Students Staff
University of Essex

February 14, 2019

Using our purchasing power for the benefit of our students

Chris Oldham, Director of Estates and Campus Services, tells us more about making the most of our supply chain for the benefit of our students.

Chris Oldham

Chris Oldham

Over the past year The Procurement Services team has been making the most of the University’s supply chain for the benefit of our students. Encouraging our suppliers to provide a student benefit focus within their tender bid has resulted in a wide range of education and employability skills based opportunities for our students and graduates.

To make the most of our purchasing power, a mandatory social value question has been added in all tenders worth more than £25,000, asking bidders to describe how they will support our student community in their development. Their responses are then evaluated and scored accordingly.

There have already been some early successes

  • Legal firm Eversheds Sutherland offering a guest speaker into the School of Law programme introducing a mentoring scheme for law students and developing a potential placement scheme at their Ipswich office
  • Accountancy firm KPMG running an annual skills event for students and promoting our Careers Mentoring Programme to their staff to encourage them to become mentors to our students
  • Rose Builders offering mentoring and placements
  • Phelan Construction offering placement opportunities including roles in administration, marketing and IT
  • Atlantic Data offering student placements
  • Cyber security company KHIPU Networks offering student sponsorship opportunities as well as work experience and graduate roles.

USG has approved a range of recommendations with the aim of delivering an element of direct or indirect student benefit within 50 per cent of all successful tenders. These recommendations include:

  • Adopting UUK guidance for delivering successful social impact and student benefit
  • Continuing to prioritise student benefit as the primary objective of social impact outcomes
  • Evaluating social impact matrices used by other universities and developing a matrix relevant to our specific aims and objectives
  • Strengthening the connection between the Knowledge Gateway and University communities through an increased range of engagement and networking events

If you would like further information, or any guidance on how to maximise student benefit within tenders you are involved with, please email or visit our website.

January 25, 2019

We remain an international community where you find the world in one place

With Government continuing to debate the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, our Vice-Chancellor, Professor Anthony Forster, reaffirms our position as an international University community. 

Parliament is currently debating the EU Withdrawal Act and will vote again next week. We are a University which prides itself on our international outlook and I want to take this opportunity to reassure our community that no matter what the outcome of next week’s vote – the University of Essex is and will remain an inclusive international community and a home for those who want to make the world a better place.

Our Vice-Chancellor Professor Anthony Forster

As I first set out in my blog following the EU referendum our approach will not change – we will continue to seize opportunities to support our mission and to collaborate, share, and work in partnership with colleagues in Europe and across the globe, in our tireless pursuit of excellence in education and excellence in research.

We will continue to work closely with Universities UK and with friends and supporters in Parliament to secure access to research funding, free movement and mobility schemes for staff and students and to safeguard the rights of our EU 27 staff. I have written an open letter to the Minister for HE and published an article in the Guardian  setting out why strong links in Europe are core to promoting a global Britain agenda, once the UK leaves the EU.

Our commitment to nurturing strong links in Europe is underlined by our inclusion as one of the 18 founding members of the Young European Research Universities Network (YERUN). A pan-Europe initiative, YERUN aims to empower researchers, help design the future research environment, work with industry to ensure research is aligned with the labour market and ensure graduates have employability skills.

In addition I am delighted that on Wednesday Senate approved our participation in a network of seven young European research intensive universities (who are some of our closest partners in the YERUN network), who share an ambition to shape the future of Europe and want to accelerate integration of education and research activities. The Young Universities for the Future of Europe (YUFE) group of seven universities will submit a proposal to the Commission’s ‘European Universities Initiative’ in February, which aims to bring together a new generation of creative Europeans who are able to courage across languages borders and disciplines to address big societal challenges and skills shortages that Europe faces.

Professor Forster played an integral role in the establishment of the YERUN network.

We have strengthened our recruitment presence across the globe to ensure we continue to recruit our fair share of talented students from around the world. We are developing new partnerships, we are using our global network of alumni to engage in more locations and reach more people, and we are using our in-country teams to identify emerging opportunities and make new connections through local knowledge.

On our campuses, we have run a range of events and activities to support and advise staff on residency and nationality issues. Susie Morgan, our Director of HR has recently published a blog on the steps we are taking. Our EU referendum web pages contain information for staff, from details on naturalisation, permanent residence and information on funding for research projects to details of the EU settlement scheme.

And it was in direct response to our community’s concerns, that we established our ‘One Essex’ inclusivity campaign. ‘One Essex’ puts our vision and our ethos succinctly: One World One Spirit, One Essex and it is this thought I want to leave you with: that while UK’s position in relation to the European Union may change, our values will remain the same. The University of Essex will always be a cosmopolitan community, committed to inclusivity and internationalism, and a place where you can find the world in one place.



At Essex we’re proud of our diversity, our people and our inclusive spirit.

We’re proud of our global community and we’re celebrating these values with One Essex.

Our One Essex inclusivity campaign puts our ethos succinctly.


Essex is home to people from all over the world.

We’ll respect and support each other, no matter who we are or where we come from.

Join us in making sure that we are a welcoming and supportive community and a place that feels safe and inclusive.

January 24, 2019

Why student surveys matter

Our Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education), Professor Madeline Eacott, tells us why the results of the annual National Student Survey (NSS) are so important.

Professor Madeline Eacott

Professor Madeline Eacott

Here at Essex we believe in putting student success at the heart of everything we do. The NSS survey gives the University the opportunity to receive direct, anonymous feedback from our own students on how they think we are doing. And, of course, this gives us an opportunity to improve.

Launched in 2005, the NSS asks all final year undergraduate students 27 questions (listed below) covering all aspects of their living and learning experience, including the teaching, assessment and academic support available as well as aspects such as how they are able to contribute their views and feel part of the learning community.

As an institution, we can also add an optional question. This year we chose to ask ‘What single change would have had the most positive impact on the quality of your learning experience at the University of Essex?’

The results of the NSS are made publicly available on Unistats to help prospective students make informed decisions about where and what to study.  They also make a substantial contribution to our ranking in The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide, as well as other UK ranking systems.

So once the survey is complete, and the results are in, what happens next?

The results are scrutinised in many places. Each department, for example, considers the results from their own students and agrees a plan of actions with their Executive Dean in relation to improving their courses.

But alongside this departmental scrutiny, the results are considered at an institutional level to see whether there are any broader issues raised. For example, the library examines results across departments to see how we can improve the library services we offer to our students and the Student Experience Committee considers all the free-text comments to pick out any common themes which could be addressed.

Given the multitude of ways the data is considered and actions planned, there might be a danger of an uncoordinated response. For this reason, I chair an NSS Coordination Group, attended by our three Executive Deans, alongside four senior colleagues from Academic Section and CER.

The group’s brief is to ensure there is a coherent and consistent approach across the University in terms of delivering on the many and various action plans that come from consideration of our NSS results. Ultimately, our aim is to ensure we offer an excellent education with which students will be very satisfied.

We work together to make meaningful improvements.

Our students are at the heart of this process. Not only is the NSS data provided by final year students at Essex, current students and the SU also help us understand how we can use it to improve student satisfaction.

For example at the Senior Staff Conference in November dedicated to improving student satisfaction, SU President, Tanki Chartier, and SU VP Education, Edmund Walker spoke passionately about the student experience and initiatives were launched as a result.

Equally, departments are holding focus groups with their students to understand how they can better support their students’ learning. One outcome has been that many departments have launched for the first time this year mid-module feedback to allow students to give feedback early in the module so that action can be taken to rectify any issues before the module ends.

 The 2019 NSS will go live from Monday 4 February and runs until Tuesday 30 April.

Each year, teams from across our University pull together to encourage students to complete the survey. Our response rates are good. Last year we achieved 68% compared with a national average of 65%. This year we are aiming for at least 70%.

Everyone can contribute.

Whether our roles involve encouraging students to explore new ideas, assessing their coursework, staffing the library, building new classrooms, fixing IT systems, or devising timetables, we’re all here to help students get the very best out of their time at Essex.

The NSS is a snapshot of our efforts, through the eyes of our students. I hope that when the 2019 survey launches we will all be ready to play our part as members of this community. I hope we can coordinate our efforts to achieve the best response rate, the best results, and once the results are in, act with renewed energy to make continual improvements towards excellence in education.

NSS questions

NB for these questions, the surveys asks students to respond on a scale from ‘definitely agree’ to ‘definitely disagree’.

 The teaching on my course

  1. Staff are good at explaining things.
  2. Staff have made the subject interesting.
  3. The course is intellectually stimulating.
  4. My course has challenged me to achieve my best work.

Learning opportunities

  1. My course has provided me with opportunities to explore ideas or concepts in depth.
  2. My course has provided me with opportunities to bring information and ideas together from different topics.
  3. My course has provided me with opportunities to apply what I have learnt.

Assessment and feedback

  1. The criteria used in marking have been clear in advance.
  2. Marking and assessment has been fair.
  3. Feedback on my work has been timely.
  4. I have received helpful comments on my work.

Academic support

  1. I have been able to contact staff when I needed to.
  2. I have received sufficient advice and guidance in relation to my course.
  3. Good advice was available when I needed to make study choices on my course.

Organisation and management

  1. The course is well organised and is running smoothly.
  2. The timetable works efficiently for me.
  3. Any changes in the course or teaching have been communicated effectively.

Learning resources

  1. The IT resources and facilities provided have supported my learning well.
  2. The library resources (e.g. books, online services and learning spaces) have supported my learning well.
  3. I have been able to access course-specific resources (e.g. equipment, facilities, software, collections) when I needed to.

Learning community

  1. I feel part of a community of staff and students.
  2. I have had the right opportunities to work with other students as part of my course.

 Student voice

  1. I have had the right opportunities to provide feedback on my course.
  2. Staff value students’ views and opinions about the course.
  3. It is clear how students’ feedback on the course has been acted on.
  4. The students’ union (association or guild) effectively represents students’ academic interests.
  5. Overall, I am satisfied with the quality of the course.
  6. Looking back on the experience, are there any particularly positive or negative aspects you would like to highlight?

 NB there are also additional questions on NHS practice placements, Degree Apprenticeships and a bank of optional questions.

December 14, 2018

Celebrating our University of the Year with a year of celebrations

Our Registrar and Secretary, Bryn Morris, tells us what we’ve got planned to celebrate the title of University of the Year.

Bryn Morris

Our Registrar and Secretary, Bryn Morris

Our University won the prestigious title of University of the Year as a result of the hard work and dedication of every member of our community.

It is through our combined efforts and our shared commitment that we have seen our achievements recognised – and so by way of thanks and celebration, we are organising a year full of events.

And to begin our year of revelling with a bang, I want to announce that we will be giving everyone an extra day of annual leave.

The additional day will be given to all staff at all our campuses including our Students’ Union and Campus Services staff. The extra day should be taken during the year in which we are University of the Year i.e. between December 2018 and November 2019. The addition will be added to each member of staff’s leave allocation for 2018/19 and if not taken will be rolled forward into 2019/20.

And the fun doesn’t stop there. We have a host of other celebrations in store for the coming year, including:

• A celebratory tea party at each of our three campuses
• Free ice cream, music and games at our summer picnic
• University of the Year themed Celebrating Excellence events for both academic and professional services colleagues
• A University of the Year badge on all our Graduation materials
• A free Students’ Union event for our students

We’ll be looking to add University of the Year twists to other events throughout the year.

Recognising the contributions of all members of our community in these ways is incredibly important. We’ve achieved this accolade by putting people first and so I hope that everyone will be able to take part in and enjoy our year of celebrations.

December 6, 2018

Celebrating Excellence at the Vice-Chancellor’s Christmas Reception 2018

The annual Christmas Reception is a chance for our Vice-Chancellor, Professor Anthony Forster, to say a personal thank you to everyone for their hard work and dedication throughout the year. Read his speech here and take a look at the photos on Flickr.

I just want to take a few moments to thank you all for your contribution to the success of the University over the last year.

People at the reception

The VC’s Christmas reception is a chance for celebration and recognition of everyone’s hard work throughout the year.

And what a year it has been! I think many of us are still reeling from the award last week of the wonderful title of University of the Year at the Times Higher Education Awards 2018. We knew in our heart of hearts, as we put together the submission, that we were worthy of the accolade but to actually be named ‘University of the Year’ and to have experienced the tremendous positive response that we’ve had from students, staff, friends and supporters across the sector and beyond, has been life-enhancing.

I am incredibly proud of our achievements and each of you is here today because you have been a part of this success. You have achieved excellence and through your actions, demonstrated the Essex spirit over the course of the last year. This event is about saying thank you and congratulations to you all.

I’m not intending to speak for long so will not be able to name check all the various teams and individuals from academic departments, professional services and the Students’ Union across our three campuses who are here today, but you’ll see that, as has become the tradition, we’ve tried to capture all your various contributions and successes on the powerpoint presentation running on the screens around us.

Some of you are here in recognition of the valuable contribution that you have made to the research mission of the University

  • by undertaking and publishing research of the highest quality
  • by continuing to apply for and secure significant external funding
  • by being recognised through fellowships and other professional recognition
  • by sharing your work through public lectures and events, and
  • by winning prestigious national and international awards.

I also want:

  • to congratulate those of you who have been promoted this year
  • to thank those who have been instrumental in the establishment of our 21st academic department The Edge Hotel School; and of the University of Essex International College
  • those of you who have been instrumental in the planning, building and successful operation of our fantastic new STEM building
  • those of you who have work tirelessly in planning and delivering open days and applicant visit days and in other marketing, student recruitment, admissions, and registrations roles resulting in another record year for us in terms of achieving our growth ambitions
  • Library colleagues who have continued to innovate in all sorts of different ways and who have made our 24/7 Library a reality
  • Staff and students from across the University who rallied round in all sorts of ways to support our University of the Year submission and ‘inspection visit’
  • And all our fabulous students who remind us each and every day why we’re all here.

Finally, I would like to thank our Students’ Union President, Tanki, and the superb team of sabbatical officers. And also the SU permanent staff for their energy and sustained commitment to supporting the sabbatical officers and providing the continuity that is essential in maintaining the sector-leading Students’ Union that we are so proud of.

So thank you all personally and on behalf of ‘the University of the Year’  – no less – for making our success possible through your hard work, dedication and commitment throughout another fantastic year.

I hope that you enjoy the evening and I wish you a very happy Christmas and New Year.

Thank you.

November 30, 2018

Three major challenges confronting our University

Our Vice-Chancellor, Professor Anthony Forster, and our Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Designate), Professor Lorna Fox O’Mahony, spoke to the Times Higher this week about the challenges we face as a University.

Our Vice-Chancellor, Professor Anthony Forster.

Universities are grappling with a range of unprecedented challenges – many are issues over which we have little or no control. Of course we worry about these issues, but at Essex we are working hard to ensure this does not overwhelm us, by focusing on what we can control and choosing carefully where we can focus our energy. This means regularly revisiting our founding mission to ensure that we do all that we can to deliver excellence in education and research for the benefit of individuals and society. In doing so we want to be daring, impatient for change – and to ensure that our university meets the needs of our time.

With the creation of new universities in the 1960s, public confidence in the value of a university education was rising. Increased access to higher education promised exciting opportunities for people who had previously been excluded from higher education, not for want of ability or potential, but because of background. Access to a university education as a means to unlock potential and transform communities inspired a campaign for a new university in Essex and moved people to give generously to its establishment. In return, the University of Essex made a commitment to be equally committed to education and research – a university for the real world and a university concerned not only with the pursuit of learning, but with the fulfilment of lives.

We are a dual intensive university committed to offering transformational education and research. Other universities have privileged research at the expense of education, or education at the expense of research, – and some are only prepared to pay lip service to social mobility.  If the type of university that Essex represents is to be cherished and not just tolerated, then we have to respond to three challenges:First we need to redouble our effort to demonstrate we offer real benefit for people and communities, particularly those facing social, economic, political and cultural challenges. For us the promise of higher education as a public good means we must live up to a dual challenge of ensuring fair access and outstanding outcomes for students from every background. It means encouraging students from underrepresented groups to go to our university, so that we can be seen to champion sharing the benefits of higher education. At Essex, 41% of our UK students come from households with an income of less than £25,000 a year, so it is no surprise that we are the most socially inclusive university in the Times Good University Guide top 30 – rightly a source of great pride to our university community. But fair access is only one step towards a more equitable distribution of the public good of higher education. We must also ensure that every student has an opportunity to achieve outstanding outcomes regardless of socio-economic background, gender or ethnicity. Whilst the Teaching Excellence Framework has its flaws, it is the only serious attempt by government to understand and benchmark added value. Retaining our TEF Gold rating is key to assessing our progress and demonstrating our commitment to social mobility.

Our Deputy Vice-Chancellor, (Designate) Professor Lorna Fox O’Mahony.

Second we must ensure our research continues to ask difficult questions, to challenge conventional wisdom, speak truth to power and makes a positive difference to people’s lives. For us this means supporting research that tackles with rigour the questions that matter for people and communities, that seeks out solutions and puts ideas into action, with a commitment to make the world a better place. To support this we must continue to do well in the government’s assessment of research quality, in securing external funding such as Knowledge Transfer Partnerships and financial support for training PhDs who will be the next generation of scholars. We must also continue to champion academic freedom within the law, which can never be taken for granted.

Finally, we must continue to make the case for dual intensive universities in UK HE – for a strong link between transformative education and research. We need to champion the benefits of world leading scholars teaching students. This type of education provides a range of skills that supports graduates to thrive in a changing employment landscape and through social and community engagement helps solve societal challenges that matter. We must continue to make the case to government that if it wants universities to excel at both education and research, then it must play its part in nurturing the delicate ecosystem that is required to deliver it.

We are self-critical about whether we are being brave enough and imaginative enough in pursuing this agenda, but you would be wrong to think that the scale of the challenge keeps us awake at night – it does not – but day in day out, it is what gets us out of bed in the morning.

Professor Anthony Forster and Professor Lorna Fox O’Mahony

We’ve been awarded the accolade of University of the Year at the Times Higher Education Awards

I am delighted to let you know that the University of Essex was awarded the accolade of University of the Year at the Times Higher Education Awards presentation last night.

The judges said that our University had been “unabashed in its strategy to recruit students on the basis of potential rather than just prior achievement, and it has helped them to fulfil that potential. It has delivered on its pledge to value staff in concrete ways, including a systematic decasualisation of its workforce, through pay equality and with staff contracts for graduate teaching assistants. What are universities, if not communities of talented, committed people? By putting those people – both staff and students – first, the University of Essex has every right to its claim to be a ‘home for staff and students who want to make the world a better place’. It is also our University of the Year.”

You can read more on the news page of our website.

This award recognises the impact of the work of our amazing staff and students, the quality of our relationship with our Students’ Union and the strength of our regional, national and global partnerships in delivering our mission.

Our Students’ Union President Tancrede Chartier joined me in collecting this prestigious award. Tanki said: “This award recognises the incredible qualities and achievements of Essex students, past and present, and the unique partnership between the Students’ Union and the University, to put student success at the heart of everything that happens at Essex. We are all feeling justifiably proud the University has received this award.”

I would like to express my sincere thanks to everyone in our community. Your commitment to the University and our mission is the reason why we received this recognition – and I wanted to say thank you and very many congratulations.

We will be sure to find opportunities for staff and students to celebrate this award in the coming weeks.

November 16, 2018

The UK’s strength in science is because of the EU – not in spite of it

Our Vice-Chancellor, Professor Anthony Forster, tells the Guardian that maintaining a close relationship with the remaining EU countries is crucial to the continued success of UK universities.

Brexit negotiations may be in turmoil, but UK universities need the government to encourage even stronger links with the remaining 27 member states in the European Union, no matter how we finally decide to leave. We must ensure the UK remains a beacon of scientific excellence, driving improvements in productivity, job creation and growth.

The UK’s new relationship with the rest of the EU will be vital in determining the future of its scientific standing. Producing 11.6% of the world’s citations and 15.9% of the most highly-cited articles, it is rightly admired as a beacon of scientific excellence. The UK constitutes just 0.9% of the global population and has 4.1% of the world’s researchers. Among our comparator countries, we have overtaken the USA to rank first by field-weighted citation impact of scholarly publications. And after the USA, we have more universities in the top 100 in the world than any other country.

Delivering a global Britain requires the government to nurture the links our universities have built-up with European Union partners – not spurn them. This is why I sent an open letter to the universities minister to make clear that our global scientific impact has not occurred despite our membership of the EU, but because of it; it is the foundation on which our work has been built.

For more than 45 years, membership of the EU has allowed staff and student exchange across countries, research collaboration, joint degrees and a shared academic infrastructure of common quality and standards, and mutual recognition of degrees. It has enabled engagement in large-scale research facilities that have supported staff in UK universities to become world leaders. The depth and breadth of this scholarly engagement is unmatched by any other country across the globe. No one should trivialise the contribution our relationship with the EU has made to our global standing, and let’s correct any miscalculation of the effort we now need to invest in sustaining our EU 27 links.

Since the referendum vote, UK universities – including my own – have nurtured our existing relationships and forged new partnerships across Europe. This has included joining networks such as the Young European Research Universities Network, which will bring together a new generation of Europeans to cooperate across languages, borders and disciplines, and to address the big societal challenges and skills shortages.

We must now refute zero-sum claims that global Britain requires us to deprioritise our EU 27 links, in order to promote collaboration in other parts of the world. I have just returned from Africa, where I met the leaders of leading universities in South Africa and Botswana to develop relationships which complement existing partnerships with EU 27 universities, not replace them. These universities want to connect with a university which is part of a wider scholarly community of universities in the EU 27, not one that stands aside from them.

For universities to thrive after Brexit, we need to be able to recruit the best staff from around the world. Future policy will require a deft touch to ensure we remain a global destination of choice for talented students, academics and professionals from the EU 27, with the UK their preferred intellectual home.

Scientific research transforms lives. Why is that so often forgotten?

Equally, we need to ensure UK universities continue to offer undergraduate and postgraduate courses that include a work or study abroad experience through full engagement with the EU’s Erasmus+ programmes.

Finally, access to research networks in the EU 27 countries is paramount. This is not just a matter of tapping into EU research and innovation funds, but also forming part of scientific research networks. It is essential to sustaining the UK’s global scientific impact.

The government needs to recognise that maintaining a mutually beneficial post-Brexit relationship with our 27 European partners is mission critical to achieving its ambitions to become a global Britain.

Professor Anthony Forster


Encouraging safe and respectful behaviour

Our Registrar and Secretary, Bryn Morris, tells us more about the work we’re doing, in collaboration with our SU, to make sure that all the citizens of our campuses feel safe, secure and respected.

Bryn Morris

Our Registrar and Secretary, Bryn Morris

Our campuses are special places. They are home to many of our students, as well as providing high quality learning spaces. Each has its own quirks. Loughton has charm and creativity in its walls; Southend buzzes in the centre of a busy urban area; and Colchester is like a small town in its own right, with shops, sports facilities, a bank, a cinema and a range of other leisure facilities.

Like small towns, it’s important that all the citizens of our campuses feel safe, secure and respected. Our Patrol Officers in Colchester and our Security Officers in Southend and Loughton – the Guardians of our Campuses – work hard to protect the safety of everyone who lives and works in the University. But it is just as important for everyone in our community to take responsibility for making this a place to live that is, and feels, safe. This means being respectful to other people, and also calling out behaviour that we think isn’t acceptable. Our community is a strong one. Earlier this week, we saw many students and staff gather on Square 3 at the Colchester campus to pledge to end harassment of any sort. Another event of this nature is being planned at Southend later on this term. This has given and continues to give a powerful message, and I was proud to be part of the event.

Looking after each other

We all need to look after, and out for, each other. We have a zero tolerance approach to sexual harassment. If standards are not met, and offences happen, we will always investigate and take action, proportionate to the circumstances of the case. Ultimately, however, our penalties can result in a student being expelled from the University. This has and does happen. The Code of Student Conduct tells you what we expect – and what could happen if behaviour falls short of these expectations.

We will also co-operate fully with the Police if an offence is committed. You might have read recently about a couple of incidents that happened on our Colchester campus. I want to reassure you that, through fast Police work, and the images captured on our CCTV cameras, two arrests have been made. We will always take steps to protect our community.

At our Southend Campus we and our Security Officers liaise closely with the Police, Town Link Radio and Southend Council’s CCTV team to work together on crime prevention and investigation. We also work with local agencies and partner organisations in Southend to address concerns about safety in and around the town centre.

We really want our campuses to be places where everyone can feel safe. If you spot something happening which worries you, then there are a number of things you can do about it. If you want to talk to someone, then there are a lot of ways of doing this. Nightline exists for students, and the Harassment Advisory Network is there for members of staff. Most importantly, anything you see or experience can be reported through our Report & Support system. We will follow up anything reported wherever we can.

Be an active bystander

You can also sign up for our Active Bystander training. This is currently delivered in Colchester, and we are hoping to extend this to Southend. We have trained over 300 staff and students so far and the numbers are growing. Maybe you have been in a situation where someone has made a sexist comment, a homophobic remark, a transphobic joke, a biphobic statement or a rape joke, and although you knew it wasn’t right, you might not have been able to intervene – perhaps through a lack of confidence, or even a fear of repercussion. This training is designed to spread knowledge about consent and the continuum of sexual violence, and to empower our community with the skills to intervene safely. This could be having a quiet word with the person making the inappropriate joke, or it could be calling it out calmly at the time, to let them know that it’s not OK.

The University and the SU work hard together to make our campuses as safe and secure as possible. Some of the things we are doing are employing more Patrol Officers so we have enough staff on our Colchester campus at night to allow them to visit the Colchester accommodation blocks, reviewing our CCTV system, buying more cameras, and making dark places lighter, as well as encouraging everyone to look after themselves and each other. In Southend, personal alarms are available free of charge from the SU Lounge and Office, Gateway Building Reception and University Square reception. The SU in Colchester has introduced enhanced door security and searches on entry to its venues, engaged volunteer Welfare Angels to work at night to take care of students leaving venues, and launched the Ask for Angela initiative. You might have seen the sniffer dogs we use as well.

A place where respect is the watchword

We held a ‘town hall’ meeting on 24 October, to which we invited representatives from across the student and staff communities to discuss further actions we could take both in promoting the message that any sort of sexual violence or harassment is not acceptable and in making our community feel as safe as possible. We received several excellent suggestions through this forum, which we are taking forward. The work doesn’t stop here, however, and we are still keen to hear more ideas. If you have something you’d like to suggest, let me know, or you can feed in through the SU.

We need your help to continue to make our University a place where respect is the watchword. Spread the word. Tell your mates. Look after each other.

November 1, 2018

Consultation opens on direction of travel for our University Strategy, 2019-25

Our Deputy Vice-Chancellor Designate, Professor Lorna Fox O’Mahony, updates us on the progress of our next strategic plan 2019-25.

Professor Lorna Fox O'Mahony, our Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Designate)

Professor Lorna Fox O’Mahony, our Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Designate)

Our next University Strategy will set out our priorities for the period 2019-25, shaping how we advance our mission of excellence in education and research in the context of our changing world.

Since January 2018 I have supported the Vice-Chancellor to ensure we engage widely across our community to gather ideas and input. These have shaped our approach to thinking about the priorities that will frame our work in this next period.

To give you a sense of the scale of engagement, Area Reviews in each of our three faculties and Professional Services have gathered ideas and input across departments and sections. We have collected input through themed workshops focused on education and research; two meetings of Senior Staff Conference; open consultation events at each of our three campuses; regular meetings with the Students’ Union leadership; discussions with our University Council and our dedicated Moodle site. We have shared ideas and sought feedback from our friends and supporters, through a consultation event at the Vice-Chancellor’s Summer Reception and a series of Lake House dinners; and we have tested emerging priorities with Senior Staff Conference, Education and Research Committees, Senate and Council.

I am very grateful to everyone who has contributed to this process: your ideas have been fundamental to shaping the direction of travel for the Strategy. As we prepare to move to the next phase of this work, it is a useful moment to share our thinking so far, and to invite your comments.

Essex Spirit

Our vision for 2025 will be rooted in our shared purpose as a community of staff and students advancing education and research excellence for the benefit of individuals and communities. Nurtured over 54 years, the core of our identity is our Essex Spirit. Key to this is a commitment to challenge, creativity and collaborative action, rooted in our global mind-set, enabled through our culture of membership and powered by our research mind-set.

Through the process of developing our next strategic plan, we have really challenged ourselves to think about what our students will need if we are to prepare them to succeed and thrive in their future lives, future careers and future learning. And we have challenged ourselves to think about how the University will enable every member of staff to fulfil their role in advancing the mission of the University. We know that it is more important than ever that we support every student, regardless of background, to develop the knowledge, skills and capabilities that they will need to succeed to realise their own Essex Spirit. We also know that it has never been more important to ask challenging research questions, test new ideas, and apply our knowledge to solve problems, to shape thinking and to benefit individuals and society.

Through our consultation events three priority areas have emerged to form the framework for our Strategy: People; Knowledge, ideas and Innovation; and Communities.


Our ‘Essex Spirit’ is defined by, and sustained through, our people: tenacious, bold, inquisitive, impatient for change; activists, advocates, entrepreneurs, and change-makers. At Essex, engaged students and staff have the courage to challenge received wisdom, ask difficult questions and apply their knowledge and ideas to improve people’s lives. Our educators are committed to student success and responsive to the living and learning needs of our diverse student communities. Our researchers are ambitious, curious, creative, entrepreneurial, ethical and experimental, advancing knowledge, generating ideas and applying their insights to transform communities and improve people’s lives.

Every member of our community has a crucial role to play in achieving our goals, working in creative partnership and learning from each other, sharing, collaborating and innovating to harness the power of new ideas.

Knowledge, Ideas and Innovation

At the heart of our mission of excellence in education and research is the creation, communication, transfer and application of knowledge, ideas and innovations. We have an enduring commitment to creating relevant, responsive and inclusive curricula, supporting our students through the multiple transitions of higher education, and enabling every student to develop their research mind-set – transitioning from knowledge and understanding to formulating their own ideas and putting these into action. We have an enduring commitment to generating globally important research that shapes and influences thinking and applies knowledge. Through our next Strategic Plan we will harness the power of new ideas to ensure that our campus environments and the services we deliver effectively enable our members to contribute towards achieving our shared aims.


Throughout the consultation process, staff and students have highlighted the importance of our collective commitment to our shared purpose of excellence in research and education, and to putting our ideas into action through transformative education and research that improves people’s lives. We have also received valuable feedback on the importance of continuing to develop our campus communities as places of belonging, where students and staff are enabled by our physical, digital, natural and relational environments. Beyond our campus communities, members of the University have emphasised the importance they place on our relationships with the communities in which our campuses are set, and their pride in the impact of the University on the lives of people and communities, locally and globally.

On 2 November we shared details of our progress so far through the dedicated University Strategy 2019-25 Moodle site. Consultation on the direction of travel will remain open until 16 November. Feedback through this site will help to inform the first version of our Strategy, which will also be shared through the Moodle site in a second consultation period from 5 December to 14 December.

Thank you to everyone who has contributed ideas, insights and suggestions to get us to this stage. If you’d like to see more detail on our emerging Strategy, and to comment on our direction of travel so far, please log into the Moodle site to continue engaging with this important process or email me – I am keen to hear your views on how we can best position the University in the next six years.


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