Students Staff

22 March 2019

Coffee with Cops comes to our Colchester Campus

Filed under: Latest news — ckeitch @ 10:23 am

PC Sam Geddes is a Police Constable in the Colchester Community Policing Team. We met him to discuss more about our new Coffee with Cops campaign at our Colchester Campus.

Can you tell us more about your role in the police?

The Community Policing Team tackle issues that affect the quality of life for all members of our Colchester community, which includes students and staff at the University. We also run high visibility and plain clothes operations designed to disrupt criminal activity.

Can you tell us more about ‘Coffee with Cops’?

‘Coffee with Cops’ is an excellent initiative that allows Police Constables and Police Community Support Officers to sit down and have a two-way, informal chat with members of the local community about any policing, safety or security concerns that they may have.

It is an opportunity for us to really understand what issues are affecting people and perhaps explore how we can help, or signpost people to other organisations that are best placed to do so. We can also provide information on how to reduce the chances of being a victim or perpetrator of crime.

What type of thing do you want to hear about from our students?

I’m interested in hearing about issues affecting you – how safe do you feel living, working and studying in Colchester? And importantly, what influences that feeling? If we understand your concerns, we might be able to help.

I’m also interested in hearing what people think of the police – and why. There is a great deal of misconception around the police which has led to a disconnect with some members of the community. This opportunity will hopefully break down some of those barriers.

I’d imagine some people, might be nervous about having coffee with a cop

I imagine it can be quite nerve wracking speaking to the police! The most important thing to remember is that, “…the police are the people, and the people are the police.” Basically, we are normal, approachable people. This time last year I was nearing the end of my degree and putting the finishing touches to my dissertation, so I can appreciate the stresses that some students and staff are currently going through, as exam season approaches

What about our staff, is there any way they can get involved?

‘Coffee with Cops’ is an open invitation to staff as well as students, as the campus is home for many people. Staff will have their own perspective which we want to hear – often, staff will have greater oversight of a particular issue, or perhaps will notice the mood changing around Campus. The police are only as effective as the intelligence we are provided, so we are always eager to obtain as much as possible from every available source.

As well as Coffee with Cops, can we expect to see more of you around campus in the future?

Students and staff will likely see a greater police presence on and around campus in the coming months. Resourcing constraints are beginning to lesson on frontline police services, meaning we can get out and about much more regularly. I hope that, in time, we will become familiar faces on campus and staff and students feel comfortable saying hello.

We’ve saved the most important questions for last. What’s your coffee of choice? Flat white, or something with lots of toppings?

A very important question! A flat white would be my first choice, although I am partial to a pumpkin spiced latte.

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21 March 2019

Restructuring our wellbeing services

Filed under: Latest news — ckeitch @ 12:45 pm
Angela Jones, Head of Student Support

Angela Jones, Head of Student Support

Angela Jones, our Head of Student Support, answers your questions and tells us more about the restructure of our wellbeing service.

Where can I talk about my mental or emotional health?
Support is available to all our students and can be accessed via theStudent Services Hub at your campus .

Colchester Campus Student Services Hub
Southend Campus Student Services Hub
Loughton Campus Student Services Hub

Why did you make changes to the wellbeing service?

Feedback from the SU Change Week identified a clear desire for more interventions, a wider range of support and counselling for more people. Feedback from students with individual needs has identified a need to make our community more inclusive. Responding to this feedback, we wanted to implement new ways of promoting wellbeing, increase the volume of counselling and the number of students we can offer advice to as well as reduce the waiting time for students to be seen.

How were staff and students engaged in the changes?

We worked closely with the Students’ Union to understand student needs and feedback. As we move forward, the SU will be a key partner in shaping service delivery.

Feedback from staff was considered in developing the new vision for student wellbeing. The Trades Unions were consulted as part of the change and key staff were informed of the proposals.

How many students can now receive counselling?

The changes were driven by a need to increase counselling by 30%. In the period October 2018 – January 2019, 218 students were referred for counselling. This compares to 261 students receiving counselling between August 2017 and July 18.

Can all students receive counselling?

The University continues to offer short term counselling. Students are prioritised based on their need and the issues they want to discuss. For some students, referral to specialist support is more appropriate.

Four sessions are available for those who are identified as benefiting from counselling. Our counselling delivery aims to support students to be able to continue with their studies. The number of sessions is in line with a number of NHS services. The Chair of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy University and College Counselling Division indicates that the sector norm for higher education is 4.4 sessions.

Students are prioritised based on their need and the issues they are presenting.

Why did you choose to use an external contractor to deliver counselling?

We chose to move to a single mode of delivery across all three campuses. Our experience of working with a counselling service at Loughton and Southend Campuses demonstrated the flexibility it is able to deliver in responding to increases in demand at certain times of the year, which means we can avoid long waiting times for students.

Whilst most sessions are delivered on campus, the external service also enables students to be seen in person when they are away from campus on placement or during the vacation periods.

Why is there a still a long wait for counselling?

Our agreement with Validium who deliver one-to-one counselling for our students is for them to see 95% of student referrals within three weeks – and they have told us that they are currently meeting this target.

We are aware that there were some issues at the end of the Autumn Term and the beginning of the Spring Term when they struggled with demand. We manage referrals and will continue to monitor the waiting times. If you or someone you know has been waiting for more than three weeks, please inform the Student Services Hub so we can liaise with Validium about this.

Why does the University now charge for counselling?

Four sessions are available free of charge.

Why do you only deliver counselling over the telephone?

Most of the students receiving counselling are seen face-to-face at one of our campuses. Students can opt for telephone counselling or counselling away from campus if they choose. The 24 hour telephone helpline is available for anyone who needs to talk.

Why did you replace counsellors with non-qualified staff?

Counselling continues to be offered by suitably qualified and experienced staff via a third party. Following the reorganisation, new job descriptions were created for the service, the majority of which required mental health qualifications. Staff taking initial appointments with students are not required to have mental health qualifications; rather to have skills and experience suitable for the role. We have used this practice for initial advice for mental health for nearly 15 years.

The counselling service operates within BACP’s Ethicial Framework for Good Practice in Counselling and Psychotherapy and all counsellors are and would continue to be BACP accredited and managed by a Clinical Lead employed by the University.

Why has the service chosen to use academic staff, peers and the V team to replace counselling?

These mechanisms are not a substitute for counselling services. Following the Wake Up to Wellbeing Survey, run by the SU, and SU Change Week, the SU recognised the importance of peers in listening to and referring their peers. These positions have been created to signpost students.

The survey also demonstrated that students often approach their personal tutor for support with their mental health. We plan to support staff to listen to students and make appropriate referrals. We do not expect academic staff to deliver specialist mental health support.

Why are students being told they can’t have counselling?

We prioritise counselling as one of the options available to students. This isn’t always the most appropriate option at the time. Other support can include support from an adviser to link with specialist services eg drugs and alcohol, providing advice and support, eg on exam arrangements, the Disabled Students’ Allowances (DSA), one-to-one strategies, support or workshops. We talk to each individual who about the range of options available to them. This has not changed.

Why did you privatise Disabled Students’ Allowances (DSA) mentoring and tuition?

Disability services haven’t been privatised. The University ceased to deliver activity through the Disabled Students’ Allowances (DSA) at Colchester, an approach which is consistent with provision at Southend and Loughton.

We were previously delivering this service on behalf of funding bodies through the Disabled Students’ Allowance. To access the support students need to apply to their funding body and go to an assessment of need. The assessor is required to recommend the two cheapest quotes in the local area. The funding body then chooses the cheapest. As a result of these changes and an increase in local and national agencies delivering this support, the University was not able to compete financially and therefore, many students were already being referred to external agencies. As a result, we chose not to continue to act as an independent supplier.

Suppliers’ quality is governed by and regularly assessed by the regulatory body (DSA-QAG). This support is available from other DSA-QAG registered providers.

Why is the University no longer willing to be accountable for student welfare?
There has been no change to accountability for student welfare. Referrals to counselling are managed by a counselling manager employed by the University .

Why are students being asked to manage their own appointments?

The service can support individual students in setting up their appointments however it needs to be the individuals’ responsibility to manage their own time. Anyone having concerns about this issue can discuss their anxiety or techniques with the team.

Your mechanisms are putting a strain on the NHS

The service was reorganised to be able to offer more appointments to students including counselling to an increased number of students. However, we recognise that we are not a substitute for services provided by the NHS.

We are developing joint working with the NHS to improve access for students. An example of this is the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) workshops that are to be run on campus for students and staff. The University is not responsible for the demand on NHS services or responsible for determining their provision to the community.

Residence Life and Nightline are ill-equipped to respond to student mental health crisis.

Residence Life services are being reviewed this year with a view to increasing the number of staff responding to incidents out-of-hours and referral for students. Residence Life permanent staff currently support student staff and there are clear lines of referral for student mental health crisis.

We think students have an important role to play in supporting their peers by offering listening and initial guidance with appropriate referral mechanisms. These are not a substitute to professional services available from the student wellbeing and inclusivity team.

Disability and MH services are harder to access
We have increased the number of appointments by 80% at Colchester. We used to ask students to contact us on the day to book a same day appointment. Students can now drop in to see one of the team when we are open and it is convenient for them. We are now taking enquiries by telephone and email rather than asking all students to present in person. In a recent survey of students using the service who had used the service last year, 67% of respondents felt the service had improved. While 33% of students were neutral, no one responding to the survey thought the service was harder to access.

Contact your student services hub if you want to speak to someone.

What about Southend and Loughton Campuses?

We’ve increased the number of mental health staff available at Loughton and Southend Campuses. This will increase the number of initial appointments as well as the range of interventions for students. DSA support and counselling was previously provided by external agencies at these campuses.

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8 March 2019

New phishing campaign

Filed under: Latest news — ckeitch @ 10:38 am

The National Cyber Security Centre have advised of an ongoing, widespread phishing attack, with a high success rate which is propagating at speed across the UK.

If you receive an email which contains a green or blue button don’t click the button. Forward the email, as an attachment, to spam@essex.ac.uk and then delete the email.

Some green and blue buttons

An example of the buttons used in the campaign.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Attack Details

  • A user is sent an email which contains a green or blue button – see samples
  • The e‐mail is usually from a legitimate and known email account
  • Often, the user will have recently exchanged emails with the account
  • The email subject line often mirrors a recent email exchange
  • The malicious email contains either a green or blue button
  • Underneath the button, there may be additional text which changes
  • The user is encouraged to click the green or blue button
  • If the user clicks this button they are redirected to a fake, but highly realistic, login page which asks for your username and password.
  • Accounts have been compromised simply by clicking the link i.e. without entering your username and password.

Countermeasure

  • Don’t click the button, or anywhere on the email
  • Forward the email, as an attachment, to spam@essex.ac.uk
  • Delete the email

If you clicked the button…

Change your password using a different computer i.e. not the one you clicked the button on.

If you need further advice contact the helpdesk@essex.ac.uk.

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7 March 2019

M25 Consortium of Academic Libraries visits the UK Data Archive

Filed under: Latest news — ckeitch @ 4:46 pm

The UK Data Archive hosted a visit from librarians and research data management experts from the M25 Consortium of Academic Libraries. They were here to find out more about the training and resources available from the UK Data Archive to support the use of the data we provide as part of the UK Data Service.

The visitors came from Anglia Ruskin University, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, University of East London and University of Roehampton.

The visit, in conjunction with the Albert Sloman Library, was very successful in informing librarians of the services available to their students and researchers. These include webinars, face-to-face training, events, data management best practice and guidance, resources and templates for use with data collection – as well as guidance on depositing data with the UK Data Archive and the importance of data citation.

Hannah Groom, Core Resources Co-ordinator at the Albert Sloman Library, said, “It was a really successful event, and helped our visitors to understand more about the Archive’s work. It gave us all a chance to share experiences and learn from each other. It’s just one of many ways we in the Library and the Archive work together across campus and more widely to encourage good practice.”

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1 March 2019

Emergency works to Oak T136

Filed under: Latest news — ckeitch @ 12:57 pm
A coronet cut

A coronet cut

We have one of the best regional collections of veteran trees on our Colchester campus. There are oaks of many species, some dating back to planting in the early 1800s. These are all part of a landscape that has become nationally recognised, receiving not only the Green Flag Award twice but also voted in the top 10 of the people’s choice awards for green spaces throughout the UK.

One of the best loved is Veteran Oak 136, located on the grassy bank in front of the Ivor Crewe Lecture Hall. Sadly we have found rot in both roots and branch limbs of this ancient tree, making it unsafe.

Richard Fordham Tree Surgeons have now pruned the tree, using natural fracture pruning and coronet cuts to encourage new microhabitats to become established on this magnificent oak.

Natural fracture techniques involve pruning methods that mimic the way that tears and fractured ends naturally occur on trunks and branches. Coronet cuts are used to mimic the jagged edges characteristically seen on broken branches following storm damage or static limb failure.

We will also be doing some repairs to the grass surrounding the oak, which will remain as an important habitat for birds and insects.

Some oaks do sprout back after many years of apparent dormancy and we will be watching carefully this spring to see if there are any green shoots of recovery.

The slope by the Ivor Crewe will be open for recreational use by early April.

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