Students Staff

Student experience

9 August 2017

Welcome 2017 needs you!

Filed under: Campus news, Latest news, Student experience, What's on — Communications, CER @ 12:17 pm
We can all do our bit to help our new students feel they belong at Essex.

We can all do our bit to help our new students feel they belong at Essex.

Welcome 2017 is fast approaching and this year we want to deliver an even bigger and better Welcome experience; giving everyone the opportunity to get involved in creating a warm and friendly atmosphere for our new students.

This year’s welcome theme is belonging. We want every student to enjoy a smooth arrival, to feel that we care about them, that we’ll help them settle in and find friends – and that they belong at Essex.

But creating a sense of belonging, in so many different people, from so many different places and with so many different backgrounds isn’t going to be easy – and that’s where you come in.

We would like everyone, no matter what their role or position within our University, to be part of our Welcome team. We want our new students to be greeted by smiling faces, by staff that are willing to help, to help them find their way around campus and to make them feel like an important part of our unique community.

Research conducted by our own Dr Gillian Sandstrom has shown that students who feel a stronger sense of belonging are more likely to complete their degree and demonstrate higher achievement in their studies.

You can read more about Dr Sandstrom’s fascinating research in her interview on Essex Daily. Our Head of Residence Life, Victoria Frost, also shares her thoughts on how students who feel they matter to their university are more likely to succeed – and how all of us can play our part no matter what our role.

If you are able to take this one step further and volunteer for an official role as part of Arrivals Day, registration or Welcome, please fill in our quick form, letting us know your availability during the Welcome period and the kind of duties you’d be happy to perform. Take a look at Registration roles to see which you could volunteer for.

Graduation 2017 was a fantastic example of what a great event we can run if we all pull together. If you volunteered for Graduation – we’d love your help during Welcome, and if you didn’t – now’s your chance to lend a hand.

We very much appreciate any help you can give during this exciting time for our University. Welcome is our chance to show our Essex Spirit at its finest; to work together to show what a warm and welcoming place our campus is.

We hope everyone will embrace the chance to get involved.

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26 July 2017

Welcome 2017 – your role in helping new students feel they belong

Filed under: Latest news, People pages, Student experience — Communications, CER @ 3:40 pm

Did you know that students who feel a stronger sense of belonging are more likely to complete their degree, and demonstrate higher achievement in their studies? During Welcome 2017, we can all play a part in helping students feel that they belong. 

We spoke to Dr Gillian Sandstrom and Head of Residence Life, Victoria Frost, about how even saying “hello” to someone new can make a big difference to their experience settling in at Essex.

Dr Gillian Sandstrom

Dr Gillian Sandstrom

  • Tell us about your study Social Interaction and Well-Being: The Surprising Power of Weak Ties.

When I first arrived on campus 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 there; 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 found that people who had, on average, more daily interactions with weak ties (i.e acquaintances) 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 involving my students. 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 name boards. 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. I stood on the pavement outside 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 have their money ready and avoid unnecessary conversation.  I asked other people to have a genuine social interaction: smile, make contact, and have a brief conversation. When surveyed I found that people who had a minimal social interaction were in a better mood, enjoyed their 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.

  • What are the benefits to weak ties – apart from wellbeing?

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


Victoria Frost is head of Residence Life and Student Development as part of our Student Support service.  She plays a vital role in the smooth running of our Arrivals and Welcome programmes and believes that we all have a part to play in creating the right welcoming atmosphere for new students.

Victoria Frost

Victoria Frost

Tell us about the “belonging” theme being applied to Arrivals and Welcome this year – what are we trying to achieve?

There’s a student development theory by Nancy Schlossberg called Mattering and Marginality. If a student feels like they matter to someone at the university, they get more involved in their university experience and develop and learn more. Feeling marginalised can be defined as a sense of not fitting in and can lead to self-consciousness, irritability, and depression. People are more likely to feel marginalised during transition periods, like starting university. It’s so important that students feel like they belong at the University of Essex.

  • How can the principles of “weak ties” be applied to Arrivals Day and Welcome?

We would love it if staff helped students find their way around, showed them the Find Your Way app, engaged them in conversation or introduced them to other students. If you see someone who looks lost, scared, or uncomfortable, go up and ask if you can help. Think about what you can do to help students get to know each other, in departmental events, in lectures, while they’re waiting in a queue. Even just smiling and saying hello can make a difference.

  • What about those who aren’t in student-facing roles? Can they play a part?

Absolutely! Everyone is involved in making students feel like they matter. Most staff will encounter students at some point in their day. You’re likely to pass someone walking to your office, or back home again. It might be during lunch, or walking to a meeting or someone else’s office. Wherever you see a student, there’s an opportunity to use a weak tie, to make them feel like they matter.

  • If I see someone looking lost or alone – should I approach them? Even though that isn’t my job?

Please do. Colchester Campus can be really confusing to navigate for new people (actually, sometimes even for those of us who have been here for years!). It can make a big difference to just offer some help. Whatever you’re able to do.  Helping a student to build confidence and develop competence can help them feel like they belong here.

  • If I don’t know how to direct someone – who should I refer them to?

If it’s about trying to find a location and you don’t know it, walk the student to the Information Centre if you can. For a lot of student service queries, refer the student to the Student Information Desk on the first floor of the Silberrad Student Centre. They’re a really knowledgeable team and can answer a lot of questions or make a further referral if appropriate.

  • Does the “weak ties” theory apply just to Arrivals and Welcome? Or does it apply all year round?

It’s definitely applicable, throughout the year and actually throughout the student’s entire time at the University of Essex. It’s applicable for undergraduate and postgraduate students too. It is particularly important at the beginning of each year; there’s evidence that the first six weeks are the most important time period for making sure a student feels that sense of belonging.

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12 June 2017

Rebel Radio’s election night special

Filed under: Campus news, Student experience — Tags: — Communications Office @ 5:08 pm
Students at Rebel Radio

Students broadcasting live during election night

Rebel Radio, the University’s student radio station, ran an all-night election special in association with our journalism students, Here, journalism student Alex Maxam gives his report on the night.


Rebel, the university’s student media collective, had extensive and in-depth coverage of election night with both a live radio show and a live blog.

With coverage spanning from 10pm until 6.30am, Rebel Radio was on air with Thomas Rowson, Lauren Moore and Chantel Le Carpentier providing news and analysis throughout. There were also bulletins every half hour provided by students from the Multimedia Journalism course, which featured the latest updates and reaction from an exciting and unpredictable election night.

The live blog, run by Jesse Harrison Lowe and Rowena Field-Carter, was updated on a nearly minute by minute basis.

Thanks to weeks of planning from Jesse, who led the project, Rebel had reporters down at the Colchester count to provide insight as to how it was going, as well as reporters in the Students’ Union Bar to get student reaction to what was happening. The blog also announced the Colchester result faster than both the BBC and Sky.

Rebel had a determined team of 14 students working through the night to provide the coverage, as well as eight Multimedia Journalism students and three lecturers. The tireless effort from everyone involved was all worthwhile with excellent radio and blog coverage of the night, as well as providing an invaluable experience for those involved.

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15 May 2017

Students get insight into working of European Parliament

Filed under: Latest news, Student experience — Communications Office @ 11:39 am

BrusselsAbout 40 students got the chance to meet members of the European Parliament during a special trip to Brussels.

The trip was funded by the Opinion Multiplier Scheme, which aims to encourage more interest in the European Parliament. During the trip the Government and Language and Linguistic students met people who work at the European Parliament and also visited the European External Action Service, which manages the funding for charities, third world countries and relief aid for natural disasters.

Professor Han Dorussen, from the Department of Government, said: “The visit to the European Parliament and the European External Action Service has given Essex students a unique opportunity to learn about the day-to-day activities of the EU. EU officials gave an honest introduction to the ambitions and challenges of European cooperation and fully addressed questions. They also informed students about internships and working in Brussels.”

Lexa Olivera-Smith, from the Department of Language and Linguistics, said: “We are very grateful to Essex Abroad and the Opinion Multiplier Scheme for this wonderful opportunity. Our students felt privileged to have first-hand experience of the inner workings of EU institutions. For the MA Translation students it was particularly exciting to learn more about the linguistic side of operations and to have a close look at the impressive interpreting facilities.”

Jan Spalek, Short-term Programmes Manager at Essex Abroad, said: “We were delighted to receive a grant from the European Parliament Opinion Multiplier Scheme to take 40 students to Brussels to visit the European Parliament and European External Action Service. We have been able to visit the voting chamber, listen to engaging presentations and learn a lot about how these important organisations operate. As a very engaged group – we have also debated variety of issues including Brexit, and the future of Europe as well as the recent changes in the European political climate. We were also pleased to meet Essex alumnus Georgi Nenchev who now works at the European Parliament and who delivered an excellent talk.”

Klaudijus Jarusevicius, who is studying international relations, said: “I enjoyed my time in Brussels. I learned about the European parliament, all its values and the day-to-day agenda. It’s a perfect eye-opener as to where I want to work, and it gave me a glimpse into the future job I would like later on in life.”

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14 March 2017

Hear the LGBT+ stories from Essex

Filed under: Latest news, People pages, Student experience — Tags: — Communications Office @ 1:50 pm

LGBT-newStudents and staff from the University have written a book about their LGBT+ experiences and stories.

The book – LGBT+ Perspectives – The University of Essex Reader - was compiled and edited by Dr Ilaria Boncori, from the Essex Pathways Department. It contains stories, experiences, narratives and subjects from all different people’s lives.

This book conveys different perspectives of gender identity and sexual orientation and can help to enlighten many people who feel uneducated on this topic, as well as help those who feel unsure about whom they are.

Dr Boncori explained: “This book offers a collection of different perspectives on LGBT+ matters written by University of Essex staff and students for all of us – students, teachers, parents, friends and workers. LGBT+ Perspectives includes personal experiences, research findings and professional stories that provide further insight on how gender identity and sexual orientation permeate our private and professional lives, with the aim to foster understanding and inclusion.”

LGBT+ Perspectives – The University of Essex Reader is available from the publishers Editoriale Scientifica and will soon be available on Amazon.

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6 February 2017

We are the champions

Filed under: People pages, Sport, Student experience — Tags: , — Communications Office @ 6:19 pm
Our men's and women's volleyballl squad

Our men’s and women’s volleyball squad at the Volleyball England National Student Cup finals

Our men’s volleyball team have been crowned Volleyball England National Student Cup Champions.

The competition started with teams being whittled down to the top 32 university and college men’s and women’s teams during several qualifying matches held across the country. The 32 student teams then battled it out over the weekend at the finals tournament at the University of East Anglia.

Both our men’s and women’s teams progressed through the group stage on Saturday without dropping a set, and then progressed further through the knock-out stages on Sunday with both teams reaching the final.

The women won silver after losing 2-0 in the final to last year’s runners-up Newcastle University, but the men won a thrilling final 2-1 against Bournemouth University, who have won the cup for the last three years.

Delighted Essex volleyball performance coach Alex Porter said: “I’m very proud of the athletes at the University of Essex and pleased to see all their hard work pay off.

“We set out in September with the goal of winning the double and they have pushed themselves to the limits to make this happen. We strive to improve each day and take every opportunity to develop as athletes, teams and as a programme. Final year student Toby French had an excellent performance in the final which is a testament to his three years of hard work. And fellow final year student Amelia Stamp dominated the passing unit in the women’s squad throughout the weekend, bringing a calming figure to the team.”


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27 January 2017

Hit the heights in Poland

Filed under: Latest news, Student experience — Heather Leathley @ 5:47 pm
Perform with StiltsPro in Poland.

Learn stilt-walking skills with StiltsPro in Poland.

If you are interested in street theatre, there’s a fantastic course on offer in Poland this summer organised by fellow students at the Southend East 15 Acting School.

StiltsPro Theatre Company, run by East 15 students, in partnership with Teatr Avatar from Poland are running a unique two week course for stage people to get a comprehensive training and diploma in stilt-walking, acrobatics and many other street theatre skills.

The cost is £600 including everything but the flights.

For more information contact Piotr Pawarski, email:

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10 November 2016

Essex opens campus-based Sports Therapy Clinic

Filed under: Campus news, Latest news, Student experience — Tags: — Communications Office @ 11:03 am
Student Rebecca Wilson at the new sports therapy clinic.

Student Rebecca Wilson at the new Sports Therapy Clinic.

Our new Sports Therapy Clinic is now open for business at Colchester Campus – and it is free for all students and staff.

The clinic is the first campus-based facility of its kind at the University and will provide an essential place for our BSc Sports Therapy students to put their new skills to the test.

Opening on Monday 14 November, the clinic will offer treatment and management for a number of conditions including neck and shoulder pain, muscle strains, sports injuries, arthritic joint pain and foot and ankle pain. The students will also be able to offer massage to help posture issues and ease tension.

The clinic, which is open from 10am-5pm Monday to Friday, will mainly involve third year students giving treatment, supervised by their lecturers. Students and staff can attend as often as their injuries require treatment.

Lecturer in sports therapy Keith Burnett, who will be supervising the students, said the course at Essex was more developed than others in the way it underpinned the sports therapy aspect with the psychological side of treatment. Being linked to sports science academics at Essex has meant the students also have a real understanding of the scientific principles behind the injuries.

“The psychological understanding of sports therapy is also essential,“ added Keith, “as it is the way to get into the client’s mind set to enhance client adherence, which then makes the rehabilitation interventions more effective and successful.”

The experience in the clinic will go towards the 200 hours of practical experience the students need to undertake to become a member of the Society of Sports Therapists at the end of the course.

The students will get to experience dealing with a wide range of injuries, which will enhance their confidence and improve their employability.

“Working with real patients gives them the chance to look at the true pathology and they will experience the various grades of injury,” added Keith. “This will enhance their understanding and give them vital hands-on experience and increase their confidence so they are industry ready when they leave university.”

Student Rebecca Wilson came to Essex as there were no courses like this at her home in Northern Ireland. “The only courses available were in physiotherapy and I really wanted a course where I could focus on the strength and conditioning side of things which Essex provided.”

Rebecca, who also works closely with the Essex men’s and women’s basketball teams, added: “It is a great asset to get a clinic on campus. Getting that hand-on experience is vital and will really help give me more confidence being a sports therapist.”

For more information please email the Sports Therapy Team at or call 01206 872255.



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30 September 2016

Volunteering gets a revamp

Filed under: Latest news, Student experience — Tags: , — Communications Office @ 10:49 am

vteam posterUntil now, students had to carry around and complete a paper passport to log their volunteering efforts with the Students’ Union vTeam.

Being paper, these were often damaged, lost, or forgotten; and students then had no record of their activities. Paper has now become electronic thanks to the Catalyst Project funding an additional volunteering module for the vTeam’s MSL system, enabling the vTeam to now:

  • Offer an easy online way for students to record their volunteering, skills, and training
  • Align with the Big Essex Award skills, providing consistency for our students across different schemes
  • Encourage students who’ve completed the necessary volunteering hours to apply for the Big Essex Award, also giving them recognition on their Higher Education Achievement Report (HEAR)
  • Have more time to dedicate to setting up new and exciting projects for our students
  • Increase our volunteering efforts within our local communities
  • Provide students with a record of their skills achieved through volunteering and increasing their employability
  • Be able to accurately know how many hours and opportunities students are participating in
  • Include other student volunteering such as Society & Club volunteering, peer mentoring, Nightline, external volunteering and lots more

Volunteering is an important part of the student experience, and the vTeam are the go-to team for anything related to student volunteering.

Need some volunteers? Contact the vTeam.  Need some help promoting your opportunity? Contact the vTeam. Got some ideas? Contact the vTeam.

Anya Visegorodceva – Volunteering Manager E: 01206 863211

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5 August 2016

Get insights into our National Student Survey results

Filed under: Latest news, Student experience — Communications Office @ 11:04 am
Students outside The Meadows

Students outside The Meadows

The results of the National Student Survey are out this week and a special briefing is being organised for all staff by the Academic Section to offer them insights into the results before they are officially published.

All staff are invited to the briefing which will be on Tuesday 9 August at 2pm in LTB4 on the Colchester Campus and GB2.18 on the Southend Campus.

The National Student Survey results will be published the following day on Wednesday 10 August.

The session is designed for staff interested in improving the student experience and will provide an overview of the 2016 results data for Essex and the sector data prior to national publication. There will also be an opportunity to explore the key themes and headlines.

Contact Assistant Education Manager Richard Alderman at if you have any questions ahead of the briefing.

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