Students Staff
University of Essex

June 19, 2019

Closing the gap between academia and policy: working with the Cabinet Office’s Open Innovation Team

Our Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Christine Raines tells us more about the University’s new collaboration with the Cabinet Office Open Innovation Team.

The University of Essex is engaging in an exciting and innovative Government initiative. We’re on a journey of discovery, not just to enter the world of No. 10, but also a completely new venture for the University.

The Open Innovation Team

University of Essex and partners at Number 10 Downing Street

Today marks the start of a three-year relationship between the Open Innovation Team in the Cabinet Office and the University of Essex, alongside Brunel, Lancaster and York Universities. On Tuesday 18 June, Vanessa Cuthill (Director, Research and Enterprise Office) and I attended a short signing ceremony at No. 10 Downing Street to formalise the relationship. Oliver Dowden, Minister for Implementation, presided over the ceremony. Read what he had to say here.

The Open Innovation Team is relatively new in Government and aims to ‘bring academics closer to the policy-making agenda’. They have already ran a successful pilot phase and we are proud to be part of the new phase 2019-2021.

As a leading dual-intensive university with a strong link between transformative education and research we have a valuable role to play in the formulation and implementation of policy. We can be a ‘go-to’ source of rigorous and evidenced-based knowledge. We are in the top 20 UK universities for research excellence and home to world-leading social science. Our Institute for Social and Economic Research holds a Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education, the highest form of national recognition for the work of a UK university.

Our strategy 2019-25 highlights the value we place on research – ‘we will define the next generation of research challenges, set agendas for addressing enduring and emerging challenges, lead the advancement of knowledge and develop innovative applications of knowledge and ideas for the benefit of people and communities’. The new knowledge created by our world leading research is making a difference to people’s lives at the local, national and international levels. But we don’t do this in isolation. We work with a wide variety of partners: businesses, academics, charities and local government. But in order to maximise the impact of our research we need to be able to reach key individuals in government departments.

Through our engagement with the Open Innovation Team we are already building relations with a number of government departments. Highlights include: Professor Pete Fussey’s research, which is informing work by the Home Office on future technology in UK policing; Professor Lorna McGregor recently presented her research to the newly-created Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation and is now cited a recent Parliamentary paper.

Our relationship with the Open Innovation Team brings a number of other exciting opportunities including workshops about the policy making process, internships for early career researchers and PhD placement opportunities.



May 31, 2019

Tackling sexual violence

Our Registrar, Bryn Morris, tells us more about the work the University is doing to ensure we all feel safe in our community. 

Our Registrar and Secretary, Bryn Morris.

There have been a number of complaints about the University’s handling of sexual assault cases by our students, as well as BBC coverage about an issue that is of vital importance to us all: ensuring we all feel safe, that our community is an inclusive and welcoming environment; and that we have a zero tolerance approach to all forms of sexual harassment and sexual violence. I want to provide an update on progress that we have made in addressing these issues and to set out where we have more work to do.

All cases that have been reported to us have been investigated and every effort has been made to support those involved. We have reviewed the cases highlighted by the BBC and have provided face-to-face advice and support to the students involved, including giving them information about reporting the incidents to the police. We have followed up with each student and carried out full investigations through our Student Conduct Office, based on our Code of Student Conduct.

I recognise that our procedures are overly complicated and bureaucratic; the time we have taken to resolve some of these cases has left students in a very difficult position and created uncertainty for them.  We know we need to do more to keep complainants up-to-date on our investigations. I apologise for this and I recognise that we must do better. Five specific issues have been raised:

Why have investigations taken so long?

Some of the cases in question are incredibly complex and our commitment to a thorough investigation of all the available evidence may have contributed to perceived delays. Our goal is to conclude every complaint within 60 calendar days, as recommended by the Office of the Independent Adjudicator. In 2017-18 80% of complaints were resolved within this timeframe. Cases can sometimes be delayed due to ongoing police investigations, intermitting students or difficulty in reaching witnesses outside of term time. Whatever the reason, it is not acceptable that 20% of cases are not concluded within 60 days. We need to review how we further speed up the resolution of complaints and we will do so.

Why hasn’t the University encouraged students to report cases to the police?

Where students might have been subject to a crime, we want them to report incidents to the police. This is integral to our student support and student conduct protocols. We will review how advice is provided to students at every stage of our support and student conduct processes to ensure that students feel encouraged and supported in raising matters with the police. I want to encourage all students to report an incident. We have a number of routes for reporting:

What are you doing about the delays in dealing with complaints?

Our aim is to make it as straightforward as possible for members of our community to report unacceptable behaviour, including historical incidents. The introduction of the new Report and Support system, developed jointly with our Students’ Union has corresponded with an increase in the number of student conduct complaints requiring investigation. We have already allocated extra resource to enable the appointment of an Assistant Proctor for the start of the next academic year, which will speed up the handling of complaints. If we need to invest more to ensure timely handling of complaints, we will do so.

Why aren’t students being investigated or found guilty of sexual violence excluded from the University?

All conduct cases are investigated thoroughly and impartially, either immediately or once any police investigations have been concluded.  When an investigation identifies that there is a case to answer, serious cases are referred to a Student Conduct Committee comprising two members of academic staff and a student member, specially trained to undertake these roles.  The Committee decides whether the complaint is justified and if it is, what penalty should be imposed.  This can and does include expulsion but other sanctions may be imposed by the Committee.  In agreeing our new Code of Student Conduct, we will ensure that we provide greater clarity and transparency on the range of penalties that can apply in all types of conduct cases, including the most serious.

Is the University protecting its reputation rather than protecting students?

All conduct cases are investigated impartially and thoroughly with judgements reached based solely on the evidence available.  The University does not interfere in the progress of conduct cases or in their outcome.  Our current approach to handling complaints isn’t meeting the needs of our students and we will review this, ensuring students play a key role in the process.  We will also draw on external advice to make sure we get things right in future.  This open blog is part of a set of actions to acknowledge publicly that we need to do better.

Next Steps

  • We will introduce a new Code of Student Conduct prior to the start of autumn term 2019.
  • We will integrate feedback from students, the SU and the Women’s Officer in the SU, in the design of this system, to ensure it works for students and is easier to understand.
  • We will draw on independent external advice, to ensure we are creating a fair and transparent process, which supports students who make complaints.

Our goal is to ensure the University of Essex is an inclusive and welcoming environment and that we have zero tolerance to all forms of sexual harassment and violence. We have more work to do and I will keep you updated on a regular basis.

Bryn Morris

Registrar & Secretary



May 23, 2019

Academic Freedom and Inclusion

We are a University that values both academic freedom and inclusion. Our Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Designate), Professor Lorna Fox O’Mahony, tells us more about how we balance the freedoms and responsibilities of these dual commitments in our community. 

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

Academic freedom and inclusion are dual commitments at the heart of our community. The founding charter of the University of Essex enshrines academic freedom within the law, stating that: ‘Academic staff shall have freedom within the law to question and test received wisdom, and to put forward new ideas and controversial or unpopular opinions, without placing themselves in jeopardy of losing their jobs or privileges.’ (University of Essex Royal Charter, paragraph 22).

Inclusion is also a fundamental value that underpins how we work at Essex, how we behave, and how we treat each other within our community. Our commitment to inclusion means that we value equally every member of our community. It means nurturing an environment in which every member feels safe, supported and able to reach their potential.

Our commitment to inclusion is also reflected in our openness to new ideas, to challenging, controversial or unpopular opinions. These twin commitments – to academic freedom and to inclusion regardless of backgrounds, characteristics, opinions or ideas – are also enshrined in law. Section 43 of the Education (No.2) Act 1986 requires all those concerned in the governance of universities to take such steps as are reasonably practicable to ensure that freedom of speech within the law is secured for members, students, employees and visiting speakers.

Living our values

In living up to our values of inclusion and academic freedom, a core underpinning principle is that these freedoms, values and responsibilities apply to all of us. This is why, as individuals and as a community, it is important for us to stand up for the rights of others to express (within the law) views that we may not share, as much as those we have in common. These equal freedoms are balanced by equal responsibilities: our commitment to inclusion demands that we exercise our freedoms responsibly, respectfully and with due regard to the values we share as a community.

Our values-led approach to academic freedom and inclusion is consistent with our legal obligations, which include an express duty to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that the use of our premises is not denied to any individual or body on any ground connected with their beliefs or views, policy or objectives. This does not mean that any organisation or individual can speak at any university, nor does it mean that universities are required to invite anyone who wishes to speak onto our campuses. It means that we have a responsibility to take account of all of the freedoms and responsibilities at stake when making decisions about specific issues. We must also take into account the security of speakers and attendees at events and where we believe speakers will not operate within our code of practice, we do not support invitations to external speakers.

Fair and transparent decisions

The University’s dual commitments to academic freedom and inclusion also apply to the processes through which we appoint staff. Our University Ordinances (Ordinances 36, 37 and 38) set out the approach appointment panels take to ensure fair and transparent decisions based on criteria that apply to all. The University’s duty as an inclusive employer involves ensuring we make our judgements on transparent and evenly applied criteria, in a fair and objective way. This also aligns with our obligations under the Equality Act 2010, which sets out our responsibilities as individuals and as a University to be inclusive of all regardless of characteristics, beliefs or opinions.

Our regular ‘THINK’ seminars reflect our commitment to living these values by supporting students and staff to navigate difficult questions through discussion and engagement: exploring challenging views and unconventional ideas in an inclusive environment that is respectful to all. We all bear responsibilities in the ways that we exercise our freedoms and the THINK seminars provide an uplifting example of how passionately held views can be advocated with conviction on different sides of a debate in a manner that embodies the values that we are committed to upholding as a University community.



May 21, 2019

Our pledge to support students who don’t have family support

At Essex, we don’t want any of our students to feel alone and that’s why we’ve joined the Stand Alone initiative. Monica Illsley, our Chief of Staff, and Tancrede Chartier, the President of our Students’ Union explain how we support students who do not have families they can turn to for support and advice and how we can do more by working together.

How does it feel to stand alone as a student…to not be able to count on the support and approval of your family? This is the reality for students who, for one reason or another, have no contact with, and are ‘estranged’ from, their families. Yet, just like their peers, they want to succeed in life. They want to be able to pursue higher study, to experience student life to the full and, ultimately, to successfully complete a degree that will open up life opportunities for them.

At Essex, the University and Students’ Union work together to try to make all students feel welcome and to help all to achieve their full potential. That’s why we’ve signed the Stand Alone pledge – a nationwide initiative that aims to break down the barriers that can stand in the way of students who don’t have family support. We are the first university to have made a joint pledge with our students’ union.

In our Stand Alone pledge, we set out our commitment to supporting estranged students. But signing a pledge is the easy bit. Now we need to make sure that we are directing our students to resources that can help them and that we are providing the dedicated support they need.

We have started by publishing information for estranged students in one place including individualized advice, guidance and relevant specialist services that we hope will help these students to succeed in their studies. This includes, for example, named advisors to provide a first point of contact for support for each student who is without a family network, giving priority to their applications to our hardship fund to ease their financial concerns, and providing longer accommodation contracts if they need to bridge the gap between academic years.

But we are committed to doing more and want to encourage students without family support to make themselves heard and to seek support – both to improve their own chances of success but also to help us better understand their needs so that we can support others.

We’re training our staff to raise awareness, reviewing our bursary support and working on strengthening how we refer students to specialist support organisations but we need your help.

If you are a student who has no contact with your parents, please get in touch. We really want to ensure you are getting the support you need and to hear your views and gather ideas that will help inform our new Stand Alone action plan.



May 7, 2019

University Strategy AY 2019-25: Approved by Senate and Council

Our University Strategy is our road map for the future, setting out our priorities for the coming years. Following its formal approval by our Senate and Council, our Vice-Chancellor, Professor Anthony Forster, tells us more about the Strategy and its vision for our future. 

I am delighted to share the news that our next University Strategy AY 2019-25 has been approved by the University’s Senate and Council. This is a product of generous input from staff and students in a process of creative collaboration across our campus communities during the last 14 months. The scale of this engagement is set out in more detail here. The work of Essex Partners in developing a Vision for The Future of Essex has also been an important context in which the development of our new Strategy has taken place and which we have benefited from. I want to take this opportunity to thank our staff and students, and particularly the Students’ Union, for your help in defining our ambitions for the next six years.

Our story so far

The current strategic plan period, AY 2013-19, has seen a range of outstanding achievements for the University.

  • We are now in a group of dual intensive universities recognised for excellence in education (Gold Award, TEF 2017) and excellence in research (top 20 in REF 2014).
  • We have successfully grown the University to 16,000 students, attracting talent from around the world to join our community and benefit from our distinctive Essex education
  • Growth of the University has enabled us to increase our research power, growing our community of researchers submissible to REF 2021 to almost double our submission in REF 2014.
  • We are recognised internationally for our globally important research with peaks of excellence in political science, social sciences, human rights and data analytics.
  • We’re in the top 30 of all UK universities thanks to the outstanding student experience we offer, strong graduate prospects, and world-leading research (TGUG 2019), and top 15 amongst mainstream English universities for overall student satisfaction (NSS, 2018).
  • We contribute more than £500m every year to the national and regional economy, and our Knowledge Gateway technology and research park is the location of choice for intelligent businesses who want to link up with our research expertise, graduate and student talent, and business support capabilities. We are top 5 in the UK for our technology-driven business partnerships (KTPs).
  • In 2018 we were awarded the prestigious Times Higher Education (THE) award of University of the Year. The award citation recognised our commitment to putting student and staff success at the centre of everything we do, with tremendous effect.

Who we are and what we stand for

Throughout the process of developing our Strategy, our community of staff and students articulated a clear sense of who we are and what we stand for:

  • The distinctive mission and purpose of the University is clear: we are equally committed to excellence in education and research for the benefit of individuals and communities and society. We are proud to offer a transformational research-led education, welcoming students to the University on the basis of their potential and equipping them with the knowledge, skills and experiences that they will need to succeed and thrive in their future lives, future careers and future learning. We are proud that our research tackles challenging questions, negotiating the spaces between boundaries to shapes thinking, drive innovation and apply knowledge for the benefit of individuals and society.
  • The distinctive character of the University of Essex is clear: we are “freer, more daring, more experimental”; tenacious, bold, inquisitive, and impatient for change. Our Essex Spirit is nurtured by our global community and outlook, enabled through our culture of belonging and membership and powered by our research mind-set.
  • We are clear about what we stand for: inclusion, academic freedom, partnerships based on shared values, and the commitment to make a difference in the world by putting ideas into action to create benefit for others.

What’s new in our University Strategy 2019-25?

As we embark on our next strategic plan period, we are looking to the future with confidence, optimism and conviction: ready to meet the challenges and harness the opportunities of the coming period.

Our vision

  • Building on our commitment to be firmly established in the top 25 of the TGUG (Key Performance Indicator 1), we have set ourselves a new challenge: to be globally recognised as one of the world’s top 200 Universities (KPI 2).
  • Building on our commitments to transformational education and inclusion, we are determined to offer consistently excellent learning opportunities for every student, responding to the needs and aspirations of our diverse student community. We will support every student, from every background, to achieve outstanding outcomes (KPI1, KPI3, KPI 6).
  • Social action will be the defining characteristic of Essex education and research. We have articulated more strongly and clearly the purpose of our commitment to excellence in education and research: to improve the lives of people and communities. This builds on the importance that our staff and students place on advocacy, activism, social entrepreneurship and service to our communities.
  • We will aim to grow the University to a community of about 20,000 students and 1,000 academic researchers submissible to the REF, including two new departments or disciplines to meet the needs of our time. This will generate the resources to realise our ambitions for world-class transformational education and research, and to ensure the financial sustainability of the University.

Our priorities

To achieve this vision, we have adopted three priorities:

  1. People
  2. Knowledge
  3. Communities

People: We will put people (staff and students) at the centre of everything we do. We recognise the contributions that every member of our community makes to realising our vision and ambitions, and we will seek to realise the full potential of every member of our community in contributing to transformational education and research and in creating the environments in which these are made possible.

Knowledge: Our people are focused on creating, communicating and applying knowledge, ideas and innovation. From education and student experiences to research and enterprise, the environments in which we live, learn and work and the services we deliver, we will harness the power of new ideas and knowledge to identify the most effective ways of achieving our shared aims.

Communities: Serving our communities through transformational education and research that meets the needs of our time remains at the heart of our mission. We will ensure that our campus communities foster a sense of belonging, well-being, inclusion and purpose, support our connections with each other and with our global and regional partners and engage our students, staff, alumni and partners in collective action to create benefit for people and communities in our region and around the world.

Next Steps

In the coming months, we will formally launch our new Strategy internally and externally with partners, to ensure that our vision and priorities over the next six years are widely disseminated and well understood.  We will also turn our attention to developing our Education Strategy, Research Strategy, Supporting Strategies and sub-strategies. Together, these strategies will form an integrated plan that will determine how we prioritise our efforts and investments, to enable us to realise our vision for the University between 2019 and 2025.

I would like to thank you again for your support in developing our University Strategy and look forward to working with you on putting words into action over the next six years.

Anthony Forster

Vice-Chancellor



April 18, 2019

Zero tolerance and dealing with student complaints

We have a zero tolerance approach to harassment and hate crime of all forms, but what does that mean in practice and how is the approach upheld? Our Registrar and Secretary, Bryn Morris, explains. 

Bryn Morris, our Registrar and Secretary.

We are really proud of our diverse and inclusive community and we aim to create a safe and welcoming environment for all students, irrespective of their backgrounds and characteristics. We are committed to a zero tolerance approach to harassment and bullying in any form on our campuses and we are committed to investigating each and every case.

Our Code of Student Conduct  is a key part of ensuring that we treat each other with dignity and respect. This is supported by an impartial complaints and investigation process, to ensure that complaints are dealt with fairly, properly and following established procedures. This system is led by the Proctor and supported by the Student Conduct Committee, which is made up of trained staff and student volunteers. It is designed to ensure we investigate complaints fully and that decisions are based on an impartial assessment of the evidence. We also have disciplinary procedures in place for staff, to ensure we maintain high standards of professional behaviour and conduct. Our procedures cover not only conduct in lectures, seminars and meetings, but all communications which directly or indirectly represent the University including social media and email.

What does zero tolerance mean?

Members of our community rightly want to know and understand how we enforce our policies and codes of conduct. Our zero tolerance approach applies to all employees, workers, contractors, students and visitors who are expected to be treated, and to treat each other, with dignity and respect regardless of age, disability, gender identity, marriage and civil partnership status, pregnancy and maternity, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation, socio-economic background, political beliefs and affiliations, family circumstances or other irrelevant distinction.

Because of this commitment, the University will always take action in relation to complaints of harassment that are raised. In each and every case there is a thorough and impartial investigation of the concerns that are raised. Where the outcome of that investigation makes it appropriate, further action will be taken that is proportionate to the circumstances of individual cases.  We work hard to ensure that we are living up to these promises.

Our impartial investigation process

By operating an impartial investigation process through our Code of Student Conduct, the University aims to ensure that those who raise complaints and those against whom complaints are made can each rely upon processes that review all the circumstances of a case and result in evidence-based judgements.

During investigations, both parties are able to bring someone with them to interviews in order to make them feel more comfortable in giving evidence. The Students’ Union Advice Service is also on hand to guide any students through the process and to offer expert advice and representation.  The University’s Student Wellbeing and Inclusivity Service is also available to ensure that anyone involved in such a case can access the support that they need both during or after an investigation.

In some cases, a non-prejudicial non-contact order may be introduced while an investigation is completed to ensure that either or both parties feel supported. Where it is considered appropriate in the interests of fairness to both parties, such non-prejudicial non-contact orders may remain in place once an investigation has been concluded, whatever the outcome.

The range of outcomes that can result from an investigation is listed in the Code of Student Conduct.  A number of measures can be considered if a complaint is upheld, including formal written warnings through to expulsion of a student.

Sometimes the parties to a dispute may remain dissatisfied with the outcome of an investigation, even after all stages have been concluded.  It is important that we learn lessons from all such cases as they will allow us to enhance our practices and build confidence in the robustness and fairness of our processes.  However, it is equally important from the perspective of fairness that, once such impartial processes have been completed, their outcomes are respected and that the focus moves to agreed actions, including support for those who have been involved.

If a student has a concern about how we have dealt with an issue, our Student Concerns and Complaints Procedure is available and includes the opportunity, once the University’s internal processes have been concluded, for a concern to be raised with the Office of the Independent Adjudicator (OIA), the independent student complaints scheme for England and Wales.

Within our Code of Student Conduct, the right to confidentiality for all individuals involved is an important principle. Other than in circumstances described in the Code, the outcome of a case cannot, as a matter of course, be made public. The absence of wider reporting on individual cases does not mean that no action has been taken by the University.

Where complaints are being considered against members of staff under the University’s Disciplinary Procedure, in appropriate circumstances a member of staff may be suspended from work while allegations are being investigated. Such action is non-prejudicial, in the same way as for non-contact orders under the Code of Student Conduct, and it is important to emphasise that suspension in no way implies guilt.

We want you to report concerns

Our Report and Support web pages make it as straightforward as possible for all staff, students, and visitors to our campuses to report concerns.  Where matters are raised on a named basis, support from an adviser will be provided as the first stage of the Report and Support process.  Everyone is encouraged to use the Report and Support system to draw attention to experiences or behaviours that they feel are inconsistent with our policies and values. Complaints can also be submitted anonymously and whilst it may not be possible to investigate anonymous complaints, they do allow us to get a full picture of incidents on our campuses, so that we can adapt our approaches on student wellbeing, security or support and identify issues, which might be undermining the inclusivity of our community. Other complaints, such as those reported directly to the Student Progress Team, will receive rigorous and impartial investigation in line with the University’s zero tolerance policy.

Supporting our community

We look out for the wellbeing of all members of our student and staff community and understand making a complaint or being the subject of a complaint can be incredibly stressful for individuals.

In each and every complaint we want to learn from the operation of our codes and practices, so that we can ensure that we live up to our commitment to be a community that celebrates diversity, challenges inequality – and is committed to establishing an environment that is free from any form of harassment or bullying. We regularly review our approach and I welcome any suggestions about how we can improve the system.

You can contact me at Registrar@essex.ac.uk

Bryn Morris

Registrar and Secretary



March 22, 2019

Review of the Experiences of Jewish Students and Staff at the University of Essex Phase 2

I am writing to offer a further opportunity for students and staff to feed into the Review I am leading on the experiences of Jewish students and staff on all three campuses at the University of Essex.

First, I would like to thank everyone who has taken the time to write or to meet. All comments have been helpful, and will help to shape the Review. I would now like to offer an independent route for any further testimony or comments.

The University has appointed an independent external group to act as recipients of testimony and to advise on the Review content and recommendations. These are:

  • Rabbi Baroness Julia Neuberger dbe, House of Lords, London
  • Simon Johnson, Chief Executive, Jewish Leadership Council, London
  • Mark Gardner, Deputy Chief Executive, Community Support Trust, London
  • Rt Hon Baroness Jan Royall, Principal, Somerville College Oxford

Assurances

I would like to offer the following assurances:

  • The core aim of the Review is to ensure that students and staff are able to thrive at the University of Essex and have a positive experience during their time here;
  • The University will not tolerate antisemitic behaviour in any form and will act whenever it becomes aware of such behaviour;
  • Communications to the external independent group will be treated as confidential and anonymous and there will be no reference to specific communications in any report without the consent of the communicator(s);
  • Communications to the independent group will not be made public;
  • The University will take matters further where university policies appear to have been breached, whilst respecting the confidentially of the process.

There is thus one additional route for passing testimony, experiences and recommendations:

  • By email to this account: independent-group@essex.ac.uk
  • All correspondence will be passed directly to the independent group (with no editing or shaping by the University).
  • The deadline for comments will be 4 April.
  • The dvc@essex.ac.uk email remains open for any comments you would like to pass to me.

I will be providing an update to the University Council on 13 May 2019, with the final report to be discussed and approved on 11 July.

The independent group looks forward to all feedback.

With best wishes

Professor Jules Pretty OBE PFHEA FRSB FRSA

Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Professor of Environment & Society

University of Essex



March 21, 2019

How Essex informs global humanitarian debates

Our human rights community has a global reputation for theory, teaching and practice. That reputation was illustrated this month when the United Nations chose Essex for a global symposium to discuss humanitarian responses to crises. Professor Geoff Gilbert, from the School of Law, explains.

Professor Geoff Gilbert

Professor Geoff Gilbert

There are more than 40million people internally displaced because of conflict. Their particular vulnerabilities are complex and men, women, girls and boys are affected in different ways.

In ensuring no one’s needs go unmet because of age, gender or diversity mainstreaming, the United Nations turned to our multi-disciplinary human rights experts to hold a global symposium tackling the issue.

The UN’s Global Protection Cluster (GPC), which is responsible for protecting conflict-driven internally displaced persons, met at our Colchester Campus to work with our Human Rights Centre and ESRC-funded Human Rights, Big Data and Technology Project (HRBDT) team.

The symposium was an opportunity to draw on our expertise in collecting information about people that could assist humanitarian responses.

At present, there are about 130 million persons of concern to the UN, with 43 million internally displaced, who are caught up in conflicts in places such as Syria, Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia and Ukraine.

Necessarily, the relevant humanitarian actors are trying to bring some order to that chaos.

Humanitarian agencies collect vast amounts of information on the 130 million people in need of humanitarian assistance. At the same time, they often lack information about the age, gender or characteristics of people in need, inhibiting their efforts to provide protection and assistance.

A lack of coherence and innovation in information gathering leads to multiple information gathering exercises, which exhausts people in need, stretches resources and often fails to provide helpful data. Against this background, humanitarian agencies are challenged to do better in assisting people according to their needs but are also challenged to take action outside their comfort zone.

Almost all of the operations with a Humanitarian Country Team are characterised by conflict based on ethnic and religious lines or where such differences affect the humanitarian response.

Conflict differentially impacts men, women, boys and girls and those with particular vulnerabilities, as well as creating further vulnerability.

In addition, these operations are in the main characterised by difficulties in accessing people in need, gathering reliable information, analysing the severity of need and defining priorities.

An approach to humanitarian assistance, which requires working towards a reduction in risk, demands that humanitarian agencies identify needs accurately and work in an imaginative way to respond to need – be it to stay, to flee, to receive aid or psychosocial support. Individually, none of these questions are easy to answer and together they present a sizeable problem.

The Essex symposium brought together experts in protection and information management from the field, government, international organisations and academics.

Together we explored what is and is not possible for humanitarian agencies to do in promoting age, gender and diversity mainstreaming through data: to challenge all these actors to do more and better, but to set realistic expectations of what can be achieved.

It follows a long association between the GPC and the HRBDT Project that has sought to ensure that the academic research has an impact in some of the world’s most acute crises.

Most recently, Simon Russell, GPC Co-ordinator, invited myself, Professor Klaus McDonald-Maier from our School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering, and Sam Dubbberly, consultant to HRBDT, to present work of the HRBDT to its field mission directors. As a result, Essex was the obvious choice for a discussion on data collection in humanitarian operations.

The symposium involved GPC leads from Ukraine and Iraq, data collection specialists, representatives from the Department for International Development and the Swiss government, Stonewall, and field actors who provide assistance and protection.

Essex contributors included myself, Dr Daragh Murray, Dr Ahmed Shaheed, Dr Ayman Alhelbawy and Dr Patricia Palacios Zuloaga.

Students from our LLMs in International Humanitarian Law and International Human Rights Law too got valuable note-taking experience, ensuring our Essex human rights community plays a crucial role in the resulting UN report.



March 15, 2019

We remain impatient for change

Susie Morgan

Susie Morgan, Director of Human Resources

Susie Morgan, our Director of Human Resources, tells us more about our ongoing work to close the gender pay gap.

The Government requirement for all UK employers with more than 250 employees to publish their gender pay gap data reflects the importance of fair pay for women, both nationally and for the University. In an article in the Times Higher following the publication of the first national data on fair pay, our Vice-Chancellor said that we must resist attempts to explain away the gender pay gap. This remains the case after the second year of data has been published.

The gender pay gap is the difference between men’s and women’s average earnings across an organisation. This should not be confused with equal pay for work of equal value, which is the pay women and men receive for doing the same or similar work. In relation to equal pay for work of equal value we have no significant pay gaps at any grade across the University. However, in relation to the gender pay gap, whilst we have seen a 7.2% reduction in the overall mean gap between 2013 and 2018, and in the last 12 months a further reduction of 1% on the 2017 figure, it is still too high. The median gender pay gap also remains unacceptably high at 18.6%, the same as in the last reporting period.

We have made some progress in increasing the proportion of female professors, which is 8.4% above the sector average. There has also been a 2.1% increase in the proportion of women in the highest pay quartile between 2017 and 2018. The proportion of women in grades 9, 10 and 11 increased from 42.1% to 43.9% in the year from March 2017 to March 2018 and there has been a 4.4% increase in the proportion of female academic staff over the last five years to 44.4%. This is all good news, but our progress is too slow and we remain impatient for change. So, what are we doing to close these gaps?

All departments are now engaged in Athena SWAN and we are extending this to Professional Services sections. This means that across the whole of the University, conversations about gender equality/inequality are taking place and staff are implementing actions to close the gender pay gap. In the latter part of 2018 we put in place a robust system to monitor completion of essential training (a policy introduced in 2017), with reminders going to individuals and reporting managers. Although completion rates have risen by 18% to 46% since the policy was introduced, they are still unacceptably low. Essential training is important as it helps to ensure that across the University, our decision-making practices are aligned to our commitment to transparency, natural justice in the workplace and – very importantly in this context, the avoidance of bias.

We are continuing to use positive action statements in all recruitment material, embedding unconscious bias training, running academic promotion workshops, engaging with informal networks, encouraging flexible working and we have put in place robust processes to manage any variations in salary. Our gender pay gap report outlines our other actions.

The eradication of the gender pay gap is a critical measure of our success in living by our values, and every member of the University can be involved in helping achieve this. If you have a particular interest or are conducting research in this area or have ideas to help with this work, we would be very pleased to hear from you at
diversity@essex.ac.uk.



February 28, 2019

Support and Solidarity with our Jewish students and staff

Our community joined together in a public show of support and solidarity for our Jewish students and staff.  Our Vice-Chancellor, Professor Anthony Forster, addressed a crowd of some 500 people. You can read his speech, and a statement from our Chancellor, The Rt Hon John Bercow, here. 

Our Vice-Chancellor, Anthony Forster.

At the University of Essex we have a tradition of coming together to show the strength of our feeling about an issue, to demonstrate our support for each other and to stand shoulder to shoulder as individuals and as a community, on issues that matter to us.

We are a University that must live by our values and the events of last week have called into question our commitment to these values.

It is right that the Jewish Society has now been formed, and I know that the University and the Students’ Union will do all in our power to enable it to flourish alongside our other societies.

This is however only one step. On behalf of our community, I want to speak out against all forms of antisemitism. Today we have come together to show that antisemitism is completely antithetical to the values of the University of Essex – and it has absolutely no place on our campuses and in our relationships with each other.

The President of our Students’ Union, Tancrede Chartier.

The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition and associated examples are our guide.  “Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”

Antisemitism will not end simply because we stood together on this day at this time to oppose it. What coming together achieves is a public show of solidarity and support, making clear what we stand for. It is another step in demonstrating our values and our support for all our Jewish students and staff. Each and every one of our community needs to ensure that by our actions, the lived experience of Jewish people at our University is one of which we can be proud.

Our Chancellor the Rt. Hon. John Bercow MP, Speaker of the House of Commons cannot be with us today, but John has sent me a statement of solidarity which expresses so much better than I can, my utter dismay at what has happened and how we must now go forward.

Amy-Julie Fogiel, the President of our Jewish Society, also addressed the assembled crowds.

I want to share his statement with you:

I am sorry that I cannot be with you in person today. My duty as Speaker is to chair proceedings in the House of Commons. Yet I am with you in spirit and I ask for your attention for just two minutes.

Graduating from the University of Essex nearly 34 years ago is one of the happiest memories of my life. Serving as your Chancellor is amongst my greatest privileges. Why? Because a belief in equality, human rights and non-discrimination is as deep-rooted in the University’s veins as it is in mine. That is why I was mortified last week that the University laid itself open to the charge of antisemitism. That too is why I support the Vice-Chancellor, Anthony Forster, and his colleagues, unequivocally and passionately, in acting to cleanse the University of that ugly and damaging stain.

Let me be clear. The right of free association within the law is one of the most fundamental and precious rights. Jewish students and staff enjoy that right with, equal to and no different from, anyone else. The right to meet, to be themselves, and to assert their Jewish identity is inalienable. It is unconditional. It is non-negotiable. It does not depend upon what such students and staff think of the government of Israel, the state of the Middle East peace process, or any particular policy – be it national, international or global.

Our community gathered to show our support for our Jewish students and staff.

Freedom under the law. Mutual respect. Celebrating the rights of others, not merely our own. These are my core values, your core values, the core values of the Essex University we know and love. Let us reassert these core values today.

I would like to invite everyone present to give a round of applause as a sign of our solidarity with our Jewish students and staff – thank you.


 

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