University of Essex

Latest news

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
  • BOSCARD
  • SIPOC

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.

Funding

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 internships@essex.ac.uk  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

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 – http://blogs.essex.ac.uk/essexdaily/2017/03/29/making-a-green-impact-on-the-planet-bog/

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
ISER New
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
SPAH/ISC 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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6 July 2017

Social Interaction and Well-Being: The Surprising Power of Weak Ties.

Filed under: Latest news, People pages, Research impact — Communications, CER @ 11:23 am

“Human felicity is produced not so much by great pieces of good fortune that seldom happen, as by little advantages that occur every day.”  Benjamin Franklin.

Gillian Sandstrom 200x300

Dr Gillian Sandstrom

In her fascinating study “Social Interaction and Well-Being: The Surprising Power of Weak Ties.” Dr Gillian Sandstrom found that even brief everyday social interactions, from a quick chat with your barista to saying hello to someone you pass by everyday – can have surprising effects on our happiness and wellbeing. Here she tells us more about her work and how we can all benefit from “weak ties”.

  • Can you tell us about your study and its findings – in a nut shell?

I did a postgraduate degree in Psychology after having spent 10 years in the workforce as a computer programmer. I had a strong case of imposter syndrome when I first arrived on campus, since I was 10 years older than the other students, and I didn’t have the same background training that they did (my undergraduate degree was in computer science, and I had only taken three psychology modules). 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 at the hot dog stand; 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 asked people to keep track of all of their social interactions – any time they said hi to someone that they recognized (i.e., anyone except a complete stranger) – for six days. They carried around two small tally counters, and clicked one every time they interacted with a strong tie (i.e., a close friend or family member), and another one every time they interacted with a weak tie (i.e., an acquaintance). I found that people who had, on average, more daily interactions with weak ties 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 last year in my statistics module. The students break into three groups for their computer lab sessions, and I did something different for each group. 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 nameboards. 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. During my PhD, I stood on the pavement outside of 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 be as efficient as possible: have their money ready and avoid unnecessary conversation. I told them that this would be helpful to the barista, who just wants to get through their shift. I asked other people to have a genuine social interaction: smile, make contact, and have a brief conversation. When people emerged from the store with their coffee, I asked them to fill out a brief survey. I found that people who had a minimal social interaction were in a better mood, enjoyed their Starbucks 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.

  • How do the students react?

When I greet my students outside of the classroom, at the beginning of the year they seem kind of embarrassed – sometimes they giggle, or look away, as if they can’t quite believe it. But they get used to it, and seem to enjoy saying hi back.  When I did my greeting/name board study, I asked students whether they had ever talked to me, whether I would recognize them if I saw them on campus, and whether I knew their name. Two students who were filling in the survey came up to me and straight out asked me if I knew their names. One of them literally jumped up and down and seemed quite delighted when I told her that I knew her name.

Since arriving at Essex, I’ve run a study at the Tate Modern art gallery, which is similar to, but the reverse of the one I did at Starbucks. I trained volunteers to approach gallery visitors and start a conversation about a particular exhibit in the Turbine Hall. The volunteers were a bit nervous about it – they usually wait for visitors to approach them, and didn’t want to intrude. However, when we surveyed visitors, those who had been spoken to by a volunteer (vs. those who hadn’t talked to a volunteer) were in a better mood, and felt more connected to the exhibit and to other people. This suggests that both the person initiating the conversation (as in the Starbucks study), and also the person being talked to (as in the Tate study), enjoy these kinds of interactions.

  • What challenges are there to developing these kinds of relationships with students?

Some people are bad at remembering names (because it’s really hard!), and others are bad at remembering faces. In some departments, we do team teaching; we only see a group of students for a few weeks, then someone else takes over. Not to mention that class sizes can be really large, and we have hundreds of new students every year. The whole idea of learning names can seem hopeless, and even pointless. The students do seem to really appreciate it, and I personally think all academic staff should know at least a handful of students by name, but I’m really happy that my research suggests that there are benefits to simply greeting students. Anyone can do that!

  • What are the benefits to weak ties – apart from wellbeing? Are there any downsides?

Besides making both parties feel good, weak ties can provide a sense of belonging. For her capstone project, 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.

As far as downsides go, I do get asked to write an exorbitant number of reference letters, and it can take me a really long time to get anywhere on campus because I keep running into people. Which is funny, because when I was a kid, a trip to the grocery store with my Dad would take hours, because he always ran into someone he knew. I guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree…

  • What advice can you give someone who feels awkward or self conscious?

One of the things that makes it scary to talk to a stranger is that you don’t know if they will reject you. But both my personal experience and my research find that rejection is very, very uncommon. I have had lots of nice chats after approaching someone who looked lost and helping them find their way. I’m convinced that both of us have left those interactions with a smile on our face. Know, however, that sometimes people don’t want help – they want to figure things out on their own. Don’t take it personally if someone turns down your offer – just try again with the next person, who will probably be more than happy to accept your help.

 

 

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5 July 2017

Changes to the Financial Regulations

Filed under: Latest news — Communications, CER @ 3:20 pm
Take a look at the changes to the Financial Regulations on the finance sharepoint site.

Take a look at the changes to the Financial Regulations on the finance sharepoint site.

The University’s Council has agreed to some changes to the Financial Regulations. The changes concern Section 11 – Procurement and Section 16.3 – Capital Project Approval Limits.

Other updates to the Financial Procedure Notes include:

FPN 6 – Travel Related Expenses has now been updated to give our position on the purchase of rail cards.

FPN 7 – Subsistence and Hotel Accommodation

FPN 15 – Risk Management

FPN 24 – Procurement of Supplies

Some new topics have been added to the Finance Q&A section too.

All of these changes and additions can be found on the Compliance section of the Finance SharePoint.

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Claim your expenses online – now live

Filed under: Latest news — Communications, CER @ 2:21 pm
an image of a smiling woman behind a monitor at her desk

You will soon be able to claim your expenses online

You will soon be able to claim your travel and subsistence expenses online using Agresso web.

Finance and Estates staff are piloting the system now and it will be rolled out to Professional Services followed by academic departments and Campus Services, soon.

The new system includes a mobile app which you can download. The app makes compiling your claim quick and easy and allows you to photograph your receipts to attach to your claim. Mileage is also easy to calculate using the app by entering town names or postcodes.

As each department goes live, you will be given access to the Unit4 Web Agresso website and details of how to download the app and links to training and guidance.

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4 July 2017

Southend Campus says yes to NCS

Filed under: Latest news — Heather Leathley @ 10:47 am

The NCS logoYoung people on the National Citizen Service (NCS) scheme will be coming to Southend Campus this summer.

NCS is a countrywide project for 15-17 year olds which helps teenagers develop important life skills, including confidence, leadership and communication.

Arranged through Event Essex, three separate groups will be staying at University Square for five days at a time between Friday 28 July and Tuesday 15 August, using the lecture rooms in The Gateway Building for organised activities.

This is the second year that Event Essex has secured this booking. If you have any queries please contact Mark Smith, Business Development Manager at Event Essex.

 

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