University of Essex
University of Essex

May 3, 2017

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

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

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

Watch her video interview on our vimeo channel.

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

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

Next strategic plan period, 2019-2025

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

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

Developing our mission into new areas

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

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

April 26, 2017

Encouraging a healthy university for all

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

Our Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Jules Pretty.

Our Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Jules Pretty.

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

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

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

Our Health University action plan then has three priority themes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

April 4, 2017

Launching our new School of Sport, Rehabilitation and Exercise Science

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

Professor Graham Underwood

Professor Graham Underwood

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

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

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

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

The School’s research will focus on two areas:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vikki-Jo Scott

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

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

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

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

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

Our four key areas of research are:

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

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

March 27, 2017

Engaging with our library users

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

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

Moving towards digital content

An image of Cathy Walsh.

Director of Library Services, Cathy Walsh.

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

Self service

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

A new security system

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

Listening to our users

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

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

See for yourself

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

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

March 24, 2017

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

VP Education Josh Gulrajani

VP Education Josh Gulrajani

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

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

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

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

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

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

VP Education Josh Gulrajani

Have your say

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

The deadline for comments is Friday 14 April 2017.

March 23, 2017

Guest blog: Tell us your views on our draft Digital, Creative and Cultural Sub-Strategy

Professor Lorna Fox O'Mahony

Professor Lorna Fox O’Mahony

Our draft Digital, Creative and Cultural Sub-Strategy is now open for consultation.

The world is changing rapidly, and will be transformed many times over this century. A prominent feature of these changes is the role of digital and creative innovation in transforming how we work, live, communicate and consume. From the impact of 3D printing on manufacturing to social innovation in the ‘maker culture’, and from the delivery of healthcare to big data and human rights, the ‘fourth industrial revolution’, is characterized by a fusion of technologies that blur the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres. Huge computer power, automation, artificial intelligence and virtual reality are challenging how we understand what it means to be a worker, how governments function, how economies grow, how societies evolve, and – fundamentally – what it means to be human. Our success in harnessing the opportunities that this offers, and in managing the risks, will be driven by collaboration and creativity.

The Digital, Creative and Cultural Sub-Strategy is a new framework for bringing together some of our unique strengths in education and research. It sets out our approach in the context of our values, and identifies key actions that we will take to nurture and support excellence in education and in research. Our commitment to putting students at the centre of our thinking leads us to seek to develop further opportunities for our students to develop critical thinking, digital capabilities, creativity, communication and collaborative skills. Our commitment to research that makes a difference in the real world leads us to focus on how, across the University, we can be an effective partner in innovation to the digital, creative and cultural sectors, and also to the wider economy which draws on creative skills. And our commitment to inter-disciplinarity is reflected in our integrated and comprehensive pan-University approach to exploring, understanding and addressing digital, creative and cultural challenges.

Our approach to digital, creative and cultural education spans our activities, from schools outreach to graduate start-up support. The Sub-Strategy provides a framework for supporting and developing the education we offer through programmes of study that are directly focused on digital, creative or cultural learning, and for those which include digital skills, creative thinking, culture and communication within their broader aims. We encourage extra-curricular participation in arts and culture, and recognise its role in providing our students with opportunities to develop their cultural capital within an international and inclusive multi-cultural living and learning community.

Our researchers are leading the way in digital and creative arts in games design, digital theatre, digital curation and heritage, virtual reality applications, and support for creative and cultural economies. We are also undertaking research into data visualisation, visual perception, robotics and artificial intelligence. Our aim is to combine expertise in digital technologies, content generation, cultural engagement and communication to improve people’s lives.

On the Knowledge Gateway, our Parkside Office Village is already home to a wide range of digital and creative businesses. Our unique, award-winning Games Hub provides opportunities for digital creative entrepreneurs to participate in an innovative games and business development studio. The University’s investment in high-performance computing to support advanced data visualisation enables us to attract new businesses as partners, supporting companies in “seeing and showing” the outcomes of big data analysis. Our Innovation Centre will open in 2018, and includes a focal point for digital and creative start-ups, freelancers and social enterprise entrepreneurs to work alongside students and academic staff.

The draft Digital, Creative and Cultural sub-strategy aims to draw together our ambitions for excellence, and to ensure the University provides a supportive environment for this work. We wish to benefit our students and support our staff in making connections, forging collaborations, and generating impact that improves people’s lives. We welcome your ideas and feedback.

Professor Lorna Fox O’Mahony, Chair of the Digital, Creative and Cultural Task and Finish Group

Have your say

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

The deadline for comments is Friday 14 April 2017.

March 17, 2017

Reaffirming our commitment to Essex as a cosmopolitan university committed to inclusivity and to internationalism

The Government will trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty before the end of the month to begin the process of negotiating Britain’s exit from the European Union. I want to take this opportunity to provide an update for staff, students and alumni on the actions that we have been taking and that are underway to support our community and to ensure that the University not only survives, but thrives in the new environment. 

It is important to remember that the triggering of Article 50 is not the date on which we leave the EU, but rather the formal notification of the UK Government’s intention to leave the EU and will be followed by two years of negotiation on the terms of exit. This will no doubt be a period of uncertainty as the negotiations ebb and flow. 

Our approach has been and will continue to be to seize opportunities to support our mission wherever we can find or create them.

  • We continue to work closely with Universities UK, and our friends and supporters in Parliament to lobby for the best possible deal for universities in securing access to research funding opportunities, free movement and mobility schemes for staff and students and to secure the rights of our non-UK EU staff.  Our EU partners in the 18 member Young European Research Universities Network (YERUN) will be publishing a statement in support of the need to maintain strong collaborative links and we really appreciate their support and encouragement. 
  • To mitigate the risks associated with a reduction in non-UK EU student numbers following Brexit, we have increased our engagement in EU countries in a variety of ways. In addition we have reorganised our student recruitment function to ensure we can more fully secure our fair share of talented students from across the globe. For example we have increased by 50% the size of our Regional International Office Network and we now have offices and staff in China, Nigeria, India and Malaysia. We have also appointed Professor Dominic Micklewright as Dean of Partnerships to lead mission critical work to further develop existing and new international research and recruitment partnerships with universities around the world. I have significantly increased my own visits programme to raise our institutional profile and have most recently visited Japan and Spain and over the summer and autumn will visit countries in South East Asia and China.

  • We are continuing to monitor levels of interest in the University from potential students. I am pleased to report that our total international undergraduate and postgraduate applications are up by 4% on the same point last year (and offers of places are up by 15%). Our (non-UK) European applications are up by 12% and offers are up by 17%. But we are recruiting students in a highly competitive market and we cannot be complacent and the impact of triggering Article 50 on applicant behaviour is something the Deputy Vice-Chancellor and our admissions staff will monitor very closely.
  • Following the decision on 23 June 2016 that the UK would leave the EU, we brought staff and students together through an open meeting and followed this up with a range of internal communications. We encouraged our community to contribute their ideas for what the University should be doing both practically and in terms of sharing our global and inclusivity values. Since then we have been providing information, advice and support.

  • We have put in place a range of events and activities to support and advise staff on residency and nationality issues. Further details are available on our Brexit information pages. These will continue to be updated as changes happen and will also include further actions that we plan to take to support our community.
Our One Essex campaign encourages inclusivity across the county of Essex.

Our One Essex campaign encourages inclusivity across the county of Essex.

  • As a direct result of the views expressed by our staff and students, we are this week launching a ‘One Essex’ campaign. The aim is to: re-affirm our University campuses as inclusive and safe places and spaces; and to work with local partners to raise visibility of these values in our local communities championing inclusivity and the benefits of membership of a global community. The first event is due to take place on Square 5 of the Colchester campus next Thursday. Our Students’ Union plan to build a physical Hate Wall where students and staff will post their views on, or experiences of, discriminatory behaviour throughout the day. At 5:30pm our community are invited to come together to knock down the wall to demonstrate that we are standing firm in relation to our values. Please support the event if you are able to so that we can show the strength of our feeling. A range of other ‘One World, One Spirit, One Essex’ events and activities will be taking place in the coming months and will be promoted through staff, student and alumni communications and social media.

With the triggering of Article 50 it is clear that the context in which we pursue our mission for excellence in education and research will be different, but our values remain unchanged. We remain a cosmopolitan university committed to inclusivity and to internationalism and we are proud to be a university where you can find the world in one place.

Professor Anthony Forster


March 1, 2017

Zero tolerance to sexual harassment

At Essex we pride ourselves on our inclusive community and we work hard to create a welcoming and safe campus for all students and staff. For our University, this is not just a matter of meeting our statutory obligations. It is a matter of conviction that every individual member of our Essex community deserves to develop and fulfil their potential free from harassment. We therefore have a zero tolerance approach to sexual harassment and are fully committed to eradicating sexual harassment and sexual violence on our campuses.

In response to growing concern about this issue in universities, over the last five months, we have been working with our Students’ Union to review all aspects of our policies and procedures addressing how we tackle sexual violence, sexual harassment and hate crime. This work is being led by our Director of Human Resources and our Academic Registrar working collaboratively with our Students’ Union leadership and consulting with the campus trades unions.  We have drawn on the recent work of UUK and the longstanding commitment of the National Union of Students to tackle this issue.

An initial report on our policies and procedures has been prepared, which has provided reassurance that we have well developed systems and processes in place but has also identified ways in which we can and should improve further.  To help us achieve improvements, in addition to the work we are undertaking within the University we have commissioned an external expert partner to benchmark our approach and performance, so that our community benefits from the very best practice for all organisations and not just universities. This work will conclude later in the spring and be shared widely with staff and students across our three campuses.

As part of our commitment to eradicating sexual harassment and sexual violence on our campuses, I want to highlight:

  • That anyone who feels they have been a victim of sexual violence, sexual harassment or hate crime at Essex should feel encouraged to speak out and seek support, without the power relations which exist in universities being an obstacle to this.
  • Our existing Guidelines for dealing with harassment and bullying. These are designed for both staff and students and set out our zero tolerance approach, offer practical guidance and also explain where to seek support.
  • The recent launch of our Stand Up! Essex project, a joint project with the Students’ Union which aims to educate and equip our staff and students to be able to identify sexual harassment or violence and be able to intervene safely and challenge inappropriate behaviour. You can find out more about Stand Up! Essex on our website.
  • Our well established Harassment Advisory Network; a team of trained advisers offering a confidential signposting service for anyone experiencing some form of harassment or bullying. This excellent service has been running for more than 20 years and has been used as a model for similar services at other universities.
  • The University’s designation as an official Hate Crime Reporting Centre, acting as a safe place for the reporting of any hate crime, by either victim or witness.

The University of Essex is a place where we respect one another, where all members deserve to be treated with dignity and where we have zero tolerance for any form of harassment or bullying. Having the right policies and procedures in place is absolutely key but equally important is the experience of how we interact with each other on a daily basis. I hope we can all work together to continue to make Essex a safe place to live, learn and work.

Professor Anthony Forster


February 22, 2017

Supporting our mission – shaping our future

Our University is embarking on an exciting period of growth. Here our Vice-Chancellor, Professor Anthony Forster, tells us more about the ambitious plans.

In response to record levels of interest from applicants in securing a place at the University of Essex, combined with the growth in academic staff numbers and our overall financial health, the University’s Council has agreed to a step-change in our level of investment in new and refurbished teaching facilities, including new lecture space, seminar rooms and teaching laboratories; informal student spaces; student accommodation; and new sports facilities.

Funded through the cash surpluses that we generate each year and a net additional £100m of borrowing, these investments will ensure the delivery of our mission of excellence in education and research through to 2025.

At our Loughton campus, work is already underway to improve student learning and social spaces and this will be enhanced by the consolidation of all activities onto the main Hatfields site.  Development of tailor-made studio and technical facilities for our East 15 students at Loughton will help consolidate its reputation as a world leading drama school.

At Southend, the substantial investment the University has made in the development of our campus in recent years means we are well placed to support continued growth within our existing buildings. Investment will therefore be focused on improving the way that space is able to contribute to excellence in education and research, for the benefit of students and staff.

Between now and 2025 our Colchester campus will be improved through:

  • two new teaching centres – one of which will incorporate a new large lecture hall space
  • refurbishment of the Towers student accommodation
  • creation of new office accommodation for 250 staff
  • a major programme of refurbishment of the 1960s estate
  • the development of new student accommodation to supplement and provide more variety to our existing provision

Investment on this scale will be carefully planned and spread over a period of time and we envisage a programme covering the next eight years.

Planning for growth

We currently have 14,000 students and new student facilities will allow us to grow to a total of 20,000 students by 2025. At the same time, we will broaden the range of subjects we offer through the growth of existing departments and the creation of two new academic departments, allowing us to offer more applicants the opportunity to access our unique Essex education.

New and refurbished space for our staff

We have already recruited 152 new academic staff over the last three years and we are on track to submit around 600 research-active staff to the next Research Excellence Framework (REF). The refurbishment of existing academic space and creating space for 250 new academic staff will provide the best possible environment for our staff to flourish and deliver outstanding education and research. World class facilities will also help us to attract and retain the very best staff.

Enhancing and expanding student accommodation

By refurbishing our existing accommodation and creating new student residences, more of our students will have the opportunity to enjoy the unique experience and education that we offer.

Through our successful partnership with ULiving we are working on new student accommodation projects, drawing upon their expertise in providing comfortable, affordable and purpose-built student homes. We will also refurbish the six Towers at Colchester; modernising the accommodation whilst ensuring that we continue to offer affordable accommodation to all our students.

Making change work for us

The University has a proud history of making change work for us and I am delighted that we are seizing the opportunity to shape our future. The immediate next steps are for us to secure the funding which the University Council has approved and to start developing outline plans for all our campus developments.

We will keep you updated as to the progress of our exciting plans through staff briefing sessions and updates in Essex Weekly and Essex Spirit.

Professor Anthony Forster


February 21, 2017

Sustainable Essex

The University of Essex has recently developed a Sustainability Sub-Strategy to provide strategic direction to the University’s environmental values and performance. The strategy was approved by our governing Council in December 2016, and includes sustainability objectives covering carbon and energy management, waste management, transport, biodiversity, IT services, procurement, water, food, and stakeholder engagement.

Here, our Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Jules Pretty, tells us more about the details. 

Environmental stock-taking

Our Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Jules Pretty.

Our Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Jules Pretty.

The University has a comprehensive and varied sustainability programme encompassing students and staff at all three campuses, and seeks to contribute to excellence in our research, education and professional services.  The sub-strategy provided an opportunity to review this work and benchmark progress against peer institutions.  The strategy reveals that carbon dioxide emissions are down to 15,571 tonnes of CO2 per year from a peak of 18,850 tonnes CO2 in 2012-13. Emissions per square metre are now down to 0.065 tonnes of CO2 per m2, putting the University among the top 30 in the country. Other advances have been made in natural habitat protection, in waste recycling, and in water consumption.

Strategic direction

Sustainability is important to all the University’s stakeholders: our staff, students, visitors, neighbours and business partners. It also has financial outcomes.  In 2015-16 the University’s energy bills were 10% lower than in 2014-15. This allows us to divert valued resources back to the University’s core mission of education and research. The sustainability agenda also supports the University’s other strategies.  As part of the development of the strategy work was undertaken with colleagues in food, transport and occupational health to assess how the benefits of eating healthily, making use of the University’s estate in Colchester, Loughton and Southend, and engaging in active transport contribute to our well-being as well as improving the University’s environmental performance. This has created close links with the new Healthy University Sub-Strategy.

Students leading on sustainability

Across our three campuses students have been leading the way on sustainability.  Our Student Switch Off programme, sees students in University Accommodation compete to cut carbon in halls.  This year, students have cut their electricity use by more than 10%,  Accommodation have continued to work with students on its No Waste Graduation with the British Heart Foundation.  Over 16 tonnes of goods were donated, raising more than £34,000 for BHF. Student enthusiasm for sustainability continues to be substantial, with many receiving our Green Impact training, enabling them to assist staff with sustainability with departments.  It is encouraging to see how students are leading the way on activities so important to the University.

Continuing improvements

The Sustainability Sub-Strategy is reported on annually to USG and Council, and reviewed termly by the Sustainability Engagement Group.  To have a look at the University’s objectives on Sustainability, visit our strategies webpage.

You can also keep in touch with sustainability on campus by tweeting us at or emailing Daisy or Dan in our sustainability team.


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