Students Staff

Latest news

8 October 2020

Parking at our Colchester Campus

Filed under: Latest news — ckeitch @ 10:02 am

Iain Farquharson is our Sustainability (Energy and Transport) Manager.  We caught up with him to find out more about the changes that we’re making to parking and parking permits at our Colchester Campus.

Iain Farquharson

Iain Farquharson

What changes can we expect to the way we park this year?

Parking on campus should look and feel fairly normal. We’re going to be closely monitoring demand in the autumn term and we may close some car parks if they’re not required, but we’ll let people know before we do take the decision to close any car parks.

If you’re already coming onto campus, you will have noticed that our Overflow Car Park is already closed and is currently being used as the COVID-19 testing centre at our Colchester Campus.

However, we have made some changes to take into account the impact of COVID-19 on the way we’re working and to simplify our permits so we can keep things as flexible as possible

Can you tell us a bit more about the new permits you’ve introduced and how they work?

Our aim this year is to make sure people feel they have simple options to choose from, so we’ve given people two different options to pay for their parking with our new permits. The first option is an annual permit which is designed for people who are going to be on campus regularly, and the second is a general permit for people who are unsure about how often they’ll need to park.

You’ll still need to pay a registration fee which is calculated at 0.16% of your salary, so it’s different for everyone according to how much they earn. Annual permit holders will then pay a fixed amount of £62.31 for parking for the year, or a pro-rata amount if your contract is part-time, which will be deducted from your salary monthly. General permit holders will pay a daily charge each time they park. The minimum stay is 4 hours, which will cost you 32p and longer stays are available in one hour increments.

Permit fees, excluding registration fees, are being discounted by 33% for this academic year, in acknowledgement of the uncertainties we all face in our work patterns. We’ve also removed our occasional user permit as part of simplification improvements.

What’s the cheapest option for someone who used to pay as an “occasional user”?

Our general permit offers flexibility for those that are unsure how many days they are going to be on campus. It offers drivers the same flexibility to select which days they park and for how long. To take up the general permit, you’ll also need to pay a registration fee. For most people this equates to around £3 to £7 per month. On top of this, they’d pay 8p an hour to park with a minimum charge of 4 hours at 32p. To stay for a full day it’s just 56p.

Using an example of an occasional user driving on to campus 5 days over a month, they would have paid £10.50 with the Occasional Permit. The General Permit this year equates to somewhere between £5.80 to £9.80 depending on salary.

What about the way we pay for our parking? Is that changing at all?

 Staff can still register their vehicles and pay for their permits on our staff directory.

However, for the new academic year we are introducing a cashless payment system for those who choose to pay each time they visit, which will mean no queuing at pay stations and no touch screens. This was always something we wanted to do, but considerations around COVID-19 meant it was important to introduce it this year.  Staff and students can now pay directly though our new payment app, which means they can pay while walking to their office or place of study, or when they reach their desk or computer.

To use our cashless parking system, you will either need to download the app or log on via a web browser to make your payment. You can also create an account if you want to.

Have you got any update for people who paid for parking last year, but found themselves unable to come onto campus?

Yes. Because the majority of staff and students could not visit campus during the Advanced Protection measures, we’re really happy to be able to refund parking permit charges, excluding registration fees, for the period from April to September

Refunds will be processed by the end of November and payments will be made back into the accounts from which payments were made.

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11 September 2020

Getting ready to return to campus

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

As we approach the start of Autumn Term, we continue to monitor the circumstances in which students and staff will return to our campuses. The University developed a range of protection plans to enable us to adapt activities on our campuses in response to risk and to keep our staff and students safe and well.

The University’s Council has agreed to adopt a phased approach to return to campus during the early weeks of the autumn term. This means that, while all students will commence or return to study at the start of term, students will be invited to return to campuses (including access to some face-to-face teaching) in a phased way.

By phasing the return to campus and the re-introduction of face-to-face teaching we will be able to monitor the impact carefully, progressively increasing our campus numbers as we become confident it is safe to do so. If we find occurrences of COVID-19 infection increasing, we will be able to respond swiftly, by moving more teaching online. Our dual-delivery approach to the curriculum means that we will be able to deliver teaching and support student learning for all students throughout the Autumn Term, while we phase the return to face-to-face teaching.

Useful information for students

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10 September 2020

All University Meetings to be Conducted Remotely in 2020-21

Filed under: Latest news — ckeitch @ 10:06 am

To make sure we are maximising space on campus and maintaining social distancing guidelines all meetings will be conducted remotely during academic year 2020-21.

The decision, made by the University’s management team, applies to all non-teaching events. Such as:

  • formal committee meetings
  • committee related events like Away Days
  • staff, section and departmental conferences
  • induction and networking events
  • training that would otherwise be delivered in person
  • team meetings
  • catch-ups and 1:1s

Why are we going remote?
Remote meetings will maximise the space available on campus for teaching and student-facing activities. It will enable the University to limit the number of people on campus so we can maintain a safe social distance and minimise the risks of contracting or transmitting COVID-19.

Can I still book rooms?
The Timetabling and Room Booking Team are unable to process any new or existing room booking requests for anything other than teaching, student learning or student-facing events in academic year 2020-21.

How do I set up a remote meeting?
We recommend that all meetings take place via Zoom.

In the coming weeks, we will share Online Meeting Protocol guidance with you as well as revised diaries for the University’s formal committees and meetings for academic years 2020-21 and 2021-22.

Please take a look at the resources below so you are confident organising remote meetings.

If you have any queries, please contact the Governance team at governance@essex.ac.uk.

Useful resources

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25 August 2020

Find out more about our Improving Purchase to Pay project

Filed under: Latest news — ckeitch @ 2:47 pm

Earlier this summer we spoke to Carol Saward, our Head of Income and Payments, and Phil Sweeting, our Head of Procurement, about the Improving Purchase to Pay project. We caught up with them to find out how the project is progressing.

We’re making really good progress on the project and have just completed a phase of testing before we let real users test it. This has been really successful and we will start formal testing by end of August. This will cover the whole solution including both the ordering and invoicing elements. We have set up a User Group and members of this group will be involved in the testing.

Can you give an update about the marketplace?
The marketplace enables access to supplier “punch outs” and catalogues which will enable an easier customer experience when placing orders. Colleagues will be able to click a “go shopping” button in Unit4, which will enable them to access supplier’s websites direct, showing live stock levels and improved pricing. This will give people an Amazon type shopping experience. The marketplace will also compare prices across suppliers to help you achieve best value.

As mentioned previously we will be going live with Office Depot, Fisher Scientific and Bunzl Cleaning. We’ve also added two further suppliers who will be available at go live – Insight direct and Amazon for Business.

Tell us more about Amazon for Business
The University has many Amazon for Business and Amazon Prime accounts. We will be providing access to Amazon for Business through the marketplace so there will no longer be a need to have any individual accounts. The marketplace Amazon account will have the same next day delivery benefits as Amazon Prime and all Unit4 requistioners will be able to access it. We’d like anyone who is using Amazon Prime on behalf of the University or an Amazon for Business account to contact us, as these will need to be cancelled and in future the University will not reimburse Amazon Prime membership. This means that all future orders for Amazon will start in Unit4, which will help ensure the correct approvals are obtained.

Can you give an update about the invoicing?
All supplier invoices will be received centrally whether in paper, PDF or XML format, which will include scanning and uploading onto Unit4 to enable paperless workflow processes to be completed. This will improve our entire purchase to pay process, and will allow us understand our ordering commitments showing real time visibility of the accounts payable process which will improve supplier relationships. The new system will increase transparency and usability of expenditure data for budgetary control and forecasting by using Unit4 as a centrally managed and controlled system that is accessible to multiple users.

Will it work with our existing systems like Unit4?
Yes, the integration to Unit4 has been built and is currently being tested.

When will this all be launched? All at the same time?
We are aiming to go live in September. This will incorporate the changes to ordering, including the five key marketplace, as well as receiving all invoices centrally and the new Unit4 workflow associated with the payment of supplier invoices.

How will these changes affect me?
Purchase Orders must be raised in Unit4 before buying any goods and services with a supplier. The purchase order number must be provided to the supplier at the point of ordering the goods or services. Suppliers know that a purchase order number is required before accepting an order from us.

Some purchases do not seem to fit the core ordering process, like service contracts, standing orders, consultancy etc. We will provide further information how to raise these purchase orders on these non-standard purchases before we go live.

Suppliers will send their invoices centrally into an email mailbox, which we will confirm to suppliers when we go live. The supplier invoice will match to the relevant purchase order quoted on the invoice and show on the relevant supplier on Unit4. The Unit4 workflow will then determine if a goods receipt note and/or additional budget approval is required and distribute tasks to the requistioner/approvers to action.

Will training be available?
We will be running training sessions covering the new system along with any changes in existing processes. It is likely these will be through Zoom sessions. We will also have champions across the University who will be able to help with queries. We are also investigating other training options such as Moodle to give users as many opportunities for training as possible. A FAQs document will be provided too.

Do our suppliers know about this?
We have emailed all of our suppliers and are ensuring that the contact details for every supplier is up to date. This is important as it will ensure the correct contacts are receiving orders and remittances. Feedback from all our suppliers so far has been positive and they are pleased to have been contacted.

What is the impact on our suppliers?
We are implementing a “no PO, No Pay” policy – this means that every invoice needs to quote an order number – if it doesn’t we will reject the invoice. Suppliers support this approach as they know quoting an order number will mean that their invoice is processed easier and quicker.

How do I get involved with the project?
If you are interested in becoming a champion for your area, please contact Carol Saward or Phil Sweeting.

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18 August 2020

Building an inclusive remote working environment

Filed under: Latest news — ckeitch @ 3:14 pm

Dr Kyle Jerro, Chair of our LGBTQ Forum, and Professor Christine Raines, our Inclusion Champion for our trans community, explain how you can display your pronouns on Zoom to create an inclusive and supportive remote working environment.

You might have noticed that a significant number of  our University community include their pronouns in their email signature, or you may have seen staff and students wearing a pronoun badge. We launched our Pronouns Awareness Initiative in 2018, which helped to build awareness around thinking about pronouns. We encourage our staff and students to state their pronouns when introducing themselves in meetings, and to include pronouns in email signatures, as this helps to avoid marginalisation of our trans, genderqueer, gender fluid and non-binary communities.

From Autumn 2019, our Council adopted the practice of including their pronouns in their name plates used for in-person meetings, and now that meetings have moved to Zoom, they have updated their display name to also include their pronouns.

Now that most of us are working remotely, we encourage every member of the University community to include their pronouns on Zoom.

This can be done by following these two simple steps:

Step 1: Login to Zoom on your web browser, and select ‘Profile’.

Step 2: You’ll see your name at the top of the page – click ‘Edit’ and you can add your                   pronouns to the end of your last name.

For example, our display names now read as ‘Kyle Jerro (they/them/theirs)’ and ‘Christine Raines (she/her/hers)’. If you want to learn more about pronouns, you can read about them online.

We encourage people to include the disclosing of their pronouns at the beginning of Zoom meetings during introductions. For example, “My name is Kyle Jerro. I’m a lecturer in Language and Linguistics, and my pronouns are ‘they/them/theirs.’” All of us including our pronouns in our introductions normalises pronouns.

Using peoples’ pronouns is the bare minimum in supporting trans, non-binary, genderqueer and gender fluid colleagues and students. If you make a mistake, correct yourself, briefly apologise and move on.

Staff can also get involved in our LGBTQ staff network, which includes the LGBTQ Staff Forum and LGBTQ Allies. Staff who are members of the LGBTQ+ community can join the LGBTQ Staff Forum by subscribing to the mailing list, and you can also reach out directly to the Chair, Kyle Jerro at k.jerro@essex.ac.uk. Staff who are not members of the LGBTQ+ community but would like to be involved in advocating for LGBTQ+ people can join the Allies.

You can also read about our approach to supporting trans and non-binary staff, which is a resource for our trans and non-binary staff, as well as for colleagues and managers.

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12 August 2020

A joined up approach to safety on our three campuses

Filed under: Latest news — ckeitch @ 10:19 am

We’ve amalgamated the security teams at our Colchester, Southend and Loughton campuses so we can provide a joined up approach to the way services are delivered across our community.

Our security staff

Our security staff

The teams have been amalgamated through the operational management of our Colchester Campus under the direction of Tom Brown, Head of Security and Campus Safety.

This new approach has allowed our teams to become more flexible and dynamic in their delivery of services, ensuring best practice and the most effective and customer focused approach for all our students, staff and visitors.

Some of our key focuses will initially include the increase of customer engagement and the delivery of key training programmes recognising the ever changing landscape within the sector.

Chris Oldham, our Director of Estates and Campus Services, said “An incredible amount of work has been undertaken across the security teams in order to develop our service. A great example of partnership working across our campuses and a One University approach”.

Throughout the current COVID-19 crisis, the teams have continued to work tirelessly to provide a 24/7 service on campus in support the universities operations. The team have also been preparing for a very different start to the academic year, recognising the challenges and continually aiming to improve their service provision.  Specific training has included internal process and procedure updates, wellbeing, fire safety, evacuation chair, safeguarding and much more.

All the teams have also been refreshed through a 3-day first aid at work course and we will be carrying out more training each month to make best use of the time available. We want our officers to be in the best position possible to support our staff and students returning to our campuses in October.

“Our officers have put in maximum effort during all the training sessions and learnt a lot of new knowledge, skills and experiences; they have had their boundaries pushed in live scenario training and something all can be proud of in their conduct of these”, said Tom Brown, Head of Security and Campus Safety.

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4 August 2020

Decolonising research: north-south partnerships

Filed under: Latest news, Research impact — Communications, CER @ 4:42 pm

Professor Rajendra Chetty (University of the Western Cape) and Dr Colin Reilly (University of Essex) are currently collaborating on two GCRF@Essex research projects. Here they draw on their experiences and highlight some of the key issues involved when thinking about decolonisation in collaborative research.

There is an increasing awareness of the importance of collaboration in academic research and a range of research funding schemes which explicitly require partnerships between researchers in the Global North and Global South. When taking a decolonial approach to our research, these collaborations can raise a number of challenges and opportunities.

To decolonise the curriculum, we have to also decolonise the research that will inform our teaching, and decolonise how we undertake that research. This involves actively addressing how knowledge is produced and whose knowledge is valued. The priority for the radical intellectual is to reflect seriously on the ways academic practices signify, restrain, or empower decolonial turns not only in the curricula but also in real-life concerns of domination, emancipation, justice, and liberation of the increasing number of poor people globally. When both North and South scholars collaborate in Humanities research, there is always the danger of who speaks for whom, especially research on the lived experience of the subaltern. In many academic endeavours, it is not the voices or intellectual production of the subaltern that is foregrounded, but rather the interpretation and utility of their experience from a scholar’s (both North and South) perspective.

Having collaborators who are from the ‘Global North’ or ‘Global South’ researching collaboratively does not automatically mean that the research is engaging with decoloniality. The current engagement by decolonial activists with the complex context of the North and South has to include the hybrid spaces of the ‘Norths in the South’, and the ‘Souths in the North’, given the colonial history of spatial injustice. Often there’s a tendency to frame the Global North and Global South as clearly distinct entities, which are in themselves also homogenous. So the Global North partners bring ‘x’ to the project, and the Global South partners bring ‘y’. When in reality it’s obviously more complicated than that.

The North-South dichotomy is reductionist and unhelpful. Rather, we should view our commitment to radical humanism, both in the North and South, and focus on how nuances of the historical process contribute to the invisibility of coloniality, as witnessed recently with the Black Lives Matter discourse across the US and Europe. Walter Mignolo reminds us that we always speak from a particular location in the power structures, be it in the North or South, and no one escapes the class, sexual, gender, spiritual, linguistic, geographical, and racial hierarchies of the modern, capitalist and patriarchal world-system. All knowledges are epistemically located either in the dominant or the subaltern side of the power relations and this positioning is related to the geo- and body-politics of knowledge.

The lack of substantive attention to the lived experience and condition of the marginalized other, the subaltern, is construed as a continuation and reinforcement of colonialism. The need for re-thinking knowledge in the Humanities is urgent given the current context of increased mass social resistance, neo-colonial approaches of developing states and student demands for university reform. An important step is to take some distance from the dominant philosophies, discourses and practices and detect its mechanisms of operation, whether it emerges from the North or South and the places where it has effect. Most disciplines in the Humanities lean towards Eurocentric indoctrination that marginalizes Africa and often reinforce patronizing views and stereotypes about the continent.

In disciplines such as English and Philosophy, European and white values may be perceived as the standards on which the curriculum is rooted. Respectful and effective collaboration between North and South colleagues should therefore assume a political position that makes possible an ‘other’ discursive strategy, other philosophical work, and which opens other spaces of theoretical production. Catherine Walsh clarifies that it is these other places, spaces, and positions, other philosophies and other knowledge that challenge not only the definitions and boundaries of philosophy’s continental-analytical divide, but also the geo-political ordering of knowledge and the questions of who produces knowledge, how and where, and for what purposes.

The dilemma in the Humanities is that Western canonical traditions of knowledge production have become hegemonic, alongside the dominance of conservative scholars, this actively reinforces these traditions in the guise of values and standards. This hegemonic notion of knowledge production involves a particular anthropological knowledge, which is a process of knowing about native/ indigenous/ barbarian others – but a process that never fully acknowledges the other as thinking and knowledge producing subjects. The epistemic traditions of the other are disregarded – a form of  cognitive injustice. Cognitive justice as a prerequisite, recognizes the presence of different forms of understandings, knowing and explaining in the world. The commitment from scholars (North or South) should be towards a radical humanism that engages with the voices of the subaltern. This is a crucial foundation for decolonising collaborative research, which will in turn contribute to the decolonisation of the curriculum.

A Critical Resource for Ethical International Partnerships by the Sustainable Futures in Africa Network provides practical advice for developing equitable partnerships.

If you would like to contribute to this ongoing series of blog posts on decolonising the curriculum please get in touch with Hannah Gibson h.gibson@essex.ac.uk

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20 July 2020

How often should I take breaks and what are the benefits?

Filed under: Latest news — ckeitch @ 2:41 pm

Our Workplace Wellbeing Manager, Stuart Henty, tells us more about the importance of taking regular breaks, especially when you are working at a computer for long periods of time.

Stuart Henty

Stuart Henty

Time away from your screen can be more difficult to manage when working remotely, with no commute nor the need to walk to attend meetings across campuses. This can result in long periods working in the same position, which could be detrimental to your health.

The NHS article Why we should sit less says that ‘Sitting for extended periods with no breaks or regular exercise is thought to slow the metabolism, which affects the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar, blood pressure and break down body fat’. Long periods of inactivity may contribute to or increase the risk of developing musculoskeletal or circulatory conditions such as deep vein thrombosis (DVT).

How often should I take breaks and what are the benefits?
The Health and Safety Executive recommend breaking up long spells of Display Screen Equipment (DSE) work with rest breaks of at least 5 minutes every hour or changes in activity. Setting alarms or reminders on your smart phone will help to remind you to take a break.

During these breaks, you could consider doing short activities, whether that is walking or similar light exercise, such as these examples kindly provided by Essex Sport and the NHS. We also offer additional lunchtime activities such as art and crafts with Wellbeing at the Hex, as well as weekly healthy back and yoga sessions.

Making time for regular short breaks to concentrate on non-work activity will not only provide physical health benefits, but can also help with your mental wellbeing. This time can be used to manage feelings of stress through mindfulness exercises and allow you to return to a task refreshed, which can lead to being more productive and focused during your working day.

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16 July 2020

Decolonising the social epidemiology curriculum

Filed under: Latest news — ckeitch @ 2:22 pm

Dr Cara Booker is a Research Fellow at the Institute for Social and Economic Research. Here she tells us why systemic racism is the missing factor to understand health inequalities.

Dr Cara Booker

Dr Cara Booker

When I describe what my research expertise is, I usually say social epidemiologist. Social epidemiology has been defined as “the branch of epidemiology that studies the social distribution and social determinants of states of health”. To do this, we examine the sociostructural factors of a society to determine how they impact the distribution of health and disease. Gender, social class, social capital, social policy, discrimination and race/ethnicity are just a few examples of the sociostructural factors that have been explored in their relation to individual and population health.

While these factors are inextricably linked there is an over-riding driver of some of these factors that is often overlooked: systemic racism. When I am analysing data on adolescent mental health, I often explore inequalities by ethnicity. However, what my and many other’s research have failed to properly account for are the laws, regulations or unspoken policies that have perpetuated the oppression of people of colour and may be better predictors of the observed inequalities compared to the ethnicity of the individual. There are several reasons for why systemic racism is not accounted for, but I will focus on two: lack of discussion in lectures and poor measurement of systemic racism.

I attended the University of Southern California (USC) which is located in South Los Angeles. A couple of years before I arrived, the 1992 riots occurred following rising racial tensions and the acquittal of the police officers involved in the Rodney King beating. These riots were close to the USC campus and the effects of the riots could still be seen two years later. The riots should have opened doors for discussion in my classes about the systemic racism that allowed these events to occur. Dialogues on redlining*, racial profiling, gentrification and racism in medicine should have been imbedded in lectures. Wider discussion of how these systems directly and indirectly impact health and the inequalities we observe in population health should have been taking place in our classes.

Ignoring systemic racism does a disservice to those who wish to examine social determinants of health and, in turn, to reduce health inequalities. We are trying to address this problem with only partial information. Thus we are not equipped to develop suitable questions nor can we include information in our analyses that sufficiently captures the ongoing impact of systemic racism. We were not trained to do so.

The past 5 months have highlighted this lack of training and poor measurement of systemic racism. The COVID-19 pandemic has adversely impacted people of colour. While some of the reasons may be related to social capital, social class, or discrimination, there are also structural and systemic racist policies and laws that have driven these inequalities. Many of these laws have been repealed, but their impact lingers on. Explicit training which provides future social epidemiologist the tools and vocabulary to identify the structures within their society continue to contribute to inequalities and marginalisation based on race is necessary. Such training should not be limited to one or two classes, but should be embedded from the onset and underlie all training of social determinants of health. Graduates should not have to learn these lessons once they embark on their own career paths. We should all work to call out those structures to create meaningful change.

*Additional resources on redlining

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15 July 2020

Healthy from Home challenge success stories

Filed under: Latest news — Laura Mathias @ 3:16 pm

Stuart Henty, our Workplace Wellbeing Manager, shares your success stories from the ‘Healthy from Home’ challenge.

We hope you enjoyed and benefited from the recent four week Healthy from Home Challenge.

Stuart Henty

Stuart Henty, Workplace Wellbeing Manager

It isn’t finished however, as even if you didn’t take part you are still able to access Kaido Experiments. These are programmes that you can use to proactively manage areas of your health and wellbeing that are important to you. From kicking caffeine to breathing better to beat stress, Kaido Experiments can support you to make improvements to your health and wellbeing.

Congratulations to the 140 members of staff that took part in the challenge, forming 27 teams. In particular, well done to our the Pre-Award Team (REO), ISER Staff and Students and Team IADS who came in the top three. The Fab Four were also the lucky winners of Stonehenge Tickets in a milestone prize draw.

We have loved seeing you engaging with the programme and have recorded 275,075 minutes of physical activity, 30,409 minutes of meditation and 2,311 reflections.

Key highlights include:

  • 74% of staff noticing an improvement in their health
  • 88% feeling the challenge helped them to better cope with the current lockdown
  • 45% feeling calmer
  • 51% feeling more motivated to improve their own health and wellbeing

Thank you all again who participated in the challenge.

If you have feedback about the challenge or want to find out more about the Kaido Experiments, please email Stuart Henty.

 

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