University of Essex
University of Essex

June 30, 2017

Showcasing our achievements – Annual Meeting 2017

The Annual Meeting is a highlight of our year and I am delighted to welcome our friends and supporters – you are absolutely integral to the success of the University. The Annual Meeting is an opportunity for us to showcase the achievements of this amazing University, which carries the county name, the University founded ‘by,’ ‘in’ and ‘for’ the people of Essex. What a year it has been.

A change in context

Our Vice-Chancellor Professor Anthony Forster described the achievements of 2017 in his annual speech.

Our Vice-Chancellor, Professor Anthony Forster, described the achievements of the academic year 2016-17 in his annual speech.

I would like to start by mentioning the wider environment in which the University is operating. In April, the first major reform of Higher Education in over 10 years, the Higher Education and Research Act, became law and this will have far reaching consequences for all UK universities. By March 2019 the UK will have left the European Union and we have a minority Conservative Government.

As a dual intensive university – equally committed to excellence in education and research, the context in which we pursue our mission is clearly very different from 12 months ago. But our mission and values remain unchanged:

  • We remain committed to contributing to society through excellence in education and research, locally, regionally, nationally, and globally.
  • And, our commitment to inclusivity and internationalist values is absolutely undiminished.

Over the last 12 months we have been working hard to make sure that the University not only survives, but thrives in this new environment. We have done this through focusing on our values and our mission and seeking new opportunities wherever we can find them.

Investing for the future

In response to record levels of interest for student places, we continue to invest in expanding our staff and our facilities.  I am delighted that we have seen a 24% increase in applications and have grown from 9,500 students in 2012 to 14,000 in 2016 and this year for the first time we exceeded 20,000 applications for 4,400 undergraduate places at Essex.

To support this demand, we have recruited 152 new academic staff over the last three years, and we are on track to double – to just over 600 – the number of research-active staff we submit to the next government led research assessment exercise. We have made an equally impressive investment in our professional services – appointing 300 new staff focused on supporting the University’s expansion. Our Council has agreed to significant investment of £100 million in new and refurbished teaching facilities, lecture space, seminar rooms, informal student spaces, student accommodation and new sporting facilities.

We have already made significant improvements to our facilities. At our Loughton Campus, work is underway to improve student learning and social space. This work will be completed this October. At our Southend Campus, the investment in the development of the Forum building, new student accommodation, and the Clifftown Theatre, means we are well-placed to support continued growth and enhanced student services within our existing buildings. The new investment of £100 million will ensure we remain globally competitive and allow us to increase our total student numbers to about 20,000 by 2025.

Over the last six years, Wivenhoe Park has been steadily transformed by our dedicated grounds staff. We have created wonderful spaces that students, staff and our local community value, and in which they can relax, think and socialise. This year we have applied for a Green Flag award which, if awarded, will be well-deserved recognition of our stewardship of a quintessentially English parkland. We are constructing an all-weather lakeside path around the bottom lake which will open up our parkland to more of our community.

At Essex we frame our work around four areas, or ‘four pillars’:  our Global Outlook; our Research Mindset; the Essex Spirit; and our Culture of Membership. I am going to say a few words about each of these.

Global Outlook

In championing our global community, we remain a beacon of internationalism. Our students and staff come from all over the world – choosing to invest their lives and talent with us.

  • In this year’s Times Higher Education World University Rankings we are ranked 19th in the world and 2nd in the UK for our international outlook – the proportion of non-UK staff and students, and internationally co-authored papers.
  • And the Times Higher Education rankings place us 15th in the world and 8th in the UK for the proportion of our international students.

Bucking the national trend, I am delighted that for October our undergraduate non-UK EU applications have increased from last year by 13.5%. Our international undergraduate applications have risen by 7.5% and postgraduate taught applications have also increased, up 10.7% from last year. Our globally-minded students go all over the world on placement years, or as part of our study abroad programme, widening their horizons, making new friends, and gathering new experiences.

Research Mindset

In turning to our research mindset, in April last year, Professor Fiona Nolan was appointed to the post of Florence Nightingale Foundation Chair in Mental Health – the only one of its kind in the country.  In October, Professor Maria Fasli became the first, and the world’s only, UNESCO Chair in Analytics and Data Science – a tremendous accolade both for Maria and the work of Data Science at the University. I am also delighted that we have appointed Professor Ian Maynard as our Founding Professor of Sport, Rehabilitation and Exercise Science, and the Head of the new School. Alongside the Regius Professorship in Political Science, currently held by Professor David Sanders, we are proud that these amazing, talented scholars are part of our Essex community.

Last year we secured £42 million of externally funded research income, double the amount of the previous year. Winning external funding is an extremely competitive peer review process, but is vital in allowing our staff to pursue research ideas – work that without this funding simply would not be possible. For example, a biological sciences research team has secured over half a million pounds to investigate marine bacteria which will help us to understand how global warming is changing this component of earth’s life support system. And we have also seen success in the prestigious UK Research Council’s ‘Global Challenges Research Fund’ schemes – illustrating the breadth of research undertaken at Essex. One project, receiving an £80,000 grant, is a creative and critical investigation into fractured communities and historical conflicts: in which our researchers are working with artists from Rwanda, Burundi, Congo, Palestine, Serbia, Sri Lanka and India. Understanding Society, based at Essex is the UK Household Longitudinal Study, the largest household panel study in the world. It addresses key scientific and policy questions and is constantly innovating; it has secured £27 million of funding to support its data collection and associated activities through to 2021.

We want our research to have a real impact and to support this end, we work hard to engage with businesses of all sizes. In the last academic year our business and community engagement income was £23 million. We are now ranked in the top ten of all universities in the UK for engagement with businesses through Knowledge Transfer Partnerships, one of the main ways we ensure our research feeds into business activity.  We have a portfolio of 17 different projects worth more than £3 million. These partnerships draw on our research to address areas of business priority, helping them to boost innovation and productivity and ultimately to grow. The range and scope of our Knowledge Transfer Partnerships is extensive.

  • We’re working with the Essex company Above Surveying to create state-of-the-art smart drones that will monitor Europe’s solar farms.
  • We’re helping Orbital Media, from Suffolk, to use artificial intelligence to create automated online GPs – helping to revolutionise the way patients are treated.
  • And, we know these projects are having a significant impact on businesses. Technology company LPA Connection Systems who provide internet connectivity on trains have just reported that their initial outlay of £110,000 has generated sales of around £8 million.
  • Professor Slava Mikhaylov, a newly appointed social scientist in our Department of Government, has been appointed the Chief Scientific Adviser to Essex County Council, helping to join up priorities in County Hall with research expertise within the University. This is the first Chief Scientific Adviser to be appointed by any UK University to their local council – and it is an investment by the University that will provide support and benefit to our local communities. This builds on a £4 million project with Suffolk and Essex County Councils to help them transform local services.
  • Parkside Office Village, 18,000 square feet of office space on our Knowledge Gateway science and business park, is now at 82% occupancy hosting 22 companies including the award-winning Games Hub and new Start-up Hub for student businesses.
  • But most important to me is that 25% of people working in the Office Village are either Essex graduates or Essex students.
  • Work is well underway on the £12 million Innovation Centre – a joint initiative with Essex County Council and the South East Local Enterprise Partnership, which will open in the summer of 2018. The Innovation Centre will accommodate up to 50 start-up and small hi-tech businesses, offering practical support and expertise that businesses will be able to draw on to help them to start-up, scale-up, and succeed. At the heart of the Innovation Centre will be the world class digital and media creative lab, part of our contribution to supporting the development of Colchester as a beacon for the digital, media and creative arts.

We take our commitment to ‘research-led’ teaching very seriously. Our academic staff are both great researchers and great teachers and I am delighted that 54% of our academic staff are fellows or associates of the Higher Education Academy, the professional teaching body for UK universities or have a teaching qualification. We are in the third year of updating our curriculum. All our undergraduate degree programmes now include a research capstone project, which is the culmination of undergraduate study at Essex. It ensures that every one of our students is taught by academics at the forefront of their disciplines and each student has direct experience of being a researcher themselves with all the benefits that accrue from this – developing critical and analytic skills, gaining transferable skills and, in so doing, boosting their employability prospects. Our Undergraduate Research Opportunities Programme gives students the chance of winning a bursary to work with one of our academic staff on a research project, with 90 bursaries awarded in 2016. This work is starting to produce results. Our Graduate-level employability has continued to improve, year on year, for the past three years.

  • Since 2012, for UK undergraduate leavers from full-time courses, we have seen a 25% improvement in our Graduate prospects score. 19% more of our students are obtaining graduate level jobs;
  • 24% of our students go on to graduate-level study; and
  • 76% of our students now earn a first or 2:1 degree.

The Essex Spirit

I am incredibly proud of the Essex Spirit. Over the past year our students have dedicated more than 23,000 hours of their time on volunteering projects, time spent directly helping people across our neighbourhoods. We launched the ‘One Essex’ campaign to re-affirm that our University campuses and local communities are inclusive and safe places. The campaign has involved working with our local partners to help raise visibility of these values in our communities, championing inclusivity and extolling the benefits of our global community.

Our International Students Association organised ‘One World Essex’, which included our Students’ Union  ‘knocking down the hate wall’ initiative. Our campus community took part in writing hateful words on the wall that they had heard, or discrimination they had experienced, and then came together to knock the wall down.

Our Enactus Student Society develops social enterprises and gives its members professional experience and access to opportunities. This year they reached the UK semi-finals, with a project based in Mali, helping poorer young people have access to a high quality education.

And our International alumni have once more been recognised for their achievements through the British Council Education UK Alumni Awards.

Culture of Membership

The enormously successful 18-month ‘Women of the Future’ appeal came to a close in December, concluding with a wonderful auction hosted by our Chancellor and special guest Sandy Toksvig. The appeal raised over £600,000 supporting 30 scholarships for women who want to come to study at Essex and then go out into the world and make it a better place.

We continue to be nationally recognised through being shortlisted and winning prestigious awards for the ground breaking work at the University. I am delighted that at the Times Higher Education Leadership and Management ceremony we won the award that recognises the excellence of education provision. The judges of the award said Essex’s strategy was “underpinned by a clear educational philosophy, which was to make a demonstrable impact on student learning outcomes. The valuing of teaching was driven up through a combination of staff reward and recognition schemes, alongside staff engagement in the University’s accredited continuing professional development scheme”. The judges concluded that we have achieved “impressive results” that are shown in the quality of teaching for students.The awards provide a welcome recognition of areas in which we lead the Higher Education sector – and of course help to raise our profile of what we do at Essex.

We remain committed to inclusivity and I am proud that this is a workplace where all staff and students are accepted without exception.

  • The proportion of female professors is at its highest ever level at 28.4% – which is 5.3% higher than the sector average.
  • We have seen a constant rise in the proportion of women appointed to academic posts over the last 3 years from 50.8% to 61.2% in 2016.
  • And LGBT plus colleagues make up 5.8% of our staff and student population.

Following a gender pay gap audit, we took decisive action to end the pay gap between our male and female professors, where our gender pay gap was the largest. We did this through a one-off uplift to women professor’s salaries from October 2016. We were the first university in the UK to do this and, in doing so, we reached 2.5 million people on social media and received extensive coverage in national broadsheet newspapers. We became the touchstone for the international debate about the gender pay gap.

When we decided we were going to make this change critics said such a step might be illegal, or if not illegal, too expensive and, if it wasn’t too expensive, then the pay gap would just immediately reopen. I am delighted to say that: we acted legally; sometimes principles do cost money; and one year on, the professorial gender pay gap remains closed.

The University of Essex is a special place and we are committed as ever to supporting our local communities in Colchester, Southend and Loughton. Our outreach work with schools continues to go from strength to strength.

  • Last year our outreach team worked with over 12,500 students from 130 schools.
  • The University welcomed 22 youth groups onto our campus, all experiencing a little bit of what it is like at Essex.
  • We are also part of a National Collaborative Outreach Programme, winning £5.8 million that will help more young people from disadvantaged backgrounds into higher education.
  • In September 2015 we started hosting the Six-Six Project, a project that opens our doors (and indeed classrooms) to five local sixth forms who teach A-level subjects on our campus. This has allowed more than 200 students to study the A-levels they wanted, but that the individual schools were not able to teach.

Sport is important to us; both encouraging wide participation and high-level performance. Nine thousand students took part in our ‘Just Play’ scheme which provides a whole range of sporting activities for beginners. Our performance sport programme is earning us some outstanding results. We have won nine British University and Colleges Sport league titles in: Volleyball, Basketball, Badminton, Golf, Rugby Union, Squash, and Tennis. Our Men’s Squash team took the British University and Colleges Sport Conference Cup title and in Harry Hughes we have the National Championship Gold medal winner in the Javelin and the current holder of the UK university record for javelin.

Summary

So, it has been an amazing year. I am absolutely delighted that we are ranked 30th in the 2017 Times Good University Guide. Our income this year will exceed £200 million pounds, and we will have generated over £22 million pounds in cash from our operating activities to re-invest back into our plans for our future. We are now contributing over half a billion pounds a year to the regional economy with 11% growth in the last year. That’s an increase of £69 million. This year we have also created two new academic departments: The School of Sport, Rehabilitation and Exercise Science and the Department of Psychosocial and Psychoanalytical Studies. These are the first new departments opened in the University since 1991.

As a capstone to an amazing year I am delighted that we have been awarded Gold in the government led assessment of the quality of our teaching – the Teaching Excellence Framework. The Gold award in TEF has only been awarded to the top 25% of universities in the UK and demonstrates how we’re offering outstanding levels of stretch, in terms of ensuring all students are significantly challenged to achieve their full potential. Very few universities are excelling in education and research and I am delighted that in both government assessments Essex is ranked in the top 20 of the REF and the TEF.

As the saying goes, life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it. I am proud of how our staff and students are embracing what is happening, and reacting to it. I hope you are too.

Take a look at Our Year in Numbers 2017 animated video on Vimeo.



June 29, 2017

In celebration of Professor Anthony King 1934 – 2017

Professor Anthony King was a giant of political science and one of our longest serving members of staff. In celebration of his life a memorial service was held at Speaker’s House in the House of Commons where more than 120 guests attended.

A welcome and tribute was given by The Rt Hon John Bercow MP, Speaker of the House of Commons along with tributes from Professor Albert Weale, University College London and a former Professor of Government at Essex, Peter Kellner, journalist and political analyst, Seth Dubin, a longtime friend of Professor King from New York and Mrs Jan King. Performers from the Suffolk Villages Festival performed Laudate Dominum (Psalm 150) and the guests gathered afterwards for a drinks reception with a toast to Professor King given by Professor Sir Ivor Crewe.

Our Vice-Chancellor Professor Anthony Forster paid tribute to the life and work of one of Essex’s most inspirational teachers, thinkers and writers:

Tony King memorial 300x200

The memorial to Professor Tony King was held in the Speaker’s House in the Houses of Commons.

As the sixth Vice-Chancellor of the University of Essex I am truly honoured to be here to pay tribute to Tony who has made such an extraordinary contribution to our world for almost the entire history of the University’s 53 years.

It is hard to overestimate Tony’s impact. When I mention the University of Essex around the world people will almost always ask me about ‘Professor King’. They recall seeing Tony on television especially on Election night they remember hearing or being told by friends about his amazing lectures or  they talk about the influence of his books or articles on their thinking. They know Essex through Tony.

Tony was attracted to Essex in 1966 because of our commitment to intellectual rigour and our determination to do things differently and for five decades Tony came to symbolise these values.

He combined what we admire most: intellectual brilliance combined in equal measure with personal warmth, humour and personal humility and it is this wonderful cocktail which informed his approach to his teaching and research and to his life.

It is no surprise that Tony played a key part in the leadership of the University, mentoring many junior staff; serving as Head of our world leading Department of Government from 1968 to 1971, then again from 1985-86. And from 1986 to 1989 he was also a Pro-Vice-Chancellor.

In his beautifully phrased tribute to our founding Vice-Chancellor Sir Albert Sloman Tony described what he believed to be the strengths of the University of Essex.

He said Essex is “a genuine community. People care about the place. Members of the academic staff do research and publish the results of their research. They work hard, and they think.”

“It is also a University that, unlike some, takes teaching very seriously and is very good at it.”

It is striking for me to read every one of the many tributes which poured in for Tony from around the world. They confirm that Tony was an intellectual giant who was also a great teacher who made time for his students and cared about them.

It was his lectures and tutorials that were often times the highlight of a student’s time at Essex; always inspirational and sometimes changing people’s lives and inspiring their future career choices. I am delighted so many of Tony’s former students have made such an impact on public life and that so many are here today.

People respected Tony for his tough-mindedness, but they were also touched by his humanity – his kindness and thoughtfulness and his wisdom.

One of the dozens of online tributes by former students reads: “ I will always remember Professor King’s inspirational Monday morning lectures that made me think about politics in a fresh way. Despite his research responsibilities, he was never too busy to discuss matters with students.”

Another recalled: “His lectures were impeccably prepared and delivered with contagious enthusiasm, his classes were the highlight of the politics timetable, and the door to his office was always open.”

That former student points out that Tony was also “scrupulously fair”. He said: “I got a First in 1984 despite rudely questioning both his impartiality and the politics of the SDP in the letters pages of The Guardian.”

A bottle of champagne was the prize Tony used to offer to students who correctly predicted 13 General Elections that took place during his time at Essex. I wonder what he would have made of the many former students who admit in their tributes to Tony that they didn’t actually drink the champagne but kept the bottle he gave them as the ultimate trophy from their time at Essex.

One former student who had actually earned a bottle of champagne for predicting one of the closely fought general elections of 1974 added: “I won but, more important was that Tony also spent an individual half hour with me that I have treasured ever since!”

Kevin Featherstone who went on to become  Head of the European Institute at the London School of Economics said in his tribute: “Generations of students are not only in his debt, they will also look back with a smile and count themselves amongst the most fortunate of all.”

Tony would often end his emails with the phrase ‘in haste’. This seems to encapsulate his restless energy. Tony was someone on a mission someone who had things to do – whether it be meeting politicians and civil servants writing award-winning books keeping in touch with former students or preparing a key note lecture.

Tony not only kept himself busy he also had a prodigious work rate. Somehow amongst all his teaching and research commitments Tony found space to be a public intellectual speaking with incredible insight always infused by sharp wit and warm humour which entranced listeners “connected” with BBC election night audiences and of course entertained friends.

Tony’s  love for his subject remained absolutely undiminished throughout his life and our love for his work – his breadth of knowledge his turn of phrase his astute analysis – remains undiminished too.

It is for this reason that at the University of Essex we are establishing a named Chair in the Department of Government – the Anthony King Chair in Comparative Government to ensure we can continue to honour Tony’s amazing contribution to our community and to political science – and to ensure his legacy lives on for past, current and future generations.

Thank you.

Professor Anthony Forster

Vice-Chancellor

Donations in Professor King’s memory can be made to the Dedham Ward Acute Cardiac Unit at Colchester General Hospital. You can donate via the Colchester Hospitals Charity website www.cohoc.org.uk. Or you can donate via telephone on 01206 745303.

 



June 23, 2017

Protecting refugees, the next generation

In 2014 we signed an historic partnership with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), formalising a relationship stretching back to the mid-1990s, which has helped us train the next generation of global refugee specialists.

It has offered our academics new research opportunities and crucially, offered our students vital access to UNHCR expertise and internships.

As the UK marks World Refugee Week, we speak to graduate Charlie Goodlake, one of 20 Essex students who have taken the opportunity to be an intern at UNHCR since 2014.

Charlie Goodlake (left) with a colleague from the Cairo NGO where he worked

Charlie Goodlake (left) with a colleague from the Cairo NGO where he worked

What was your role at the UNHCR?

I did my internship from summer 2015 to the end of 2015. My role was a law and policy intern for the asylum and migration unit.

I focused mainly on the movement of refugees and migrants together – and protection response to the movements.

I also did research on human trafficking, smuggling and protection at sea.

It was a challenging time to be at UNHCR because it was the height of the European refugee crisis.

What has been the impact of the internship on your career?

The internship gave me the opportunity to apply the skills and knowledge in practise that I learnt in my LLM.

After the internship I went on to be a consultant at UNHCR working on the state of the world’s refugees publication, on the #withrefugees campaign and with the executive office.

What are you doing now?

I have just finished a year in Cairo working on the resettlement and protection of refugees for a small non-governmental organisation (NGO).

It was good to see things from the perspective of a small NGO and I had much more responsibility then would have been possible at this stage of my career with the UN.

What advice would you give our students interested in a similar career?

I would tell them to persevere if they really want to do this work.

At the start of your career it’s internships, then short-term consultancies and contracts and it can be stressful, but the instability of it is worth it to see the effects of the work.

 



June 20, 2017

WE ARE GOLD – WE ARE ESSEX

Today we received notification from The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) of our GOLD rating in the Teaching Excellence Framework. Here, our Pro Vice-Chancellor Education, Professor Aletta Norval, tells us more about this important award.

an image of our Pro Vice-Chancellor Education, Professor Aletta Norval.

Our Pro Vice-Chancellor, Education, Professor Aletta Norval is delighted that we have received a GOLD rating in the Teaching Excellence Framework.

I am absolutely delighted with today’s announcement that we have been rated Gold in the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF). This is an award the whole University can be justly proud of and I want to thank everyone who made this possible.

Based on the evidence available, the TEF Panel judged that the University of Essex delivers consistently outstanding teaching, learning and outcomes for its students. It is of the highest quality found in the UK.

Awarding Essex the top Gold rating the TEF Panel stated that at Essex “students from all backgrounds achieve outstanding outcomes with regards to continuation and progression to highly skilled employment or further study, notably exceeding the University’s benchmark”.

The TEF panel also highlighted that Essex had “outstanding levels of satisfaction with teaching, academic support, and assessment and feedback, markedly exceeding the University’s benchmark”.

Our Gold rating recognises the close cooperation between our world-leading academic staff, our excellent professional services staff, and our wonderful Students’ Union, all of whom have contributed to providing a transformational education experience for all of our students.

We pride ourselves on working in partnership to enable all our students to reach their full potential; this is central to our mission. We are dedicated to giving our students the support they need to achieve their goals; we are committed to deliver wide-ranging, student-focused initiatives that help nurture the culture of membership which is unique to Essex and we are committed to preparing our students for the global world in which they live and will work.

We place the student voice at the heart of all we do. Real partnership working – reflected in our consistently strong performance in the National Student Survey, coming in the top 10 for mainstream institutions in the last four  years – has enabled us to deliver an amazing educational experience for all our students.

Our Gold award recognises our equal commitment to education and research. This award, alongside our top 20 ranking in the Research Excellence Framework in 2014*, places Essex among a very select group of leading universities who are able to deliver excellence both in education and in research. For our students this means that the research-led education they receive is of the highest quality, delivered by academics who are world leaders in their fields.

I am sure that receiving the highest award possible in the TEF will encourage and inspire us to build on this absolutely outstanding achievement, to continue to work as closely as possible with our amazing Students’ Union, to continue to innovate and to place students at the centre of our thinking.”

* (Ranked 19th in REF after excluding specialist research institutions the Institute of Cancer Research and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and the University of the Highlands and Islands which submitted less than 70 full-time equivalent members of staff)

Mapping excellence in education and research

TEF2017 mapped against TEF2014

Read our full TEF GOLD press release on our news page. Watch our TEF celebration video online.



May 26, 2017

Celebrating our students’ achievements

Our celebratory event for the presidents of our societies and sports clubs is one of the highlights of the year for me, as I get a chance to hear all about the amazing activities our students get involved in during their time at Essex. Here is the speech I gave on the night.

An image of our Vice-Chancellor with some members of our student societies.

Our Vice-Chancellor with members of our student societies.

I’m delighted to welcome you all to this celebration of the achievements of your societies and sports clubs over the past year. Talking to you makes me realise, once again, how student societies and sports clubs are absolutely at the heart of the life of our University and the epitome of the Essex spirit.

Current presidents are here today so that I can personally thank you all for your contribution over the last academic year. This is also a perfect opportunity for me to welcome and meet our newly elected presidents for 2017-18, and to find out about your plans for the year ahead.

I am excited to see we now have 146 societies and 45 sports clubs across our Colchester and Southend campuses and it is fantastic for me to see society membership has now reached more than 3, 100 students with active sports club members now over 4, 500. Our sports clubs are booming with 15 having more than 100 club members.

Thank you to all the societies and sports clubs who are represented here tonight. I am amazed by the incredible diversity and delighted there are so many opportunities for our students to get involved in something they love – whether it is politics, origami or korfball.

Our societies

I want to congratulate you all on your achievements this year but in particular those societies who have achieved Gold, Silver and Bronze standards.

I would like to give a special mention to this year’s individual society award winners, Nathan Casteler who won the Presidents’ Award and Kristina Enger, Emma Holland, Alexis Matei, Rosie Redstone and Mohammad Shoaib who received awards for Exceptional Services to Societies.

I would like to thank the societies who have really stood out:

  • Society of the Year – Feminist Society
  • Southend Society of the Year – Essex Entrepreneurship Society (Southend)
  • Event of the Year – Speech & Language Society
  • Southend Event of the Year – Theatre Arts Society (Southend)
  • Most Improved Society – Film Society
  • New Society of the Year – Animal Protection Society
  • Southend New Society of the Year – Coloured Theatre Society (Southend)
  • Most Active Society – Theatre Arts Society
  • Most Community Focused Society Of The Year- Speech and Language Society
  • Most Employability-Focused Society of the Year – Speech and LanguageS ociety
  • Kick-Ass Society of the Year – Malaysian Society
  • The ‘Shaping Everything Around You’ Society of the Year – Writing Society
  • The ‘Benefitting All Members’ Society of the Year –  Romanian Society

Some of the highlights of the year include three of our societies being shortlisted in last week’s National Society Awards. The Feminist Society for Best Campaigning society, Amnesty also for Best Campaigning Society and our Theatre Arts Society for Best event. Our own ‘Golden Guild Awards’ saw a record breaking 51 society standards awarded.

I’ve been really pleased to see the huge increase in the number of society events around our campuses. Many of these events have been to raise money for local and national charities and our students have raised thousands of pounds for causes close to their hearts. Our societies have also been getting involved in our Students’ Union’s fantastic annual events including the excellent Winter Fayre, which had more than 60 stalls and performances, and the wonderful, popular and colourful Holi celebration.

Sports clubs

The number of students involved in sport continues to grow and we have had a truly amazing year. Special mention again to those clubs that have achieved Gold, Silver and Bronze standards and to this year’s Sports club award winners:

  • Coach of the Year – Sam Edwards (Rugby Union)
  • Newcomer of the Year – Amie Mowlam-Tett (Archery)
  • Social Club of the Year – Hockey
  • Team of the Year – Men’s Volleyball
  • 2nd Team Club of the Year – Hockey
  • Victor Ludorum Award – Amelia Stamp (Volleyball)
  • Simon Loveday Award – Andy Ball (Hockey)
  • Sports Volunteer of the Year – Annabel Semmence (Rugby 7’s/Snowsports)
  • Essex Blades President Award – Andy Ball (Hockey)

We also presented three Outstanding Sporting Achievement awards to Amelia Stamp, Marion Stoykov and Monika Kucerkova and I would also like to commend the 15 students who received Exceptional Service to Sport awards.

It has been an incredible year for sporting achievement and Essex has continued to break records across the country. We’ve won nine British Universities & Colleges (BUCS) league titles in Men’s Volleyball, Men’s Basketball, Women’s Basketball, Women’s Badminton, Men’s Volleyball, Mixed Golf, Men’s Rugby Union, Men’s Squash and Men’s Tennis. We also have two BUCS Cup winners with the Men’s Basketball 1st team winning the BUCS Trophy and our Men’s Squash 1st team taking the BUCS Conference Cup title.

If I can just take a moment to pick out individual successes, Harry Hughes took National Championship Gold as he achieved a new BUCS record in the Javelin, Matthew Thompson won a National Championship Silver in Skiing and Marian Stoykov won a National Championship Silver in Judo.

Our sports stars have helped us achieve 32nd place in the overall BUCS rankings and you’ve hit a record total of BUCS points and there is more success to celebrate. Our Men’s Basketball team has won National League Division 4, our Men’s Futsal 1st team reached the National Super 8’s, finishing in 3rd, and our Men’s Pool A Team finished 3rd in the BUCS National Championships.

Our sports clubs have also raised an incredible £15,000 for various charitable causes with our Pole Dance Club, Equestrian team and Rowing Club the top fundraisers this year.

Can I just pay tribute to you all one final time.

We are very proud of each and every one of you and recognise the impact and contribution that you make to the student experience at the University. Societies not only improve the lives of students who join them, by developing their interests, widening social networks, and helping them engage with the wider community, but there are also real gains in terms of employability. Your membership of clubs and societies helps you develop the skills, qualities and knowledge that employers value, and will help you to make a success of your life beyond University.

As we come towards the end of the academic year, I want to thank current presidents for your contribution, and wish new presidents all the best for next year.



May 3, 2017

Welcoming our new Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Designate) – Professor Lorna Fox O’Mahony

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

Professor Lorna Fox-O’Mahony has been appointed as our new Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Designate). Here she tells us more about the role and about her priorities for the next strategic plan period.

Watch her video interview on our vimeo channel.

It is a privilege to be appointed to the role of Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Designate) at Essex. When I first came to this University, I was struck by what it means to be a University for the real world. Our University’s commitments to improving people’s lives, to human rights and social justice, and to transformational education drew me to Essex, and I have been proud to work with colleagues in the last four years to seek out new ways to advance our mission.

My own academic mission is motivated to put people at the centre of property problems, especially people in positions of marginality and vulnerability; seeking out solutions that advance social justice through law and policy. I am proud that so much of what we do at Essex is focused on creating positive impacts for real people, and that our emphasis on fostering a curious, inquiring, critical and challenging ethos – powered by a research mind-set – equips our students with the power to make a difference in the real world.

Next strategic plan period, 2019-2025

This is an exciting moment for us, as we begin to look ahead to the next strategic plan period, 2019-2025. Under the current plan, the University has gone from strength to strength. We set ourselves some ambitious challenges: to achieve excellence in education and research, consistently, across all our departments, while growing our student numbers; to improve our financial sustainability while significantly growing our academic staff base and developing our campuses. And, with every fresh challenge that faces Higher Education, to seek out opportunities for the University of Essex to grow, to thrive and to advance our mission in research and in education.

Many of our successes have resulted from our commitment to building strong partnerships. Across the University, we have seen how seeding new collaborations and sharing good practices helps us to deliver on our ambitious goals. Working in partnership with our amazing Students’ Union, we have focused our energies on what really matters for our students: a transformational education experience that supports our students in earning good degrees, being prepared for the future world of work and getting ready to make a difference in the world around them. And beyond the University, we have built strong relationships with local, national and global partners who share our values and our commitments to transformational education and research that improves people’s lives.

Developing our mission into new areas

As we start to think about our next strategic plan, I am looking forward to talking with members across our community about how we can go forward to build on these achievements, to develop our mission into new areas, and to deepen our existing strengths. I am proud of the work that we have done already, from the renewed focus we have placed on critical thinking, skills, and employability for our students, to closing the gender pay gap. But we know there is a lot more that we can do, and that we need to do.

I can’t think of a time when the world has needed our Essex Spirit more. I feel very fortunate to have found my home in Essex, and to be on this mission with colleagues, students and supporters who share a vision and commitment to be the change we want to see in the world.



April 26, 2017

Encouraging a healthy university for all

Our Healthy University Sub-Strategy sets out some innovative and interesting ways in which we can all live and work better. Here, our Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Jules Pretty, tells us more.

Our Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Jules Pretty.

Our Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Jules Pretty.

Being healthy does not just mean being free from disease or infirmity, healthy means being in a complete state of physical, mental and social well-being. That is what we want for our staff and our students.

Our Healthy University Sub-Strategy sets out the ways in which we are going to get there. It is an ambitious plan but as a University with academic and professional expertise in mental and physical well-being, I think it is entirely right that we push ourselves. And it is about more than just exercise and diet; it is about creating a healthier community on all campuses, engendering cultures of compassion, well-being, equity and social justice. This isn’t just about feeling better – it’s about being better too, which links well to our People Supporting Strategy and its underpinning principles, particularly the principle ‘Fit to Work’.

But a healthy University needs everyone to take part, so what does the strategy want us all to do? First, our Students’ Union, under the leadership of Vice-President Welfare Jess Rich and President Zoe Garshong, is launching a new and timely campaign called Wake Up to Well-Being, and also asks everyone: have you had your alternative five a day? The SU has appointed volunteer mental health ambassadors, and will be launching a new video shortly about what everyone can do to raise the baselines of mental health.

Our Health University action plan then has three priority themes:

  • Food and mood
  • Physical well-being
  • Mental well-being

These themes will be embedded across our whole University, encouraging both staff and students to take part.

We believe that our University should be a place where work is psychologically and emotionally healthy and where staff and students are encouraged to balance their work life and personal life. The strategy builds on the work we have already done, including encouraging further engagement with the Employee Assistance Programme and Occupational Health and our Student Support teams. We will also offer training on physical fitness, resilience, mental health first aid, and provide a variety of health and well-being interventions. We have also built external partnerships with Public Health Essex and Health in Mind.

We have also recognised the importance of being vigilant in searching for signs that someone may be struggling with their well-being. We will ensure our staff have the skills and knowledge to recognise and respond to such signs, referring those in need to the right help and support.

Overall we want our community to take an active approach to their own well-being; engaging in activities and building their own resilience, ultimately helping them remain well. Our Healthy University Action Plan contains 49 activities across the three priority themes and includes everything from ensuring there are plenty of healthy food options, to encouraging walking meetings, offering mindfulness and meditation classes, Friday shiatsu sessions, delivery of fresh fruit baskets, take-the-stairs stickers in Southend, and the creation of a new Well-being work out.

This is a timely opportunity for all of us to improve the ways we live and work and we will be communicating the opportunities regularly. Look out for updates and please do get involved wherever you can.



April 4, 2017

Launching our new School of Sport, Rehabilitation and Exercise Science

This summer will see two exciting developments within the Faculty of Science and Health. Executive Dean Professor Graham Underwood and Head of the School of Health and Human Sciences Vikki-Jo Scott, tell us more:

Professor Graham Underwood

Professor Graham Underwood

I am delighted that we are forming the first new school at the University for ten years – the School of Sport, Rehabilitation and Exercise Sciences.

This new School will bring together a new group of disciplines, joining academic teams from sports therapy and physiotherapy in the current School of Health and Human Sciences with those in the Centre of Sports and Exercise Science, currently within the School of Biological Sciences.

This is an exciting opportunity to develop sport and rehabilitation as a combined academic grouping at Essex to help us deliver excellence in education and excellence in research.

This is a coherent grouping of disciplines and will open up great opportunities for a range of different research collaborations around health and wellbeing. It will encourage working across disciplines and open up new research opportunities.

The School’s research will focus on two areas:

  • health, exercise and active lifestyle
  • sports performance and fatigue

It will mean researchers in sports and exercise science will benefit from regular interactions with academic scholars/practitioners with physiotherapy, sports therapy and rehabilitation expertise. We are hoping this will support our developing research culture in sports therapy and physiotherapy that has, until now, been largely focused on professional practice.

This new grouping of disciplines will mean Essex will be offering something a bit different from other higher education institutions in that we can bring new depth to our research and offer a much broader exercise and wellbeing package, from cradle to the grave.

Our new School with also place Essex in a better position to reflect NHS England’s five-year Forward View, which aims to reduce the nation’s health and wellbeing gap by supporting a healthier and fitter population.

The new School’s staffing infrastructure will enable us to integrate our research and education provision in the areas of healthy lifestyle, rehabilitation and sports performance. So, as well as supporting this NHS health agenda, we will continue our excellent work with elite athletes.

The new sports hall building will act as a hub for the new School, integrating education and research into the University’s sport and wellbeing agenda. Due to open during the 2017-18 academic year, the new sports building will house bespoke offices, teaching facilities, laboratories and therapy rooms to complement the existing labs already on our Colchester Campus. This includes the on-site sports therapy clinic which has been a huge success since opening to staff and students in the autumn.

This new School of Sport, Rehabilitation and Exercise Sciences will mean a new name for the School of Health and Human Sciences, as Head Vikki-Jo Scott explains.

Vikki-Jo Scott

Head of the School of Health and Human Sciences, Vikki-Jo Scott

Our School of Health and Human Sciences is a pioneering department committed to making a difference to local, national and international health and social care, through education, research and knowledge transfer.

Over the next five years the NHS is proposing to dissolve the traditional boundaries between health and social care. To mirror this and better reflect the range of research, professional and education interests of staff and students within the School, we will be renamed the School of Health and Social Care from August 2017.

There is a national trend towards better collaboration between health and social care services and we want to train and support professionals who will be better prepared to work in this new culture of collaboration. This includes recognising the significant contribution that inter-professional learning and service user engagement can make to the high quality education we provide and research that we generate at Essex.

With a stronger focus on research, the School’s new name will better reflect the already excellent collaborative work we are doing in health and social care. We have streamlined our research into four themes to reflect our expertise at Essex. We specialise in applied, multi-disciplinary research that addresses local, national and international issues relating to health and social care policy and practice, and other related fields.

Our four key areas of research are:

  • mental health and psychological wellbeing
  • research for public and patient benefit
  • social policy and social care
  • health professions education and workforce development research

Health and social care provision is changing and our plans build on the School’s existing strengths and place us on a solid footing for the future to continue to deliver the high quality provision of education and research we are known for in this field.



March 27, 2017

Engaging with our library users

If you’ve been in the Albert Sloman Library recently you’ll have noticed some big changes. These are part of a much wider strategy to engage more fully with students, staff and researchers and enable them to make the most of our extensive collections and resources.

Here, our Director of Library Services, Cathy Walsh, tells us more. 

Moving towards digital content

An image of Cathy Walsh.

Director of Library Services, Cathy Walsh.

As well as over a million printed items on our shelves the Library provides over 350,000 individual journal titles, 95% of which are accessible online.  This shows the extent to which the library has moved towards digital content and delivery while maintaining its traditional print collections.

Self service

We’ve made some significant changes to the the way we do things, including the introduction of self-service at the Albert Sloman Library. Our users now borrow their books using self- service kiosks and return them via an automatic returns unit which also sorts the books ready for re-shelving. More than 90% of library transactions at Colchester are now self service.

A new security system

Introducing RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) technology has allowed us to introduce a new security system, getting rid of bag checks as people leave the library. This has received a lot of positive feedback from our students!  This new approach means our staff now have more time to support students in other ways, including providing ‘roving’ support out on the library floors and brushing up on their information skills, enabling our students to make the best use of library resources for their studies.

Listening to our users

In October 2016 we abolished fines for all overdue books, unless they are requested by another library user, and we introduced unlimited borrowing so that people can take out as many items as they need. We also launched the new Library Advisory Group (LAG) which includes both staff and student representatives from all academic departments, Library staff, SU representatives and colleagues from other Professional Services. Any member of the university is welcome to come along if they have something to say about our services.

The LAG meets four times a year and meetings take the form of themed workshops, including an open forum where attendees can raise any library related issues. Themes this year have included ‘Time and Space’, looking at students’ views on study space and their preferred times for using the library, and ‘Simpler Fairer Quicker’, reviewing the changes we made at the start of the year and proposing further improvements .

See for yourself

We hope to see many more colleagues at future LAG meetings – in the meantime please do pop into the Albert Sloman Library  to see the changes for yourself.

You can also keep in touch with the library on Twitter and Facebook.



March 24, 2017

Guest blog: Students need to have say in getting ready for an ever-changing digital world

VP Education Josh Gulrajani

VP Education Josh Gulrajani

The University of Essex has positioned itself at the forefront of education and research into the ever-changing digital world. With increasing investment in this area, and new innovative opportunities arising at the University, a strategic plan setting out how we as a community look at Digital, Creative and Cultural Skills is being created. I want to make sure that students have a say in this, as it is your education that this can aid, and your experience and employability that this can aid!

From the impact of 3D printing on the manufacturing industry, to the delivery of healthcare and even to the impact of Big Data on human rights, it is clear that the digital age is going to have an immense impact on us as students and even more so as graduates. It is time to look at our values and interests, and set some key actions of the University to ensure that we harness the digital, creative and cultural shift that we as a generation are undergoing.

The lines between the physical, digital, and even biological spheres are blurring, caused by a fusion of technologies and the “real life human” elements. With the developments in artificial intelligence and virtual reality in recent years, what it means to be a worker or even a human may be changing. It is the job of the University to ensure that we are being prepared for this new environment and that the education we are receiving here is moving with the times.

This strategy is going to outline how we as learners can diversify our skill set, gain further real-life opportunities, and develop our critical thinking and digital capabilities, be that through traditional teaching or the use of live projects. It is also going to make some headway in ensuring that we are as interdisciplinary as possible, allowing students to gain knowledge in a field different to that of their subject, but that will come together to produce a well-rounded education.

Some example of how the University has already embraced the changing environment are the developments already made into the games design, robotics, digital theatre and curation fields. Also  the Knowledge Gateway, which is a physical example of the University’s commitment to enhancing the digital skills of its students. With an award-winning Games Hub, space for digital entrepreneurs and start-ups, and a further Innovation Centre opening next year, now is the time for students to get an input into shaping our University.

The University is looking for your ideas and suggestions on how to draw these ideas together. The aim of the strategy will be to benefit students in making connections, forging collaborations, and generating impact that improves people’s lives and prepares you to go out and change the world!

VP Education Josh Gulrajani

Have your say

Please visit our consultation web page to share your views on our draft Digital, Creative and Cultural Sub-Strategy.

The deadline for comments is Friday 14 April 2017.


 

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