Students Staff
University of Essex

November 10, 2017

Essex – among the best of Europe’s Young Research Universities

YERUN is a network of 18 young European research universities. Our Vice-Chancellor, Professor Anthony Forster, played an integral role in the network’s establishment and spoke at its official launch event.

Read the full speech he gave at the event, held on 7 November at the European Parliament:

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

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

This launch event has been a wonderful opportunity for us to showcase our YERUN network of 18 young research universities.

As Vice-Chancellor of the University of Essex I have had the privilege of being involved since the first exploratory discussions that resulted in the establishment of the YERUN network so I am delighted to be here today at the formal launch.

YERUN is a cross-European initiative and I am delighted to say that, as some of Europe’s best young research universities, we are already successfully cooperating and collaborating in a range of areas and making a positive impact.

YERUN is a network of really highly regarded universities, but I’m delighted that it is also a network of friends with shared values.  Working with great scientists is rewarding.  Working with great scientists who are friends is life enhancing.

The presentations today of the six research projects from Subhash, Paul, Jörg, Mónica, Tess and Renée, Iona and Artemis are a superb example of this collaboration.  They really serve to demonstrate our interdisciplinary nature and the range of high quality European-funded research currently being undertaken by colleagues working across our network of universities.

It has been wonderful to see the enthusiasm and clear commitment of  colleagues to undertaking research that really makes a difference to people’s everyday lives.

Professor Dom Micklewright, our Dean of Partnerships, also attended the YERUN launch.

Professor Dom Micklewright, our Dean of Partnerships, also attended the YERUN launch.

And it highlights that:

As a group of young research universities, YERUN is:

  • empowering early-career researchers;
  • contributing to the design of the future research environment, and fostering an open science culture;
  • working with civil society and industrial partners to ensure our education and research are aligned with labour market demands  and contributing to addressing the needs of our societies; and
  • ensuring that our graduates have the skills that will make them highly employable and able to succeed in building their futures.

Each of our 18 universities plays a crucial role in the development of local and regional economies and innovation eco-systems and, by working together, we are sharing knowledge and experience so that we can maximise both our individual and collective contributions to society.

By bringing a young research university perspective to European discussions, and working together on initiatives that positively impact on European students, staff and researchers, YERUN is already making a distinctive contribution to our competitive knowledge-based economy.

Future perspectives

The major changes that we all see taking place in European societies underline the importance of new and dynamic interdisciplinary and multi-disciplinary linkages and innovative research.

I am delighted that, two years on from our inaugural meeting and just one year after the opening of the Brussels office, YERUN is already firmly established as a network and well placed to build these linkages … to emphasize graduate employability and to play a role as the voice of young research universities in Europe.

As a network, our universities are already actively engaged in student and staff mobility, are collaborating on joint research on topics that really matter, and are sharing best practice.

I am delighted that in January the University of Essex will be hosting the first YERUN Research Workshop bringing together researchers from across the Network to collaborate on one of our strategic research priority themes: Big Data, Data Analytics and the Digital Economy. I look forward to welcoming colleagues to the University of Essex and to seeing the research collaborations that result from the workshop.

As a network we have expressed our support for the position of the Commission and EU stakeholders to establish an FP9 budget that matches the world-leading ambitions of the programme. We have presented our views and key requests for the next EU Framework Programme, FP9. We look forward to continuing to work with you and the EU institutions to deliver a FP9 that matches the world-leading ambitions of EU Research and Innovation.

And we look forward to continuing to build relationships and cooperation with the European Parliament and European Commission, permanent representatives, universities and research associations, and with all our European stakeholders.

Above all our YERUN network is about using the collective strength of our 18 universities to bring the young research universities’ perspective to policy debates and to make the World a better place.  I can think of no better group of universities and friends to take on this challenge.

Thank you.



November 3, 2017

Launching our new Department of Psychosocial and Psychoanalytic Studies

Sasha Roseneil is our Executive Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences and Professor of Sociology. Here she talks about the launch of our new Department of Psychosocial and Psychoanalytic Studies.

An image of Sasha Roseneil

Sasha Roseneil, Executive Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences and Professor of Sociology.

Universities are Janus-faced organisations, looking simultaneously backwards and forwards. We have a unique societal role in preserving the past, in ensuring the protection of bodies of knowledge and ways of thinking, and at the same time carrying the collected understandings of our already existing world into the future, from one generation to the next, asking new questions as social change throws up new challenges, and developing thereby new knowledge and ways of thinking. Through this we contribute to the re-creation of the world.

A living entity

A University is, therefore, a living entity, one that moves and changes constantly, whilst also seeking to hold steady enough to capture the past and contain the present. A University values both the old and the new, recognising that the future emerges out of the past, that innovation and creativity do not spring from nowhere, but depend on the accumulation and assimilation of our inheritance from previous generations.

A momentous occasion

The founding of a new department is a momentous occasion in the life of a university. Departments are our ways of organising our work. They delineate every day interactions, they structure how we manage resources, and they mark the boundaries of bodies of knowledge and ways of thinking. They are a way of settling, making solid, putting a framework around the flow of intellectual life and the ongoing pursuit of understanding, so that people with shared interests and approaches, with broadly similar ways of tackling an intellectual, scientific or social problem can work alongside and with each other, without having to constantly explain, justify and defend their assumptions, methods and practices. Ideally, a department provides us with a home at work, a place of membership and belonging – a community of colleagues with whom to identify.

(Of course, that is the ideal, and it does not always feel like that in departments. Departments can operate as mechanisms of exclusion as much as inclusion, with identities defined oppositionally and negatively, as much as positively. But that line of thought is for another occasion.)

So, it is a big thing for a university to establish a new department. It grants recognition to a body of knowledge and a way of thinking.  It constitutes them as legitimate, alongside other long established fields of study, and it marks thereby the transformation of intellectual life and what we might call “science” in its broadest sense.

Moving with the times

Essex is a university founded in the white hot heat of the 1960s that remains fundamentally committed to re-inventing itself, to moving with the times, to riding the wave of the contemporary, whilst always remembering its roots. We are a university that is willing to do things differently, and to allow new bodies of knowledge and ways of thinking the time and space to grow and, ultimately, the institutional recognition needed to flourish.

The Centre for Psychoanalytic Studies emerged out of our enormously generative Department of Sociology, and has existed now for more than two decades as a unique locus globally for research and education in psychoanalysis. Psychoanalysis is a body of knowledge and a way of thinking that simultaneously looks back into the past – into an individual’s biographical history, early life experiences, and the intergenerational legacies of which conscious awareness may not exist – whilst also attending, with precision, care, and an open mind to experience in the present moment, in order to release the hold of the past and to open up possibilities for the future.

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The launch event took place in our Hex venue and was attended by staff and students.

Recognition and expansion

The establishment of the new Department of Psychosocial and Psychoanalytic Studies offers recognition to the work that has been carried out in the Centre in the past. But it also marks an expansion and reconfiguring of the work of the Centre. The adding to the new department’s name the notion of the psychosocial points to, and embraces, important new developments in the social sciences and beyond.

The idea of the psychosocial

The idea of the psychosocial – a concept that has a long history in social science and medicine – has been taking on new shape and meaning in the past two decades. [1] It is carving out a new transdisciplinary space of thinking and practice that challenges the 19th century configuration of the social and human sciences, and the disciplinary division between psychology and sociology. This distinction, represented and reproduced in almost every university around the world, allocates to psychology the scientific study of the mind, the individual, and, in some formulations, ‘inner life’, affect and emotion, and to sociology the study of ‘society’, ‘external worlds’, macro-structures and processes.

Developing most rapidly in the UK, but with parallel developments across Europe and beyond, and indeed with its roots in pre-second world war Frankfurt, psychosocial studies rejects the separation of the spheres of ‘psychic’ and ‘social’, and the idea that ‘inner’ and ‘outer’ worlds are empirically or theoretically separable. As people we are always already beings with both singular, personal experience and with shared, collective experience – we cannot know one without the other, we cannot know ourselves without others, individual and society are always entangled.

As psychoanalyst Joan Riviere said in 1952:

“There is no such thing as a single human being, pure and simple, unmixed with other human beings. Each personality is a world in himself, a company of many. That self, that life of one’s own, which is in fact so precious though so casually taken for granted, is a composite structure which has been and is being formed and built up since the day of our birth out of countless never-ending influences and exchanges between ourselves and others […] These other persons are in fact therefore parts of ourselves, not indeed the whole of them but such parts or aspects of them as we had our relation with, and as have thus become parts of us. […] We are members one of another (Riviere, 1952:166-167).[2]“

Psychoanalytic understandings

To add psychoanalysis into the psychosocial mix is to suggest that the process of seeking to understand and know ourselves and our world is always one about which we are conflicted. It is to recognise that whilst there are things that we expressly want to know, that we long to know, there are things that we might be protecting ourselves from knowing. It is to acknowledge that there may be defences against uncomfortable realities, within each of us as individuals, in our organisations and institutions, in our society and polity. It suggests that there are forces that resist our best, avowed intentions, pulling us in the opposite direction – back to the past, rather than onward into the future, towards death and destruction, as much as towards life and creativity.

To some readers this might sound rather too mystical and unscientific. It might not seem like the proper business of a Faculty of Social Sciences that is known across the world for its rigorous quantitative research, its commitment to the rational, the empirical and the measurable.

The uniqueness of the social sciences at Essex

Professor Roseneil spoke at the launch of the new Department

Professor Roseneil delivered her speech to mark the launch of the new Department.

But I believe that that what makes the social sciences at Essex both unique and great is our breadth and range. We work across the whole gamut of approaches and topics, with an enormous variety of methods and materials – from the study of macro processes of social, economic and political change to the study of micro moments and inner worlds. We study numbers – population statistics, big data, longitudinal surveys – and we study texts – historical documents, narratives, biographies, discourse and language. We build models, and we deconstruct them. We embrace quantitative and qualitative, macro and micro, the historical and the contemporary, analysis and criticality, the theoretical and the empirical, the political and the personal, the psychic and the social.

And our innovation and our rejuvenation reside in our desire to explore and inhabit the spaces in between all of these. It is in the spaces in between, the new places that, with hard work and struggle, we carve out for thinking differently that our collective life, our culture, sociality and self-understandings are transformed.

Our new Department of Psychosocial and Psychoanalytic Studies is part of that process of renewal and transformation, at Essex and in the wider world. I wish its members – staff and students – now and of the future – intellectual excitement, good humour and a spirit of collective enterprise in the work that you will do together and with the rest of the University, in Colchester,  Southend, and beyond.

 

Take a look at all the photos from the launch event on flickr.

[1] See Roseneil, S. (2014) ‘The Psychosocial Challenges of Establishing the Field of Psychosocial Studies’, Journal of Psycho-Social Studies, Vol. 8, Issue 1 http://www1.uwe.ac.uk/hls/research/jpss/volume812014.aspx

[2] Riviere, J. (1952) ‘The unconscious phantasy of an inner world reflected in examples from literature’. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 33:160-72.



October 13, 2017

Keep it On Campus

Chris Oldham is our Director of Estates and Campus Services. Here he tells us about the latest Campus Services campaign, Keep it on Campus, which helps support our University by reinvesting the money we spend in the food outlets and shops on campus.

Chris Oldham is the Director of Estates and Campus Services.

Chris Oldham is the Director of Estates and Campus Services.

When the  layout of the original Colchester Campus was first proposed, the plan put forward by Sir Albert Sloman, our founding Vice-Chancellor, was to create the variety and liveliness of town life, with ‘our own shops and coffee bars, bank and post office’.

More than 50 years later this still holds true. There is a wealth of services on the campus, which not only helps to foster a sense of community but also raises funds that are re-invested into the University as a whole.

Wherever you see the Keep it On Campus badge you can be reassured that the goods you are about to buy or the facility you are about to use, are owned by University of Essex Campus Services, UECS, a company owned entirely by the University. UECS gift aids any surpluses generated back to the University, for the benefit of all our students.

There are also plenty of part-time job opportunities for students within the businesses, either during term-time or the holidays when through Event Essex, Southend and Colchester campuses host residential conferences in student accommodation.

Staff development is vital to our goal to continuously develop and improve our services to you. Our programme of training keeps everyone up to the date with the latest innovations in each business and ensures good customer service across the University.

You will probably be most familiar with Essex Food, which runs many of the catering outlets across the Colchester campus,  including the striking No 64 bus and Food on the Square, a pop up takeaway option, set up to provide quick and tasty hot food for busy staff and students during term time.

This initiative is a great example of how Campus Services responds to the challenges of ever growing student numbers and the changing demands of you, our partners.  Feedback is vital to ensure we are providing the right services. Can we do it better, or differently, should we be trying something new? By helping each other, we can keep it in the family.



October 10, 2017

Welcoming our postgraduate research students

An image of Professor Martyna Śliwa

Professor Martyna Śliwa

It may sound like a cliché, but there is no such thing as a ‘typical’ student. The extent of diversity within the student population is perhaps nowhere else as pronounced as in the case of postgraduate research students. This, in turn, requires us to think about how best to support them and how to make the start of the year, and their new research degree, as enjoyable and ‘smooth’ for them as possible.

Our research students come from all over the world – from 91 countries, to be precise. From Algeria to Canada, to India, Mexico, Nigeria, Portugal and Vietnam, to name just a few. Some are local to the UK, and some even to the University of Essex, having studied here before. To others, last week might have been their first ever week in this country and they will also be faced with needing to adapt to an unfamiliar education system. Some of our research students commence PGR study directly after their undergraduate degree, and are likely to be in their early 20s when they begin working towards their doctorate. Others might decide to take up a PGR degree mid-career or following a career break, with a view to improving their qualifications or perhaps completely changing the direction of their professional development. Yet others might choose to enrol on a research degree programme to fulfil their retirement dream. They all have their own hopes, ambitions, and plans for the future.

Our PGR students come to Essex to explore research questions across a great range of disciplines and from a variety of methodological perspectives. We educate PhD students and those who pursue professional doctorates. We have postgraduate research students who are fully funded through the University of Essex and other scholarships, those who are self-funded, and those who rely on funding from a combination of sources. Most of our research degree students are registered full-time, while some study on a part-time or distance-learning basis.

PGR students not only enrich the University’s research environment but also greatly contribute to its Education Strategy, with many of them working for the University as Graduate Teaching Assistants and Graduate Laboratory Assistants. Throughout their research degree, they often become very closely integrated with their home Departments, and it is not uncommon for Essex PGR graduates to go on to undertake full-time employment at the University, be it in academic or professional services-related roles.

The multiple contributions that postgraduate research students make to our community – both through adding to the diversity of its culture and to its research and educational environment – have made me particularly excited about welcoming our new PGR cohort to Essex. The PGRE Team, along with colleagues from Student Engagement, Organisational Development, and each of the University’s Faculties and Departments organised a dedicated PGR Welcome Day for our news starters. This included a range of activities and sessions focussing on different aspects of PGR provision, from an introduction to postgraduate research study at Essex and the support, training and development opportunities available to all our PGR students, to conversations with individual supervisors.

We have registered 199 new PGR students, with more set to join the University in January and April. There are also 1081 research students returning to Essex to continue with their PGR study this academic year.  For first year postgraduate research students in particular, there will be a lot of new things to get to know in the coming weeks and months. A research degree has its own unique nature and rhythm, different from that of an undergraduate or postgraduate taught degree. What is certain is that all of our research students will work very hard, since there is a good reason why a research degree is referred to as ‘advanced study’! Equally, all the teams and individuals involved in PGR provision will work hard to support them in becoming successful in their degree and making the most of their PGR study.

Professor Martyna Śliwa is Dean of Postgraduate Research and Education and a Professor of Management and Organisation Studies.

 



Welcome to the University of Essex

Our Pro Vice-Chancellor Education, Aletta Norval

Our Pro Vice-Chancellor Education, Aletta Norval

Congratulations on achieving your place with us. We’re very excited to welcome you to our unique, global ‘Essex family’ and to beginning your new adventure.

We want you to have the best possible time with us and to do so, I have some advice for you:

Manage your time and shape your experience

Use the Welcome period as an opportunity to make networks, find your feet and settle in. It is important to pace yourself and plan your time. You may find it useful to work out a personal timetable, factoring in all of your commitments. Above all, have the courage to explore and the confidence to ask when you don’t know.

Get involved and step out of your comfort zone

I do hope that both within the classroom and outside, you will make full use of every opportunity available to you to explore, create and contribute to life at the University. Think, work and strive to live beyond your comfort zone. Join societies, volunteer, and discover the joys of stretching yourself intellectually.

Take advantage of the support on offer

Whilst your university experience can be exciting, it can also be very daunting. We’re here to support you with any aspect of your life with us as a student; both academically and personally.

I hope you enjoy your first year with us to the full.



September 29, 2017

Belonging – a work in progress…

An image of Sasha Roseneil

Professor Sasha Roseneil

Will I fit in?

Will I meet people I can relate to?

Will I make friends?

How long will it feel uncomfortable for?

When will it all become familiar and normal to be here?

Will I lose touch with where I came from, my friends and family?

Do I have to stop being me and become someone different in order to belong here?

These are some of the questions that run through our minds when we start somewhere new. Going to university is one of the biggest transitions we make in our lives. Not only does it mean, for most students, moving away from home, sometimes to a new country, and leaving behind family and friends, but it also means encountering multiple new groups of people. There is a group of flat or housemates to get to know. There are much larger groups of fellow students on your course and in your department, and then smaller groups taking particular modules and in seminars. There are groups of varying size in the clubs, societies and sports teams that you think about joining. Everywhere you go, university is about groups.

But joining a group isn’t easy. Everyone – yes, everyone – finds it difficult, however confident and at ease they seem to be.

As human beings we are fundamentally social beings. We need to feel attachment, not just to a small number of intimate others – our immediate family and close friends – but to the people we meet out there in the world, away from home. We need to feel connected to wider networks, to intermediate groups, to the institutions and communities of which we become part, and to society more generally. To belong is a basic human need.

It might seem, therefore, that belonging should come naturally, that it should just happen. And to some extent it does. Over time, new people and strange places become familiar. We recognise faces in the crowd. We find the people we can relate to. We start to understand the culture. We learn the rhythms of our new life. We settle in. And suddenly, one day, we realise that it feels ok. Or better. It’s feels good to be here.

But before that happens, it often feels uncomfortable, unsettling, or worse. We might feel alienated and alone. We might feel utterly separate and different from everyone else. We might feel that no one notices us, or recognises us for who we are. We might feel lost in the crowd and that we do not belong.

In my work as a group analyst, I run therapy groups, and I have spent many years witnessing up close the struggles that people have in joining a group. They want to join the therapy group. They have chosen to do it. They think it’s the right thing to do at this point in their lives, and they are committing to do it. It will cost them time and money. It will involve sacrifice. But they think it will be worthwhile. They hope that they will learn and change through it. Yet, still it is a deeply ambivalent process. It is scary, at times, to even show up, let alone to speak.  The whole thing feels odd and unnatural. They experience strong psychological urges to resist really joining the group and connecting with the other members. They focus on how different they are from everyone else in the group, and how impossible it is that anyone will understand them. Paradoxically, they also fear that they will merge with the group and lose their own identity, that they will change too much, and no longer recognise themselves, that they will become distant from the people who matter to them. So they back away from the group. They don’t participate. They are late. They miss sessions. They start wondering if it was a good idea in the first place. They undermine the very thing that they wanted to do, and the hope that they were investing in it for the future.

Now, a therapy group is certainly not the same as a group of flatmates, or a seminar group, or a university club or sports team. But there is the same basic, powerful tension at work for us, whatever group we are entering, between wanting to be part of the group and wanting not to be. We are all, when we join a new group, unconsciously torn between the desire to fit in, to be accepted by, to bond with the other members, and the desire to maintain our separateness, our difference and individuality. And that tension can be difficult to live with. It can be painful. It can sabotage our best intentions.

But, the good news is that if we recognise this, if we acknowledge that it is difficult to join a new group, and that we are not the only one feeling this, it can and does become easier. If we manage to stick with it, if we tolerate the early period of discomfort, then the feelings change. If we summon up the courage to say hello, if we dare to smile, if we risk sharing something of ourselves with people we don’t yet know, we will be rewarded. If we look for groups of potentially like-minded people, as well as challenging ourselves to reach out to people we think we have little in common with, we will find ourselves connecting. Because, if we participate, we will become part of things. We won’t agree with everyone we encounter. We won’t become best friends with everyone we meet. We might not even like everyone or everything we try our hand at. And that’s ok.

Gradually, over time, we start to feel at home. We start to feel like we belong.

Welcome to Essex. We are a diverse and friendly community, and you don’t have to stop being you to be one of us. Be brave, be you, and, in time, belong!

Sasha Roseneil is a group analyst and a sociologist. She is Executive Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences, and a Professor in the Department of Sociology.



August 4, 2017

Championing inclusivity at the University and beyond

Our university has signed up to the ‘City of Sanctuary’ project, a movement committed to building a culture of hospitality and welcome, especially for refugees seeking sanctuary from war and persecution. This is just one part of our One World, One Spirit, One Essex campaign which we are extending beyond our campuses into work with local partners. The whole project is being led by our Chief of Staff, Monica Illsley, who tells us more about the work she is doing to encourage a global community outlook across Essex. 

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Our One Essex inclusivity campaign logo.

At Essex we pride ourselves on being a global university community; it’s one of the reasons that we as staff choose to work here and why many of our students want to study here. In March we launched a new initiative in response to concerns and anxiety amongst our community about what a post Brexit world might bring. In the wake of the referendum, we saw examples of unwelcoming and racist behaviours, comments and incidents which prompted us to want to do something to re-affirm our University campuses as inclusive and safe places and spaces.

Our Chief of Staff, Monica Ilsley.

Our Chief of Staff, Monica Ilsley.

Given that our staff and students live out in the community, we also wanted to extend beyond our campuses and work with local partners to reach out into our local communities, championing inclusivity and the benefits of membership of a global community. The One World, One Spirit, One Essex campaign is about showing that we’re proud of our global community, proud of our diversity, our people and our inclusive spirit. It’s very much a joint University and Students’ Union initiative and we’re working with a number of local partners including: Colchester Borough Council, the Police, the Safer Colchester Partnership, Essex Community Foundation, Firstsite, and local volunteering and community organisations. We’re partnering on initiatives and promoting each other’s efforts to promote inclusivity and diversity so that together we can achieve maximum impact.

Knocking down the hate wall

The campaign was launched with a very successful Students’ Union-led event that involved building a Hate Wall at the Colchester campus and inviting our community to write their views and experiences of racist behaviour on the wall. Emotions ran high as the wall was covered with examples of hateful behaviour until, at the end of the day, our community (joined by our then Chancellor Shami Chakrabarti and the Mayor of Colchester at the time Julie Young) came together to physically knock the wall down to symbolise us standing firm together in relation to our values. The response was fantastic and captured and shared via social media. It was followed up with a contrasting Love Wall event on our Colchester Campus and with the Hate Wall being taken out into the community as part of the John Ball Day event at Firstsite on 15 July.

Our University values

The University’s inclusivity values seem to sit well with those of the people of Colchester, one of the most active towns in welcoming and supporting Syrian refugees. There are a number of growing local movements that really resonate with what we’re doing. As a large and influential organisation with over 2,000 staff and more than 15,000 students, many living in our local communities, it makes sense for us to be part of these initiatives.

Our SU ran their Hate Wall event at Firstsite as part of John Ball day.

Our SU ran their Hate Wall event at Firstsite as part of John Ball day.

We have already committed to the University being an active partner in the growing Citizens UK movement in Colchester, and have recently agreed to support the Colchester as a Borough of Sanctuary initiative. Part of a national ‘City of Sanctuary’ project, the aim is to build welcoming communities for vulnerable groups, especially for refugees seeking sanctuary from war and persecution. By signing up, we have committed the University to stand ready to contribute in whatever way it can.

Get involved

Over the coming year, there will be many opportunities for students and staff to get involved in the One Essex campaign as it gathers momentum and reaches out to our other campuses. So look out for events and activities taking place on our campuses and in our local towns and get in touch with the One Essex working group if you have any ideas for what more we can do to celebrate and champion inclusivity. Email Benita Ganeva with your ideas on bdgane@essex.ac.uk.

 

ONE WORLD, ONE SPIRIT, ONE ESSEX

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

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

OUR GLOBAL COMMUNITY

Essex is home to people from all over the world.

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

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



July 28, 2017

Farewell and thank you to our Chancellor, Baroness Shami Chakrabarti

Our Chancellor, Baroness Shami Chakrabarti, has attended her final Essex graduation ceremonies before stepping down. Our Vice-Chancellor described the incredible impact she has had on our community, in his speech. 

You can hear Shami talk about her experience as Chancellor in our video

This is the final graduation ceremony that Baroness Shami Chakrabarti will preside over as, after today, she steps down as Chancellor of the University.

Baroness Shami Chakrabarti.

Baroness Shami Chakrabarti.

I’d like, if I may, to say a few brief words of thanks on behalf of the University.

Shami:

Since becoming our Chancellor in 2014, you have made an incredible impact on our community just as we knew you would. You have served as our Chancellor with distinction and we thank you.

You have been a perfect match for us, a wonderful ambassador representing the Essex spirit and personifying the values that the University holds dear.

You have always been prepared to speak out, to challenge inequality and injustice. You are curious and creative. Critical and questioning. You champion what is right, and challenge what is wrong. That spirit is what you brought to us, what you did whilst with us, and what I know you will continue to do.

You have been a fantastic role model and an inspiration to our students and to us all.

But this is not goodbye. Just like our graduates, you are part of Essex now. A member of the greatest club on earth.
A member of the University of Essex family for life.



A day of celebration – Graduation 2017

Our Graduation ceremonies were a time for celebration. Here you can read the full speech as delivered by our Vice-Chancellor, Professor Anthony Forster.

graduation 3 300x200Today is a day of celebration

Graduation is the absolute high point of the academic year and is a wonderful occasion to celebrate your hard work and achievements. On behalf of the University, I would like to congratulate you on the successful award of your degrees.

I know that you have worked hard during your time here but knowing Essex students as I do, you will have had a lot of fun along the way and will leave with fond memories of your time here.

Many of your families, friends and supporters, have travelled from over 130 countries to be part of this celebration – which perfectly demonstrates that at Essex you really do find the world in one place.

For those of you graduating whose loved ones have not been able to make the journey, the ceremony is being streamed live around the world. So, I would like to extend a warm welcome to those watching and listening remotely and hope that you too feel part of this special day.

You have every reason to be proud of having earned a University of Essex degree

I am delighted that the reputation of the University continues to grow. In June we were awarded the highest rating of ‘Gold’ in the government-led assessment of the quality of our teaching – the Teaching Excellence Framework and we are ranked 11th overall in the UK for teaching excellence. I am equally delighted that in the other government led review of research quality we are ranked 19th in the UK and we are in a select group of 11 ‘dual intensive’ universities excelling in both education and research. And we are delighted to be ranked 30th in the UK in the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide.

The University is home to very talented academic staff but just as important is our role in nurturing new talent and we are every bit as proud of you and of your contribution to our community and to our success. Many of the most wonderful achievements of the University over the past year are yours.

graduation1 300x200Together we launched the One Essex’ campaign and student-led events have raised the visibility of the University’s cosmopolitan and inclusive values and championed the benefits of our global community. This year alone you have dedicated more than 24,000 hours of your time to volunteering projects – that’s double the amount of hours spent last year and 741 students working with over 50 local schools, charities, care homes, and refugee centres and directly helping people in our local communities. Your clubs and societies have won amazing awards and prizes, and gained national recognition – from the Enactus Student Society’s project to help poorer young people in Mali to get access to education – to our sports stars, who won nine league titles in volleyball, basketball, badminton, golf, rugby, squash and tennis. And this year, our societies and sports clubs have raised an amazing £41,000 for charitable causes.

Essex is not just about getting a degree it is about getting an education and, as your Vice-Chancellor, I am incredibly proud of what you have learnt, and the impact that you have had, outside the lecture theatre, seminar room and laboratory.

Graduation marks the end of one part of your life and the start of the next

Some of you will already be clear about what you want to do next. Many of you will be starting jobs. Others will be considering postgraduate study, and, if you choose to go onto further study, we are very keen to welcome you back and we have generous alumni scholarships to help you. If you have not yet decided what’s next, we’re here to help. We have 200 opportunities for you – ranging from paid graduate internships to short intensive postgraduate certificate courses, and financial support and guidance packages for those wanting to set up their own business. I particularly want to draw your attention to our paid three month graduate-level internships – so, if you are interested, and want to find out more about some of these opportunities, our Employability and Careers team are here to help you. Talk to them today at their stall outside the Silberrad Centre by the red bus, or over the coming weeks and months. The journey from student to citizen of the world is not always easy but we want you to know that you are not alone and that we are here to support you.

As you graduate, you are joining one of the best clubs in the world … an extended global family of more than 95,000 Essex graduates, with members in nearly every country in the world

It has never been easier to stay in contact with the friends that you have made at Essex. Please also keep in touch with the University, starting today by visiting the alumni team, who will be just outside in Square 5, and collecting your memory box. This is just the start of your lifelong membership of the University of Essex.

I’d like to end by reflecting on our University’s founding vision, and what having received an Essex education means for your life

graduation2 300x200Essex was founded as a University with an equal commitment to excellence in education and research. We have built our University on the idea that students and staff are ‘members’ with a licence to shape what goes on around them – by exploring and questioning; by having the ideas, the freedom, and the courage to challenge the status quo.  We are a University that embraces inclusivity, internationalism, and inter-cultural understanding – a place where all staff and students are accepted for who they are.

The University of Essex is unashamedly a community led by values, a place where we believe in truth, and in doing the right thing – and right now this matters more than ever. I hope that your time here has contributed to your understanding of who you are, of what you can achieve, and what you can change for the better.

Be the vanguard of a movement to make the world a better place, be kind to others, listen to views that are different to your own, disagree agreeably – and as our wonderful Chancellor says – aspire to be everyone’s equal and no one’s superior.

Go out from here; be excited; be brave; be scared; be amazing, be yourselves. And make the world a better place, in whatever way you can.

Thank you.



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.


 

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