Students Staff

28 September 2018

Essex STEM Centre – putting Essex in the lead with 21st century facilities

Filed under: Campus news, Latest news — Communications, CER @ 3:30 pm

Professor Anthony Vickers is the Head of the School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering (CSEE). Here, he talks about our new STEM Centre and the difference it will make to teaching and learning within CSEE.  

Professor Anthony Vickers, Head of the School of CSEE.

CSEE will be using the exploratory space within the STEM Centre – can you tell us more about the facilities in that space and what you’ll be using it for?

CSEE will make use of the computer laboratory floor which includes the new Exploratory Space, specifically designed for team working. The School has three core modules running in years 1, 2, and 3. These are team work modules in years 1 and 2. The ability to teach a large group (~150 students) of teams on one floor, supported by academic staff, and graduate laboratory assistants, using top class computers and AV facilities put us in a leading position regarding 21st century facilities. We are very excited by the new exploratory space and will be using this both for team work and for a break out area to enable staff to guide groups with similar blocks in their understanding. We will use the floor for the whole of Week 2 as a base for our 1st Year Challenge Week, recently presented an Excellence in Education award. Later in the year the whole computer floor and the Event Space on Square level will be used for our Final Year Project Open Day, an event designed to showcase capstone project work to companies and recruitment agents.

Is this an improvement on the facilities you had before? What difference will it make to the type of work you can do with students?

As a growing School, and one focussed on the use of computers, the added facilities in STEM gives us additional top quality machines for students to use 24 hours a day. In addition to STEM we have completely rebuilt our electronics/embedded systems/electronics laboratory in the Networks Centre Building, and created a new student centred computer laboratory across the Square from STEM. This new laboratory will also be open 24 hours and will not be timetabled for teaching, providing a true 24 hour availability for CSEE students. This laboratory will also house a new Techical Support School Office, providing 9-5 support on a range of technical matters from coding to 3D printing, to PCB design.

What sort of events will you be running in the event space? What do you hope to achieve with them?

We will use the Event Space for applicant Days and later in the year the whole computer floor and the Event Space will be used for our Final Year Project Open Day, an event designed to showcase capstone project work to companies and recruitment agents. Out of term time the event Space will be used for Conferences, such as our locally run CEEC conference, which celebrated its 10th anniversary this year in September.

Do you think a dedicated science square will help encourage more young people to study science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects?

Square 1 will become known as the Science Square as all Schools and Departments in the Faculty of Science and Health utilise the Square and create events using it. In Week 2 we will have a marquee in the square acting as a point of contact for all CSEE first year students undertaking our Challenge Week. We look forward to working with colleagues across the Faculty to develop whole Faculty Science Square events.

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Simpler system for external speakers and room bookings

Filed under: Latest news — Heather Leathley @ 3:11 pm

A new user friendly external speaker and room booking system is being launched on Thursday 4 October.  We explain how it works.

Why was a new system needed?

It should make booking rooms for non-teaching events and notifying the University about an external speaker simpler and easier as they are now two separate forms.

What is an external speaker?

An external speaker is a person (or organisation) who is not a staff or student member of the University of Essex, the University of Essex Students’ Union or the University of Essex Multi-Faith Chaplaincy, who is invited to speak at an event.

An event is any meeting or activity which is organised by a staff or student member of the University of Essex, the University of Essex Students’ Union or the University of Essex Multi-Faith Chaplaincy which does not form part of a programme of study leading to an award from Essex.  An event might take place at one of our campuses or an off-campus event in the University name.

Why are they important to Essex?

External speakers play a key role in university life, giving staff and students an opportunity to hear a broad range of views and beliefs and allowing students to develop their own informed opinions.  The external speaker notification system ensures that external speakers are aware of our expectations that they promote academic freedom, freedom of speech and equality and diversity, and remain within the law.

Who will give approval?

Since 2016 designated staff from the University and the Students’ Union have reviewed the external speaker notifications.

Is there a deadline for submitting a request to book an external speaker?

External speaker notifications should be submitted at least 15 days ahead of the event, and will normally receive the outcome of their review after five days.

You can find the forms here:

Who do I contact?

If you have any questions about the new forms, please contact:

Central Room Bookings:  rooms@essex.ac.uk

External Speaker Notifications:  externalspeaker@essex.ac.uk

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New network for university committee members

Filed under: Latest news — Heather Leathley @ 3:00 pm

Did you know we have our own Committee Management Network (CMN)? Launched in March 2018, this network is for anyone who may find themselves working on or around University committees as a part of their role, or who may wish to do so in the future.

Meetings are informal and designed to promote discussion and community, as is the CMN SharePoint site and blog, Spotlight. Former topics of discussion have included guidance for committee paper authors and sponsors, information security, gender neutral language, committee observation opportunities, and updates on various projects taking place around the University.

Future meetings will include a ‘Creating a Standard’ Workshop designed to cover various aspects of committee life like minute-taking, standardising agendas, paper organisation, and etiquette; an in-depth look at the Strategic Risk Register, an exploration of the new Project Management Framework and a study of what goes into creating two of the University’s most widely-used documents: the University Calendar and the Diary of Meetings.

To join the Committee Management Network and be added to the mailing list, or for more information, feel free to contact Karen Bowlby or another member of the Governance team at Governance@essex.ac.uk, subject: Committee Management Network. You may also sign up for the Committee Management Network events on HR Organiser.

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New entrance signs for the new year

Filed under: Latest news — Heather Leathley @ 8:30 am

New entrance signs are being installed at the Colchester Campus in time to welcome our new students on Arrivals Day, Sunday 30 September.

The signs are at the Colchester and Wivenhoe entrances and, together with surrounding landscape improvements, will help define where the Campus begins and the overall arrival experience.

The new signage at the Colchester entrance

Head of Sustainability and Grounds Rob Davey said: “We wanted to create entrances which made it clear that you are arriving at a world class University. It was also important that the signage was in keeping with our parkland setting.

“We worked closely with a landscape architect, a sign specialist, our stakeholders and our brand management team before commissioning the new signs.

“They have been designed to last for at least 25 years and to be low maintenance.  They also had to be large enough for drivers to see so they could prepare to turn onto Campus in plenty of time. “

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25 September 2018

Housekeepers share some flat-sharing tips.

Filed under: Latest news — Heather Leathley @ 9:19 am

Gemma, Tina and Angela, some of our fantastic housekeepers, reveal their top tips on successful flat-sharing.

Gemma

  1. Encourage your students to share essentials, so they don’t double up where it is unnecessary.
  2. Remember that everyone is in the same boat.
  3. Always say hello to the housekeepers!
  4. Bring cutlery and crockery for one – not enough for a dinner party!
  5. If anything in the kitchen or living room is broken or faulty report it as soon as possible.
  6. Encourage students to tidy up after themselves in the shared areas.
  7. The Residents’ Assistants are on hand to help with any issues.
  8. Out of hours the security team is available 24/7.
  9. The housekeeper’s role is to clean the shared living space, including the kitchen and bathrooms. They won’t do washing up or clean bedrooms and ensuites.
  10. Supervisors will do spot checks on bedrooms. Regular tidy ups mean things don’t mount up.

    Angela and Tina

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21 September 2018

Streamlining our printing

Filed under: Campus news — Communications, CER @ 2:56 pm

We currently have more than 1,000 printers in operation across our three campuses – and are using 22 million sheets of paper a year for in-office printing. Our printing services need to be streamlined and centrally managed so we can save paper, reduce our carbon emissions, improve efficiency and cut costs. 

Marc Albano, our Deputy Director of Finance, tells us more about the project aimed at tackling this situation – and what we can all do to help.

Can you outline the situation for us?
Most print and copy facilities across the University are either individual or small networked devices with no consistency or standardisation that are only accessible by either one person or a small number of individuals in an office. Colour printing is not available as a norm and there are limited remote/mobile printing options.

Student-facing printing is centralised, and a recent pilot at the Southend Campus has shown that a centralised model for staff and student printing can enhance and increase the functionality and availability of devices across a campus, whilst also reducing costs and allowing the University’s printing requirements and habits to be understood and better supported.

We are now working to centralise and standardise our print, copy and scan devices across our three campuses. This will include remote/mobile printing and scan to email/box/SharePoint.

How many printers are there in the university?
An audit carried out last year identified 1,025 print/copy devices, of which about 90% are small office or individual devices.

How much are we using the equipment, the paper, the toner?
The 120 Large Office Multi-Function Devices (MFD) handle over half of all printed/copied content. The cost of the remaining 90% of the print estate is largely spent on toner cartridges and replacement of old or failed machines.

We’re producing around 17.8 million mono and 4.3 million colour print/copies a year.

Why is this a problem?
Every 8,000 sheets of A4 paper equates to one tree, so just through print/copy alone we’re getting through at least 1,624 trees a year. Aside from the environmental issues, we’re also spending a lot of money on expensive toner and, because of the variety of printers we currently use, maintenance is also costly and inefficient.

What are your plans to tackle this situation?
Budgets held by departments and sections for printers and consumables will be consolidated into a single budget held by IT Services, who will work with a supplier across all campuses.
Paper will be procured centrally and toner will be replenished by an automated just-in-time process.

Diagnostic tools will proactively monitor the fleet, passing alerts to support operatives who can troubleshoot or escalate any issues using Service Level Agreements that match the University’s core needs.

The MFD devices will be reviewed on an ongoing basis to ensure we have the right devices in the right locations, so we can move, expand or reduce the fleet as required.

What is this going to mean for colleagues? Will they have to change the way they print?
To support the University’s Green Impact initiative, print jobs will default to double-sided mono, and will be held in a queue until the user releases them at the device (follow-me printing). This not only removes waste from unwanted/uncollected print jobs but is much more secure – for printing confidential material.

Print jobs can be released at any device around the campuses.

Remote/mobile printing will also be significantly enhanced, allowing students and staff to print from any device, whether they are connected to the University network or wifi.

Where do you think we can make savings?
“Follow-me” printing prevents any unwanted or uncollected print jobs from being printed and by setting the machines to a default setting so they only print double sided black and white saves toner and paper.

Moving from over 1,000 mixed devices to something closer to 200 standard models will allow us to significantly reduce future replacement costs and reduce the amount of spare toner held on site.

What can we all be doing to help?
The project team will be contacting departments and professional service sections to help with identifying the best locations for these new devices. We will also be looking for volunteers to become our new Print Champions.

The Champions group will receive comprehensive training on how to get the most out of the devices in their area. Their feedback will also help us develop and improve the way we print over the coming years.

When centralised printers are installed, any existing printers will be collected by IT Services for redeployment, spares or recycling, along with spare toners which will go into a bank of spare toners for old printers until all our new devices are in place.

This project will ensure that the University has the best quality devices running and operating in an efficient and cost effective manner but every member of staff needs to consider their own level of printing so we can reduce the volume of printing being produced – 22 million sheets of paper per year is a lot of printing.

What work is going to be done?
Following a device audit, preferred locations will be mapped against existing provision to help inform the University’s new Print Policy. Where these replace existing devices, the project team will work to plan as seamless a switch over as possible. Should any devices be planned for areas without current data/power, works will be undertaken to prepare these areas – working alongside Essex Access Forum and Fire Safety.

When and where will this happen?
A technical proof of concept is underway now in IT Services, Finance, Talent Development Centre and Strategic Planning and Change. It is anticipated that two pilots will then take place starting in October, one introducing the new devices into our new STEM building, the other introducing them into an existing area of the University.

Experiences from these pilots will help improve and refine the design of the service, and help produce a deployment plan and timetable for the rest of our three campuses. It is anticipated that the Centrally Managed Print Solution will be deployed across the University before the end of the 2018/19 financial year. We will replace all student accessible MFD devices to provide a single service for all- so this will follow the main roll out of devices for staff.

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Meet Carol Saward

Filed under: Latest news — ckeitch @ 12:21 pm

Our Head of Income and Payments, Carol Saward, talks about the varied work of the team and the recent launch of the online expenses system. 

Carol Saward

Carol Saward

How long have you been in post?

I have been at Essex since September 2017, joining from Anglia Ruskin University.

What are the main responsibilities of your role?

I manage the Income Collection and Payments teams. We are always looking at ways to improve the service we offer, aiming to provide the best possible delivery of income, credit control and payment services to Essex.

How many people are there in your team?

There are 15 specialist Income and Payments staff in the team based at both Colchester and Southend campuses.

What are the main duties of the team?

We collect all University income, including student tuition fees and rents and funds from research and other activities.

We reimburse staff expenses and suppliers, making sure they are correctly charged and processed. We also maintain the Lloyds credit card system.

We look after the annual registration of students, ensuring students are clear of debt, check sponsor validation, pay out scholarships and bursaries, and administer the invoicing and collection of tuition fees.

What big projects do your team have coming up?

We have a number of projects we are working on, but the two main ones at the moment involve online expenses, which is now live for all staff, and changing the way we collect income and how we pay people.

What are the advantages for staff submitting claims online?

Online submission gives staff the flexibility to easily and quickly submit their expenses via computer, tablet, or smartphone. There is even an Expenses App. Automated workflows mean expenses can be approved and paid back from quickly.

What expenses can be claimed online?

Online expense claims should primarily be for ad hoc travel and subsistence. Anything not on the system should be pre-arranged, i.e. all planned travel and accommodation should be booked via Essex’s designated travel provider.

How can I submit my expenses if I am off campus?

You can use the Expenses App! The app will let you collate all the details of your claim, load photos of your receipts and sync everything with our online system.

What if I need further guidance on online expenses?

Training sessions are available on HR Organiser. Details of our expenses policy can be found on our Finance SharePoint Page.

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Student Wellbeing

Filed under: Latest news — ckeitch @ 10:20 am
Angela Jones

Angela Jones

Angela Jones is our Head of Student Support. She outlined the vision for student wellbeing in her blog post in May, here she tells us about the services available for students.

Tell us about the changes to student wellbeing services – what was the catalyst for change?

Feedback via the SU Change Week identified a clear demand from our students to reduce the waiting times for our services. The changes we’ve made will allow us to be able to see students more quickly and to be able to offer counselling more quickly.

How are our counselling services being developed?

We will be extending our provision of one-to-one counselling by 30%. We will use an external provider to deliver counselling at Colchester Campus as we have previously done at Loughton and Southend. Free, face-to-face counselling will continue to be available on campus and it will be delivered by clinicians who have the appropriate qualifications and counselling accreditation. Students will also have access to a 24 hour telephone helpline. The service will continue to be managed by the University through our Student Support team and the dedicated post of Counselling Manager.

Following a tender process, Validium won the procurement. We have experience of working with Validium, who have been providing a counselling and employee assistance service to our staff for some time.

Are you also developing support services for disabled students?

We have increased the number of advisers available to provide students with guidance.

We have been delivering tutorials and mentoring on behalf of students’ funding bodies at Colchester Campus. These activities are commercial and, due to the national changes in Disabled Student Allowances (DSA), we have struggled to offer competitive prices. The funding bodies allocated a large proportion of the work to other providers last year. Students awarded this support will still be able to access it through registered providers, each of which has to have the necessary qualifications and undertake regular quality audits. We’ve made rooms available for sessions to be delivered at our Colchester Campus as they do now.

If you have questions about how to find an alternative supplier, contact askthehub@essex.ac.uk and we can provide advice. Workshops will support disabled students who are not eligible for DSA.

Where should students go if they want to discuss support?

Our service will continue to be provided in the Student Services Hub in Colchester, Loughton and Southend. Students can call in, email or phone us.

What support is there to support staff who support students?

We are organising a staff conference for student wellbeing and inclusivity in November, further details will be available shortly. The Mental Health First Aid course has received positive recommendations from attendees. This can be booked on HR Organiser.

Specialist advisers can offer advice to staff on supporting students. Contact your Student Services Hub or, use our cause for concern form.

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20 September 2018

My top tips for new Essex students

Filed under: Latest news — mh17332 @ 11:30 am

Isimeme Ughel shares her experience of Essex with new students.

It’s been six years since my graduation and I can vividly recall my first day at the University of Essex, just like yesterday. My dad and I had travelled from Lagos, Nigeria to the UK about a week before.

After a few days spent in London, we headed to where would become my new home for the next  three years – Colchester campus, a picturesque environment with an alluring ambience! Still, I remember my mixed emotions, like a pendulum, oscillated between very anxious and super excited.

For me – and perhaps true for many folks around the world – the university experience was one of the best experiences of my life. While ‘experience’ – learning along the way, if you will – as often said, is the best teacher, adequate preparations always help when embarking on a new journey. Part of my own groundwork at the time was to reach out, via Facebook and emails, to the then current students for guidance on coming to the university. And they quite graciously shared lots of information and advice, which significantly helped me settle in, especially in the nervous first weeks.

Now fast-forward half a decade post-graduation to now, it behoves me to transfer the same favour to new students at Essex who may be wondering ‘how do I cope?’ and need some hand holding in the new environment.  Here are my helpful tips!

1. Read the information booklets: Upon arrival at my room on campus, I found several brochures, pamphlets, campus route guides, and the fresher’s week activities calendar placed conspicuously by the university staff. Those were the ‘first-aid’ for freshers from around the world, many of whom were in the country for the first time. Information booklets contain guidelines, rules, what’s where, the vast educational and recreational facilities in place, and remain your first ‘tour guide’ you can’t do without when you arrive at Essex.

2. Attend Welcome Week and activities: Contrary to popular belief, Welcome Week is not all about the parties. It is a delightful on boarding programme aimed to make newcomers more comfortable, confident, and excited about getting started on campus. It is your chance to get familiar with your surroundings: what your route to lectures would be; the locations of the library, food court, shops, sports centre; how far your friend’s flat is from yours; and so on. Welcome Week is usually packed with events including talks, workshops, arts, cultural and sports. You will also receive assurances of support and guidance from the Students Union, lecturers, and indeed everyone. Welcome Week is one not to miss.

3. Join a society: This is one thing, looking back, that I wish I had done better. The importance of joining a society cannot be over-emphasised. Trust me, the University of Essex boasts amazing societies tailored to varying interests – music, theatre, football, tennis, fitness, even Harry Potter. Take advantage of the opportunities and build your network. Enlisting in a society provides a good prospect of establishing, in many instances, lifelong friendships with people of diverse cultures, like minds and interests. Years from now, you’ll be thankful you did.

4. Ask for help: I found the Colchester campus very safe with many friendly faces, always willing to help. It pays to ask questions when in doubt, and to seek help when struggling with any aspect – be it academic, social or personal. Take advantage of the lecturers’ office hours, should you require further clarification on any part of your curriculum. For most courses the timetable is designed such that, in addition to the lectures, there are weekly tutorials and support classes to reinforce your learning. During my time I frequented the Careers Centre in square 2 to ask questions. A desk phone with important/emergency numbers was also available in the rooms. Since I was there, Essex may have improved these facilities making it easier yet for you. No use waiting until the last minute if you are stressed with anything – ask for help. Information is power! As the saying goes: “A problem shared is a problem halved”.

5. First year counts: For some courses, first-year results may be insignificant in the final degree gradings. Many students tend to get completely carried away by that notion, regrettably. But university is quite unlike high school education; you are now ‘on your own’ – no one to pressure you to go to classes or hand in assignments. While first year grades may not count in theory, from my experience, how you start off could most probably have a telling impact on your study pattern throughout your university education. Caution is the word.

6. Begin as you intend to go on and finish: I relate the last point to the saying about forming habits early. By starting with a culture of attending lectures regularly and participating actively, submitting assignments on time, and preparing adequately for exams, you build a positive attitude that sticks through to the final year. Alas, during my time, I observed some students trying to get started with studies only in their penultimate year; but by the final session when it mattered most, they were only just acclimatising. Waiting for the eleventh hour to ‘get serious’ cannot be more unhelpful to the goal of graduating with good grades or making it through at all. The situation is under your control; turn it around positively. Stay focused. And ultimately do yourself – and your parents – proud.

7. Have fun: One of my older friends, who had graduated from university and was working, did jokingly advise me in my final year to “stay in uni!” I realised the full meaning of her advice only later when I’d commenced working and operating as a ‘full adult’. Indeed, after leaving university, you may not have the luxury of as much freedom, independence and relative control over your time ever again. It is therefore important to truly live in the moment, have fun, enjoy your time, socialise – especially with people outside of your nationality as the University of Essex is a multi-cultural, cosmopolitan community. And let me also transfer the same admonition to you: Stay in ‘uni’; complete your race, in flying colours – with all humility, like me.

With planning and personal resolve, I navigated my own freshman and entire time at Essex quite well; a nostalgic experience to cherish forever. And with these tips, enhanced organisation and Essex facilities on ground, and your own willpower, I believe that you too would find your time exciting and rewarding. Un accueil chaleureux (French for) ‘a warm welcome’ to the one and only University of Essex!

 

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18 September 2018

University of Essex International College arrives in Colchester

Filed under: Latest news — Heather Leathley @ 2:07 pm

The University of Essex International College (UEIC) has welcomed its first cohort of students this week.

Operated by Kaplan International Pathways, the college is based in the Constable Building, which has been extensively renovated to welcome the new students.

New look Constable building

Professor Dom Micklewright, Dean of Partnerships, said: “This represents a new and exciting development in our partnership with Kaplan, adding to the very positive relationship we have had with Kaplan Open Learning (known as University of Essex Online) since 2007 and Kaplan Singapore since 2014.”

Over the next few weeks around 110 international UEIC students will arrive on Campus and many will be living in University accommodation.

The College, led by Director Danny Martin, is delivering the following courses to Tier 4 international students on behalf of Essex, as well as a range of support and extracurricular services.

  • Faculty-aligned Level 3 Foundation Certificate course
  • Faculty-aligned Level 6 Pre-Masters courses
  • Level 4 International Year One in Business course
  • Level 4 International Year One in Economics course

UEIC students who successfully complete their course will progress to a relevant degree course, Bachelors or Masters, at Essex.

The students will have access to many of the same University services and facilities as Essex students. UEIC staff can use various Campus facilities at University staff rates.

 

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