • If I don’t know how to direct someone – who should I refer them to?

If it’s about trying to find a location and you don’t know it, walk the student to the Information Centre if you can. For a lot of student service queries, refer the student to the Student Information Desk on the first floor of the Silberrad Student Centre. They’re a really knowledgeable team and can answer a lot of questions or make a further referral if appropriate.

  • Does the “weak ties” theory apply just to Arrivals and Welcome? Or does it apply all year round?

It’s definitely applicable, throughout the year and actually throughout the student’s entire time at the University of Essex. It’s applicable for undergraduate and postgraduate students too. It is particularly important at the beginning of each year; there’s evidence that the first six weeks are the most important time period for making sure a student feels that sense of belonging.

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19 July 2017

Meet the Administrative Data Service Research Support Team

Filed under: Latest news — ckeitch @ 5:07 pm
An image of the Administrative Data Service Research Support Team.

The Administrative Data Service Research Support Team.

What is the Administrative Data Service?

We co-ordinate a UK-wide organisation, the Administrative Data Research Network, which makes it possible for social and economic researchers to use government data to carry out research that has a public benefit.

How many of you are there in the team?

There are six of us: John Sanderson, Research Support Manager, Mika Fowles, Danielle Gomes and Sabrina Iavarone, Senior Research Support Officers, Rowan Lawrance, Research Support and Communications Officer, and Linda Winsor, Research Support Assistant.

What does the team do?

Mika: We support social science researchers who want to use the administrative data government departments hold.

Danielle: We make sure their projects have the potential to improve people’s lives in the UK, advise them on what type of data they can access and how, and negotiate data access for them with government departments.

Rowan: We also make sure they have the information they need to understand the application process and how we can help.

So, what is ‘administrative data’?

ADRN_logoRowan: These are collections of information about people, businesses and other organisations that government departments or agencies collect when they’re delivering day-to-day services. They can include tax records, school records, and health information, for example.

Sabrina: Unfortunately, there’s never been a clear route to access administrative data in the UK before, and the Network was set up to change that.

Linda: There can be sensitive information about people in the data, so we have very strict security standards to make sure we’re respecting people’s privacy. All the information that can directly identify anyone – like names, addresses, date of birth, National Insurance number and so on – is removed.

Can you give us an example of some of the Network’s research?

John: There’s a project at the Administrative Data Research Centre in Wales* looking at a Welsh government programme to support vulnerable people so they can live independently. The preliminary research showed that people using the programme were getting the help they needed. The Welsh government were really pleased with the results, so they’re going ahead with a full study now to find out more. There are loads of examples on our website.

What project are you most proud of?

John: Setting up the Network has been a massive project in itself. We’ve been going since 2014, and we’ve got the point now where our colleagues from across the UK often pick up the phone to us as the first port of call for information or advice, which is a great reflection of the good work we’ve done.

Danielle: Getting permission to access administrative data is not easy, so when we succeed it’s very rewarding, because every project has the potential to improve somebody’s life.

Is there anything funny or unusual about your team?

Rowan: Well, we’re all passionate about data, which is pretty odd.

An image of a toy duck.

Ducky, the stress-relief duck.

Mika: We have a stress-relief duck. When one of us gets stressed, someone presses the button on his back and he quacks and sings.

John: The organisation’s quite new, so not many people have left, but when someone does, the team writes a special song for them and performs it at their leaving do, often with a dance routine.

Linda: There are videos, but you can’t see them. Like I said, we’re very strict about protecting privacy.


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The Project Managers’ Network

Filed under: Latest news — ckeitch @ 4:11 pm

The Project Managers’ Network is open to everyone involved in projects, whatever their size, and provides an opportunity to meet and share experiences of managing projects here at the University. The July session will focus on:

How to identify risks

This will be an interactive session that helps you identify risks in your project. We will talk through the most common themes that come up when writing a risk register and how to mitigate them successfully. This session will help build confidence around writing risks.

Continuous Improvement tools

This session will focus on continuous improvement tools and exploring how you can use these tools to strengthen project planning and scoping. We will talk through the following and more:

  •  Visual display boards
  • Skills Matrix

How to book

The next Project Manager’s Network will take place on Thursday 27 July, from 2pm to 3:m in the Ivor Crew Lecture Hall seminar room. Make sure you book your place.

Further information

The Strategic Projects Office is here to support you. Please contact us if you have any questions, or suggestions for future networking sessions.

For more information please visit the projects webpage which has lots more information available to you.

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12 July 2017

Grants for graduate internships within the University

Filed under: Latest news — ckeitch @ 5:00 pm

Not enough hours in the day or money in the budget to complete an important project?

Following the success of last year’s project that helped over 100 under or un-employed graduates move into paid graduate level internships both within the University and with external employers, Essex Interns is once again extending its offer to support a limited number of part-funded graduate level internships based within University of Essex Departments.

This is an excellent opportunity to take on a skilled graduate from a 2017 Bachelor level degree for a three month, full-time internship for a project or piece of work that might have been put on hold or would not otherwise be completed due to budget or time restrictions. In return, regardless of whether the employment is extended, the internship will significantly enhance the employment prospects of that graduate.

It is crucial that our 2017 graduates who have not yet found graduate-level employment, gain relevant up-to-date workplace experience on their CVs in order for them to compete in a challenging jobs market, and ahead of the new 2018 graduates reaching the marketplace.

Benefits for you:

  • Cost efficient resource – you will receive a £2,500 subsidy towards a 3 month, full-time internship, providing you with a cost effective resource to deliver a piece of work.
  • Getting the job done – this could be the impetus you need to kick start a project that might have been put on hold or would not otherwise be completed due to budget or time restrictions.
  • Injection of new skills – graduate minds can introduce innovation, new skills and knowledge into the workforce and enhance organisational success and performance.
  • Fresh perspectives – as previous clients our graduates bring fresh insights to our service delivery and different perspectives to problems.
  • Grow your team – an internship can serve as a trial period for potential recruitment to a permanent post and a new motivated member can invigorate your team.
  • Recruitment support – we provide a free vacancy handling service to promote your opportunity to our skilled graduates and collate your applications for you.

Headline Eligibility and Application Criteria

  • This funding is open to any department that can offer a three month, full-time, graduate level* internship opportunity for a 2017 bachelor level graduate who is graduating in July.
  • The graduate will be employed by your department and must commence their contract with you between 1st November 2017 and 4 January 2018.**
  • Interns should be paid to Grade 4 Spt. 11 or above however we would encourage you to offer a pay rate suitable for the calibre of candidate and the level of work undertaken.
  • Interns must continue to be paid should their contract be extended beyond the initial internship period, however any further employment will not be funded by Essex Interns.
  • Essex Interns reserve the right to approve or not approve all opportunities submitted for funding.

Support for you

Essex Interns will assist you in advertising and promoting the role to our graduates. We will collate the applications for you, but the final decision on appointment is made by you. You are under no obligation to appoint someone should the applicants prove unsuitable, however we would encourage you to look for the potential in an applicant, and bear in mind that some may be fairly inexperienced in the recruitment process. We will make every effort to promote your position but we cannot guarantee applicants for your role, any funding for unfilled opportunities may be re-allocated.

Important Information

Funding is very limited and will be allocated on a first come first served basis, subject to receipt of full internship details on the attached form and approval of your opportunity. Essex Interns reserve the right not to accept, or to withdraw any notified vacancy and/or funding at their discretion without publishing a reason. (Decisions will be based upon national best practice guidelines and internal scheme criteria). Internship offers may be declined if the vacancy does not offer the developmental and supervision requirements of an internship or if we do not have candidates looking for internships in this discipline.


Please find below a breakdown of the Essex Interns funding and salary costs at current Grade 4 Spinal Point 11. (Please note this table does not include salary rise from August 2017 or on costs).

Base Salary Rate 01/08/2016 Annual Monthly Hourly 3 months
Grade 4 Spt11 £18,412.00*** £1,534.33*** £9.81*** £4,603***
Funding To be transferred by Essex Interns on completion of internship £2,500
Remaining Estimated cost to department (not including on-costs) £2103***

You will need to confirm that you have received the appropriate funding approval for payment of the intern’s salary. Essex Interns funding will be deposited by internal transfer on confirmation of completion of the internship. (Should the internship finish early due to unforeseen circumstances you must contact Essex Interns immediately and the funding will be pro-rata’d).

What to do next

To apply please see our ‘Important Information for Hiring Managers’ document before completing  the vacancy registration form and emailing  your application to  by Friday 1 September 2017.

Interested but unsure?

Contact us on extension 3729 and we will be happy to talk it through with you.

*Graduate level is governed by a national database of job roles – the team will be able to check and advise on this aspect

** If you able to fund a longer internship, you may be able to start the internship before November however the role must end no earlier than the end of January 2018. Essex Interns grant will however remain at £2500.

*** Rates as at 1.8.16. Rates from 2017 will apply when announced by the University of Essex

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Meet the Postal Services team

Filed under: Latest news — ckeitch @ 2:17 pm

Our Postal Services team, based at our Colchester Campus, are responsible for everything that arrives and leaves via the post. We spoke to Postal Services Manager, Bev Purslow, to find out more about the team and their work.

What are the main responsibilities of your role?

An image of Bev Purslow

Bev Purslow, Postal Services Manager

I manage a team of five people in the execution of all things postal related. That covers the arrival of our mail through Royal Mail in the morning and other items which arrive via couriers through-out the day. We hold the postal budget for Colchester, Loughton and Southend and we work closely with departments on how best to send out mail to reduce postage costs.

Who are the different members of your team

An image of our Postal Services team

Our Postal Services team

There are two Postal Assistants, Karen and Lorraine. They sort the mail and contact students to come and collect things that need to be signed for or that are too large to send up to their accommodation. They also take in courier items for students and departments serve at the student counter and sort and re-address returned mail from student accommodation. Lorraine also does the franking of items which are being sent out by departments as well processing mail for overseas which is sent off to Mailability to ship out.

Carole (Vinnie) James and Neil are the Post Room Porters. Vinnie and James cover the two inner post runs, they are the ones seen pushing loaded trollies around. They also help serve at the student counter, and help out with anything else that needs doing once their delivery runs are completed.Neil is the man in the van and covers the outer post run, delivering post and any parcels from Central Stores to departments and accommodation, including University Quays and The Meadows.

I’ve got to ask. Why is Carole called Vinnie?
She’s called Vinnie from her time in the Army. There were two Caroles and her surname is Vincent, so she picked up the nickname Vinnie.

An image of a pink flamingo

The Post Room mascot, James.

Tell is something funny or unusual about yourselves
We have a Post Room mascot, which is a pink flamingo that plays a really stupid tune when you press its wing. Why? Because it makes you smile.

What big projects do you have coming up?
At the moment, we’re re-organising our post runs to cope with the expansion of the University, including our new buildings and increased student numbers. It will mean we can be much more efficient, and keep on delivering everyone’s mail with the same number of staff.

What project are you most proud of?
Our computerised e-mailing scanning system that replaced the paper sheets we used to write out for students to collect their parcels. They now receive an automatic e-mail when they have some post to collect. When they arrive at the post room we just scan their registration cards and we know how many items they are picking up. The system also provides us with really good security, because they are not allowed to collect any mail without their registration cards.

How did you get into this sort of role?
My working background has mostly been office/administrative related. For example, I worked as a secretary to the Chief Inspector at the Colchester Lathe Company, and as an Office Controller co-ordinating the cab drivers bookings. I started off at the University in 2004 as a cleaner and worked my way up to portering. Then, for a few months, I was an Internal Courier, delivering student mail and items to Loughton and Southend. Whilst I was doing this job, I applied for the position of Postal Assistant, and I rose through the ranks to become a Postal Supervisor and then Postal Services Manager.

What’s your one top tip for working at the University?
Working as part of a good team makes all the difference.


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11 July 2017

Southend sambas to East 15

Filed under: Campus news — Heather Leathley @ 3:10 pm

Pandemonium 2017 act 1 jpegHundreds of people took time out of their weekend in sunny Southend to watch and enjoy the Community Theatre Students from East 15 Acting School  perform  their annual Pandemonium show of street theatre, clowning and puppetry.

Student Adam Jefferys said: “The whole event was a huge success, we absolutely loved performing for the people of Southend and we hope they enjoyed it too, especially the Samba precession, with over 200 people marching and dancing up the high street, ending a beautiful weekend on a high note.

Watching people smile and laugh is the reason why we love to perform.”


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New chapter for Loughton library provision

Filed under: Latest news — Heather Leathley @ 2:55 pm


The new library space at our Loughton Campus.

The new library space at our Loughton Campus.

The Loughton Campus library will open in its new home on Wednesday 26 July.

The Library and IT Centre, on the first floor of the new building at the Hatfield House campus, will be a modern, stylish, spacious study area accessible over longer hours.

The purpose-built room improves the capacity of the library by a third and also provides IT facilities for the students. The opening hours are being extended to 8.30 am until 11.00 pm every weekday and it will also be open from 10.00 am until 5.00 pm every Saturday.

Tucked away on the first floor there is also space for a snug, where students can relax or practise read-throughs for their next performances.

The current library in Hatfields will close from Wednesday 19 July to allow staff to move the book collection and PCs into the new space. The current Hatfields PC Lab on the ground floor will remain open for the time being so that students can use the PCs and print facilities.


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7 July 2017

Environmental champions honoured at awards ceremony

Filed under: Latest news — Communications, CER @ 3:36 pm

University staff  were celebrated for their sustainability and eco-friendly ethics at the annual Green Impact Awards.

Winners of the Green Impact Awards 2017

Winners of the Green Impact Awards 2017

The ceremony, which took place on Thursday rewards teams who made huge contributions to reducing the University’s carbon footprint in an incentive to reduce carbon emissions by 43% by 2020.

Professor Jules Pretty, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, and Professor of Environment and Society, presented the awards and explained the importance of environmental issues and how natural spaces can positively impact us.

Winners were presented with gold, silver and bronze plaques, certificates and prizes; and a selection of ‘Green Impact Environmental Heroes’ nominees were awarded with certificates and jars of local honey.

Around 75 members of staff joined in the celebrations which took place at the Hex on Colchester Campus. Here is the breakdown of this year’s results:

  • 35 active teams who submitted workbooks, up from 33 in 2015-16.
  • Nine of this year’s teams were new to Green Impact.
  • 1,145 actions completed
  • 136 active participants using the online workbooks
  • 23 students signed up to take part as Green Impact Project Assistants
  • 8 students received IEMA accredited training which equipped them with skills to then complete team audits in May

Sustainability Projects Assistant Daisy Malt said: “We are delighted to celebrate the achievements of the teams who took part – we’ve a record 37 awards to give out this year, ranging from Working Towards Bronze, all the way up to Gold Projects.

We have already begun developing next year’s programme; aiming to further integrate with other University programmes and strategies, increase student involvement and continue to raise the profile of sustainability on campus.”

Gold Projects

This year the Gold Project level was introduced to the programme, to allow teams who had previously completed Gold to design and implement their own project.

The Faculty of Social Sciences Offices Team, led by Karla Folkard, worked with the Outreach team (and using students from LiFTS) to create a recycling education session to be delivered in local primary schools.  The pilot took place in March, and the programme has now taken place at other schools.  The story was featured on the Essex Daily Blog –

The Humanities Faculty Office Team, led by Julie Storey, developed the Humanities Green Hub – working with Humanities departments to share their experience and expertise to support them as they took part in Green Impact.  Their target was to get all of their teams to at least Bronze standard this year – and in fact three achieved Silver – by giving advice and organising events such as a photo competition, gathering ‘Green Pledges’ and holding a bake off.

Special Awards

Green Impact participants were invited to nominate their colleagues for special awards – those they felt deserved to be recognised for exceptional efforts during the programme.  A total of 10 awards were presented, to both staff and students who had taken part.  Winners are listed below.

Community Initiative Antony Churchill – Green Thumb Society/Campus Garden (student)
Environmental Hero Karla Folkard – Faculty of Social Sciences Offices
Julie Arvidson – Biological Sciences
Ernie Simpson – Faculty of Science and Health
Carrie Elmer – Lang & Ling (now Estates)
Lauren Hollas – HHS Southend
Monika Steinke – Psychology
Chloe Chong – Finance
Patrick Yates – SPAH (student)
Louise Ratnage – Event Essex

The table below lists the departments that took part in the programme and the awards received.

Award level Team 2015-16 result
Working Towards Bronze Employability and Careers Bronze
Marketing and Student Recruitment New
Bronze Accommodation Operational Office Bronze
Accommodation South Courts A3 (Office/Cleaning & Portering) New
Biological Sciences Working Towards Bronze
Campus Services Bronze
Essex Business School Bronze
Economics New
Essex Pathways New
Law New
Mathematics Bronze
Organisational Development New
Print Essex Bronze
Southend SU New
Sports Centre Bronze
UKDA Bronze
University Square (Office/Cleaning & Portering) New
Silver CER Central Team Bronze
Essex Food (Catering) Bronze
Event Essex Bronze
Faculty of Science and Health Bronze
Health & Human Sciences Southend Bronze
History Bronze
LiFTS Bronze
Psychology Bronze
Southend Campus Bronze
Vice-Chancellor’s Office Bronze
Gold Estate Management Section Silver
Faculty of Social Sciences Offices Gold
Finance Silver
Humanities Faculty Office Gold
Language & Linguistics Working Towards Bronze
Strategic Planning & Change Section Gold
Gold Project Faculty of Social Sciences Offices New
Humanities Faculty Office New

Please click here to view photos from the event on Flickr.

Find out more about our sustainability engagement group and the University’s environmental and sustainability policy online.

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