Students Staff

28 June 2019

Reaching out to young people this summer

Filed under: Campus news, Latest news, People pages, Student experience, What's on — Communications, CER @ 1:51 pm

Two summer schools will invite young people to our campus this summer to learn about and experience university life.

Over the next two weeks, the Outreach team will be welcoming around 150 students onto our Colchester Campus for a university residential experience that they will never forget.

Our summer schools are designed for students who come from backgrounds that are underrepresented in higher education and are the perfect opportunity for them to discover more about university. They raise aspirations, knowledge and attainment through an innovative set of activities.

Two summer schools will give students the opportunity to immerse themselves into university life, both academically through taster sessions and socially as they will be staying in our University accommodation.

Our year 10 summer school, funded through Make Happen – the Essex partnership for the National Collaborative Outreach Program-  will see students taking part in a one-night residential, working with University of Essex academics to produce an academic poster arguing passionately for or against one of the following topics:

Year 12 visitors will experience the five-day programme filled with lectures, seminars, and independent research time to prepare them for university applications and degree-level academic writing. As part of the application process, students were invited to write a  500-word application on one of the following strands:

  • Mental Health Uncut: Critically consider the role of social media in the development of mental health problems.
  • Detention in the USA: Trump has detained many asylum seeking families, do you think this affects people’s Human Rights?
  • Global Meltdown: Young people in the UK are not affected by worldwide environmental concerns. Discuss.
  • Biological Sciences: A life for a life: Is the use of embryonic stem cells in medical research justified? Argue passionately for and against.
  • Business Studies: Write about somebody in business you admire: Tell us why you think they make a good business person. Think about their professional image, behaviour and reputation.
  • Literature, Film and Theatre Studies: Delve into the fascinating world of relationships by immersing yourself in one of our key texts. Critically analyse how relationships are depicted in your text by writing an essay. Or, you may feel inspired to write a poem, song, rap, short story, piece of drama, epilogue or prologue.

Both year groups will be living in our on campus accommodation, using the academic and social facilities and experiencing life as a University of Essex student. Current students act as role models throughout the summer school to share their experiences and inspire them to follow their footsteps into university.

Summer schools are part of the University’s outreach program of activity which is designed to work with underrepresented groups in higher education and give them to tools and confidence needed to progress to Higher Education. More information about the University’s outreach activities can be found on our outreach website.

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25 June 2019

Bump ahead? How to overcome every-day setbacks in academic and professional life

Filed under: Latest news — ckeitch @ 3:53 pm

Students and staff can sometimes face challenges – or ‘bumps in the road’ – in their academic life. In such moments, the fear of failure can be quite stifling. Yet, it is important to recognise that setbacks are normal – failure is in fact essential to the scientific method, and part of life and learning. As the inventor Thomas Edison remarked: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Everyone can encounter these every-day challenges. Below, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Jules Pretty, and Deputy Vice-Chancellor Designate, Professor Lorna Fox O’Mahony share their experiences about how they have faced and overcame their own ‘bumps in the road’.

Professor Jules Pretty.

Professor Jules Pretty.

Can you tell us about a time when you experienced a professional setback, and describe how you were able overcome it? What did you learn from that experience?

Prof Pretty: I remember the first time I gave a talk at a conference. I was so afraid, I was terrified. But now I am a decent speaker because I learned methods of speaking in professional settings. I looked at what worked, I tried one new thing each time, I got voice training, I worked at it. Nothing special. And then, because I did it a lot of times, now I know the tricks of the trade. I had to build the personal resilience over time. And to build this resilience, you need to watch others.

Prof Fox O’Mahony: When I was a PhD student, I had a very bumpy time in the second year. My supervisor encouraged me to seek feedback from other staff in the school, to get a fresh perspective – so I approached a few other staff members to ask their advice. Then, an opportunity came up to apply for a fixed term teaching post and I was able to stop the clock on my PhD for a year. This gave me time to let my research percolate a bit more, and to publish some articles. Focusing on writing shorter-than-a-thesis pieces really helped sharpen up my thinking and my writing, and I submitted on time a year later. The lesson I took was that when faced with a setback it’s important to step back and consider alternative ways to approach the challenge. Since then I have cultivated the habit of sharing setbacks seeking advice – and the more I did this the more comfortable it became.

Professor Lorna Fox O'Mahony

Professor Lorna Fox O’Mahony.

More generally, what do you think students and staff can do to face and prepare for potential setbacks? What advice would you give to a student who is afraid to fail a test or module, or a member of staff whose project is not going as expected?

Prof Fox O’Mahony: My advice is not to hesitate to ask for help. No one is immune from setbacks or fear of failure – it’s a natural and inevitable part of life, especially when you set yourself ambitious challenges and aim high. Sharing setbacks helps us put them in perspective, and also get practical ideas about alternative ways forward. If you need to take a different track, be open to adapting your approach and trying again.

Prof Pretty: For academics – with research particularly – we face constant rejections with papers and grants. You always take that personally. We always do. Once you have achieved some things, you can go back to them and then that makes it easier to deal with rejection. But for early career researchers, rejection is the most difficult thing. I have learned that people who remain naturally curious about the world can accept challenges simply as part of new developments in their field and profession. For the students, I think it is important to recognise that the skills you learn at university are probably not something you came across at school or college – particularly if you come from a home that does not have an academic background. You are exploring new things, which is interesting and exciting, but also scary. Sometimes you might not do as well in one particular assessment, but that might not be a bad thing. That might tell you about what you know and what you don’t know, what worked, or which different revision methods work for you and others. This is exactly what will make you better: you might experience setbacks, but you should pick up the ball and go again!

What does the university do to support students and staff when they are faced with academic setbacks?

Prof Fox O’Mahony: For students, there are a range of options: in your department, your personal tutor is there to help you overcome academic setbacks, along with your module tutor or course leader. Student support services, and our amazing Students’ Union. For staff, I think that nurturing a culture of collaboration and sharing is important, so that we have those connections to sustain us when we hit bumps in the road. In our new University Strategy 2019-25, we have emphasised our commitment to living and learning communities that foster students and staff to feel a sense of belonging, inclusion, well-being, resilience and empowerment. Supporting each other through setbacks is what community is all about.

Prof Pretty: I think institutionally, indeed as a whole sector, we can do more to provide advice, support and help to address people’s fear of failure. And for this, you need a mental model, and this is mine: You can’t control the arrival of external shocks – what you can control is your response to them, how we absorb a problem and respond to it. I think the word ‘failure’ implies that the road has come to an end – but these things are really bumps in the road. The road continues! These are only setbacks. Creating that kind of language and conversation about the problem is important.

The University provides lots of help and support to help students and staff overcome bumps in the road. Here are just some of them:

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14 June 2019

Celebrating Professor Graham Underwood’s time as Executive Dean (Science and Health)

Filed under: Latest news — ckeitch @ 2:46 pm

Please join us on Tuesday 2 July to celebrate Professor Graham Underwood’s contribution to the University, as he steps down from his role as Executive Dean (Science and Health).

Professor Graham Underwood

Professor Graham Underwood is standing down as our Executive Dean (Science and Education)

Professor Graham Underwood is a marine and freshwater biologist, particularly interested in the interactions between microbes (algae and bacteria), nutrient and element cycling, and how these ‘bottom up’ process feed through into ecosystem functioning.

His broader interests include the biology of invertebrates, habitat use and fragmentation on the coast, coastal geomorphology and sea level rise. His research is based in the U.K., but he has also carried out research in the Baltic, Mediterranean and South African environments, tropical systems in the Indo-pacific and the Bahamas, and has recently been studying Antarctic and Arctic sea ice communities.

In his role of Executive Dean (Science and Health) he has been an important member our executive leadership team, providing academic leadership to the Faculty of Science and Health, which brings together six academic departments and schools that make diverse contributions to our strategic mission as a globally competitive, research-intensive and student-focused institution. He is a member of the University Steering Group and Senate, and is the University’s race diversity champion.

A drinks reception will be held on Tuesday 2 July in the STEM Centre (3.1) from 3pm to 5pm.  If you would like to attend Graham’s event, please RSVP to or if you would like further details please telephone Holly Ward on ext 3270 or email

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Meet our Essex Abroad team

Filed under: Latest news — ckeitch @ 10:40 am

Kristi Connell is our new Essex Abroad Manager. We met her to find out more about her, her team, and how they support students studying abroad.

What is your background? What did you do before you came to Essex? 

Our Essex Abroad team

Our Essex Abroad team

Before coming to Essex I worked for Pearson Education as a Qualification Delivery and Awarding Manager. My key role was managing the portfolio of their international qualifications through a range of activities like producing exam material, assessing exams and managing relationships with international stakeholders. Prior to that, I had a career in the education sector, teaching Design and Technology at secondary school for eight years with various levels of management and leadership responsibility. Before that I was an Interior Designer and I was still doing some freelance design work up until a couple of years ago.

That’s quite a varied CV. What brought you to Essex?

Being a local girl, I have always had some interaction with the University of Essex whether it be as a three year old in the University nursery, or coming to watch the firework display a couple of years ago. I always thought that at some point I would love to work there. To be honest, I wasn’t actually looking for a new job but always liked to keep an eye out on the website just to see the types of roles which were being advertised. Back in Autumn 2018, I was having a look and came across the role for the Essex Abroad Manager… my instant thought was “that sounds perfect for me”… a few months later, here I am.

Tell us more about your new team. What is the main focus of your work?

The key focus for the team is student mobility for studying abroad opportunities, supporting and guiding students through their journey from start to finish. We work with our own students who are going abroad, providing them with all the information they need, as well as incoming students who are coming to study at Essex for a year. We also offer and advise on short term programmes which enable any student to have a valuable international experience, like attending summer schools or making the most of volunteering opportunities. That gives you a taster for what we do, but there is so much more.

How many people are there in your team?

Seven. They are Julie Proctor and Jessica Frank for outgoing, Hellen Ekka and Chelsea Morrell for incoming, Ellie Laing for marketing, events and promotions, Lauren Holden for grants and agreements, and Rosie Bonny, our brand new International Experience Manager.

What big projects do your team have coming up?

Over the summer we’re reviewing all the partners we have agreements with to make sure they are fit for purpose.  We’re also going to be improving all the support and resource materials we have about Essex Abroad for our internal stakeholders – updating, simplifying and consolidating everything to make sure it is up to date and as useful as we can make it.

What has surprised you most about working at Essex?

The cat! I had no idea about our Campus Cat, Pebbles. On a serious note, though, I love how inclusive and diverse Essex is. I knew it would be, but I didn’t realise quite how much.

What’s the future for Essex Abroad?

Everything is one big adventure for me and the team. We are all really passionate to have more students partake in the experiences they can have as part of their degree, and would love for Essex Abroad to be more of a household name, with as many students as possible engaging with all the fantastic opportunities that are available to them. We also want to make sure that we’re engaging with more international students and making sure students are coming to Essex for their exchange programmes. Our key priority for the future is to build and develop our relationships with internal stakeholders. We need you as much as our students need us, and we’re all looking forward to working with people from across the University much more closely from here on in.

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7 June 2019

Welcoming three new members to University Council

Filed under: Latest news, People pages — Communications, CER @ 11:16 am

We are delighted to announce three new members of our University Council.

The University of Essex Council is our executive governing body comprising 25 members, the majority of whom are external. Council is responsible for the management and administration of our revenue and property.


Melanie Leech

Melanie Leech CBE, Chief Executive, British Property Federation

Melanie was appointed as Chief Executive to the British Property Federation in January 2015. She is also a trustee of the property industry charity LandAid and prior to this she was director general of the Food and Drink Federation. During her early career, she served as a  police constable for the Metropolitan Police Service, then joined HM Customs and Excise as a civil servant in 1988, going on to hold a number of senior civil service roles, in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, the Office of the Rail Regulator, and the Cabinet Office.  In 2015, Melanie was awarded a CBE for services to the food and drink industry.

Stephanie Hilborne OBE, Chief Executive of The Wildlife Trusts

Stephanie has just been announced as the new Chief Executive of Women in Sport, a role she will take up in October 2019.  She was previously Chief Executive of The Wildlife Trusts, a role she took up in 2004. She has championed nature’s recovery on land and at sea through improvements to legislation and by building corporate partnerships. Before her role with the Wildlife Trusts Stephanie was Chief Executive of Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust and Wildlife and Countryside Link as well as holding non-executive positions including with the UK Green Building Council. She has served on three key Defra commissions and in 2010 received an OBE for services to nature conservation.

Kathryn Harrison-Thomas MD, Global Business Partner CIB, Regional Business Partner Americas, Asia Pacific and UK&I, Corporate Services, Deutsche Bank

Kathryn is a proactive, dynamic senior real estate and strategy professional with more than 25 years’ international experience within a variety of industry and financial services sectors. In her time at Deutsche Bank she has held a number of roles from Global Head of Organisational Development to Global Head of the Product Transformation Programme. In her current role she manages a team of 10 Business Partners, manages a multi-million pound budget, is responsible for global relationship management, is the global product-lead for corporate services; develops and manages the client management vision and strategy to meet business goals and client needs and is a member of the bank’s CSR Global Committee. Kathryn is also a champion of diversity and is Board

Stephanie Hilborne

Member for the UK Chapter of Corporate Real Estate Women’s Network.

Vice-Chancellor, Professor Anthony Forster, said:

“I am delighted to welcome all of our new members to the University Council. With their wide range of expertise and knowledge, Melanie, Stephanie and Kathryn will offer invaluable experience in supporting the work of Council and ensuring our University is well governed and focused on delivering our new University Strategy 2019-25.”

Judith Judd, Chair of Council, added:

“Our new Council appointments will bring an excellent new dimension to our University. Council plays an absolutely vital role and their experience and talents will offer us invaluable insight and direction.”

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Introducing our new Ethics Review Applications System

Filed under: Latest news — ckeitch @ 9:39 am

Phineas Wenlock, from our Research and Enterprise Office, describes the new Ethics Review Applications System the team are introducing and how it supports the growing research at Essex.

An image of Phineas Wenlock

Phineas Wenlock

On Monday 10 June 2019 a new Ethics Review Application and Management System (ERAMS) will go live.

The new system will be used for all applications seeking ethics review from staff and students and will replace the current Microsoft Word forms.

An efficient and robust approach to ethics review is essential to manage risks to participants and to maintain the reputation of the University with stakeholders, employers, funders and the public. ERAMS will ensure that our processes and systems are fit for the continuing growth in research at Essex as set out in the new strategic plan.

How can I access the new system?

Applicants, reviewers and administrators can access ERAMS at using their University login.

What benefits will the new system bring for people involved in the process?

  • A reduction in the administrative burden for applicants, reviewers and departments
  • Improved transparency of where an application is in the review process
  • Faster completion of the review process as a result of improved efficiency
  • Creating an institutional archive of applications and approvals

ERAMS is an intuitive online system that will assist everyone involved in the ethics review process.

For applicants:

  • There is a familiar format to the old forms – the approval process has not changed
  • Guidance notes embedded in the form help applicants provide correct information
  • You can easily revise and resubmit applications
  • Keep track on where an application is in the review process
  • Support is available for applications requiring approval by external bodies
  • There is a process to handle applications for amendments to previous approvals

For Reviewers and Supervisors:

  • You will be automatically prompted to review an application
  • Applications are routed to the correct reviewer(s) and committee(s)
  • Reviewers can add comments to applications
  • Agendas and minutes are generated automatically which can be edited afterwards
  • Generate communications from editable templates to notify applicants of the outcome of their application

For Administrators

  • Reduced administration for departments in relation to monitoring applications
  • Clear oversight of applications and delegated departments
  • An audit trail of actions taken for each application
  • A central institutional repository of all applications will be maintained automatically so departments will no longer be required to store applications although the archive of historical applications will need to be retained for the stipulated period.

What happens if I’ve already submitted an application?
When ERAMS goes live any applications which have already been submitted and are under review will continue to follow the current ethics review process.

Any applications which are in preparation using the Word document form and which have not yet been submitted will be accepted until Sunday 23 June.

From Monday 24 June, all applications must be made and submitted through ERAMS.  The online form within ERAMS is similar to the current form so applicants can copy and paste from their Word document.

Find out more…

If you have any questions about the Ethics Review Process or ERAMS then please contact the Research Governance Team on

Technical questions about the system can be emailed to

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