Students Staff
University of Essex

April 20, 2018

Are you ready to look into the future?

Our Deputy Vice-Chancellor, (Designate) Professor Lorna Fox O’Mahony, today launches our University Strategy 2019 -2025 consultation. Here she tells us more about the events designed to get all us thinking of the future and sharing our big ideas for Essex 2025.

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

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

We all plan for the future. We plan our summer holidays, we plan weddings and birthday parties because the future is already on its way and is best enjoyed when we act to shape it around what really matters to us most.

Planning for the future of our University is no different. We know that education and research really matter to us, and we’re already working hard to understand and navigate the disruptors and opportunities coming over the horizon. Our plans will help to shape a future in which our University will continue to thrive, putting students at the centre of our thinking and doing research that improves people’s lives.

Our Vice-Chancellor, Professor Anthony Forster, explains more in this short video.

What will the students of the future need from their Essex education to prepare them for their future lives, future careers and future learning? In an age of digital communication, how will our campus-based University support human interaction and belonging? How will our education and research be shaped by our commitments to inclusion, community and well-being? How will our researchers identify and address the questions that really make a difference in improving people’s lives?

We want you to share your ideas to help form our next University Strategy, 2019-25.

Come along to one of three consultation events and take part in fun activities designed to get your futurist minds whirring and your ideas for the future flowing.

At each event, you’ll explore our past, reflect on our present and build a vision for our shared future.

  • Learn about the four pillars that underpin our ethos.
  • Watch videos that will give you a glimpse of the future.
  • Think about your future at Essex.
  • Share your thoughts and ideas with others.
  • Make a wish for the future of the University.

All our staff and students are invited to drop in to one of three events:

  • Southend Campus – Tuesday 24 April – the Forum Share Space (TF.2.59), 11am-3pm
  • Colchester Campus – Wednesday 25 April – The Hex, 10am-4pm
  • Loughton Campus – Friday 27 April – Corbett Theatre, 1-2pm and 6-7pm

Refreshments will be provided.

Whatever your role, wherever your campus, whatever your area of expertise, research or study – the future of Essex needs you!

Professor Lorna Fox O’Mahony

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Designate)



March 9, 2018

Celebrating our motivational, empowering and inspirational women

Monica Illsley, Chief of Staff at Essex and the University’s Gender Equality Champion, presented this year’s Motivational, Empowering and Inspirational Awards as part of International Women’s Day.

Motivational, empowering and inspirational award winners

Celebrating our motivational, empowering and inspirational staff and students

I was delighted to have the chance to be part of this week’s celebration in The Hex organised by our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion team and to meet so many of our incredible female staff and students.

The nominations for awards from our community really demonstrate the amazing impact of women across the University. They show how individuals are inspiring colleagues, giving others the confidence to succeed, making a difference through volunteering, providing great leadership, and leading by example.

Our event came within the context of this year’s International Women’s Day campaign theme: #PressforProgress. With the World Economic Forum’s 2017 Global Gender Gap Report findings telling us that gender parity is over 200 years away, this clearly remains an area where there is still so much more to do.

I think that many of us simply become accustomed to how things are and, with busy lives to lead, we can sometimes stop questioning and challenging assumptions and behaviours. I’m fortunate enough to have a 16-year-old daughter who doesn’t let me forget about the need for action. I am constantly amazed by the extent to which she and her friends see inequality around them, and really feel that need to Press for Change.

I’m also fortunate to have been at the University for a long time both as a student and as a member of staff. One of the reasons I’ve stayed so long is the sense of fairness, of community and of mutual respect that I feel exists here. It’s who we are and what makes us special.

We all need role models – people who inspire and motivate us and I’ve certainly been fortunate in having them over my many years at Essex. Two stand out: my first manager who really believed in me and gave me confidence in my abilities; and more recently, our last Chancellor, Baroness Shami Chakrabarti, who I feel incredibly privileged to have worked with. Her mantra of: “aspire to be anyone’s equal but no-one’s superior” is a powerful values statement that I think really resonates with who we are at Essex.

Our students are also a constant source of inspiration to me and a reminder of the power of the next generation. The wonderful current President of the Students’ Union, Zoe Garshong, is a fantastic example but there’s a student who has really made an impression on me in recent months and I’m delighted to see her receiving an award this year. This first-year government student has completely on her own initiative designed, planned and delivered a project to celebrate diversity and inclusivity at the University. She has led a ‘Love has no Labels’ project which will culminate in a screening of our community sharing their views on inclusivity and diversity. Having been postponed due to the snow, it is now happening on Monday 12 March from 2-4pm on Square 3 so please drop by to see it and show your support if you can.

All of those receiving awards this week haven’t done whatever they’re being recognised for in order to get an award but I think it’s wonderful that our community finds a way to make sure that you know that what you do has been noticed and appreciated by others. And is valued by the University.

Congratulations and thank you to all our worthy award winners:

Liz Austin, Nur Dinie Binti Mohd Fadil, Ilaria Boncori, Karen Bush, Katharine Cockin, Louise Corti, Camille Cronin, Angela Eldridge, Maria Fasli, Katie Finnimore, Hannah Gott, Helen Ivory, Bev Jackson, Ella Jeffries, Emilia Ilieva,Tina Lewis-McGlynn, Rowena Macaulay, Lesley Monk, Vanessa Nolan, Silke Paulmann, Mariem Shahzad, Emyliyana Suhaimi, Rae Waddon, Tess Wagstaffe, Belinda Waterman, Hannah Whiting and Rachel Wier.



March 8, 2018

Expanding our campuses to accommodate our growing community.

Chris Oldham, our Director of Estates and Campus Services, tells us about the exciting new projects that are springing up across our University estate.

Our University is growing. With increasing student and staff numbers, we have a host of capital projects either under construction or in development; all of which are designed to help us deliver additional space and facilities to meet the needs of our growing population.

stem 300x200

Our new Science Technology Engineering and Maths centre on Square 1 will be ready to move into this summer.

The STEM centre will transform Square 1 into a dedicated science square with new versatile collaborative learning spaces and interdisciplinary teaching facilities including a 180 seat wet lab and a 200 seat IT-rich exploratory learning space. This new building will be ready to move into over the summer of 2018 and will be operational by September 2018.Take a look at the latest site photos on flickr.

The Innovation Centre is set to open its doors in 2019, enhancing the established business community on the Knowledge Gateway and joining more than 20 small businesses at Parkside Office Village. The centre is at the heart of our Knowledge Gateway masterplan, in which we envisage 2,000 people working there in the future, drawn not just by the excellent business accommodation, but also the business and academic support and on-campus resources and facilities provided by our leading research-intensive university. The Innovation Centre will enhance our commitment to linking our academic and research activities to our corporate business.

Our Innovation Centre

Our Innovation Centre

Redevelopment of student facilities on our Loughton campus. The extension of the main building at Hatfield Campus is under construction and will house a larger refectory and a combined IT and Library hub.

The Essex Sport Arena, our new, competition standard sports facility, enjoyed its official opening in January, attended by gymnast Max Whitlock and our own Chancellor The Rt Hon John Bercow. The new facility, the biggest of its kind in the county, provides space for 12 badminton courts, three basketball courts, three netball courts or five volley ball courts as well as providing a new home for our Sport, Rehabilitation and Exercise Science department.

The Copse, our new Colchester campus student accommodation, is set to provide 643 en-suite rooms and studios, just a short walk from the heart of Colchester Campus.

Developments in the pipeline include:

  • More teaching centres to increase our teaching space and an academic building to provide a new home for one of our largest academic departments.
  • Expansion of Parkside Office Village to accommodate more business tenants.
  • Innovation Centre Phase 2 designs are progressing. Expansion of the site will create further space for business start-ups.
  • A feasibility study has been commissioned on a new multi-decked car park.
  • Site consolidation on our Loughton campus will allow us to move out of Roding House and Unit 4.
  • With the growth in student numbers, we are investigating possibilities for more new student accommodation. We are aiming to build a further 1,100 bed spaces in the coming  years.


February 19, 2018

Why universities need to pay more to protect USS pension rights

Our Vice-Chancellor, Professor Anthony Forster,  sets out our own position relating to the proposed changes to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS).

Is there an alternative to the strike hitting universities?

The overwhelming vote by UCU members for 14 days of strike action in 61 universities indicates the strength of feeling about the proposed changes to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS). For many of us it is the most important issue that we have ever had to confront that relates to our pay – and it will have consequences not just for current academic and professional services staff, but future generations as well.

So how have we got to this position?

During last year’s consultation on the future funding of USS, we held an open meeting with our staff to help inform the response the Council of the University of Essex would make to the consultation on the future of the pension scheme. This input from staff led to our University Council adopting three key positions. These remain unchanged and we continue to be an advocate for them.

  • We believe high quality pension arrangements are a significant part of the benefits available to our employees.
  • We feel the USS Trustees are being overly prudent in their assumptions, which will potentially undervalue assets and overestimate potential liabilities.
  • At Essex we are prepared to consider increasing employer contributions to the scheme, alongside increases in employee contributions, in order to sustain critical features of USS, including defined benefits.

Adopting these positions will safeguard key elements of USS and avoid a highly disruptive strike that places staff who are members of UCU in the agonising position of balancing their support for student learning, with their commitment to their trade union and a legitimate desire to be a member of a high quality pension scheme.

To date we have failed to win over most universities to our view, with 109 employers stating in their responses to the UUK survey that they would be unwilling to increase employer contributions beyond the current level of 18% of salary –  with only seven indicating that they were prepared to pay more into USS to safeguard a high quality pension scheme. Sometimes principles cost money.

In addition, a majority of universities support the USS Trustees in introducing additional elements of prudence into their valuation methodology to reduce the risk of employers having to make additional contributions to the scheme to safeguard benefits should circumstances require this at some point in the future.

As a result, we now have proposals on the table which would see no further benefits being accrued in the defined benefit sections of the USS – neither the final salary nor the career revalued sections. Instead, all contributions will go into a defined contribution section termed the USS Investment Builder.

The net impact is a significant reduction in the certainty with which USS members can plan for their retirements. This is bad news for current USS members; as 960 professors have indicated in an open letter to THE [18/01/2018] it will further reduce the attractiveness of the UK as a destination in the global market for talent; and it poses a significant risk to our ability to attract new entrants into the academy.

There is still time to find common ground that will avoid a costly strike that will be painful and disruptive for all sides. UCU members at Essex have told me they are heartbroken to have to take strike action which they now feel is the only option left to them to express their dismay – and our students have told us that the impact of strike action on their learning experience is a source of consternation to them, at an absolutely critical time in the academic year.

We know our staff value the defined benefit component of USS and to retain it we may need to accept this will need to operate at a reduced level, to ensure the scheme is more sustainable and affordable than at present. Likewise university employers must step up to the plate and commit to increasing employer contributions to the scheme, alongside increases in employee contributions, to safeguard what staff tell us is one of the most important elements of the current scheme.

USS is a nationally negotiated scheme and we are bound by the majority view. Whilst the ‘Essex position’ places us in a minority of employers, we will continue to advocate the goal of safeguarding a high quality and sustainable pension scheme for USS members and use our position on the USS Institutions’ Advisory Panel to do so.

The shared interest of all stakeholders should place an obligation on all parties to look to find imaginative and sustainable ways of delivering this goal – principled compromise is the answer.

You can also read this blog on the Times Higher Education website.



February 16, 2018

Our commitment to the planet and its resources

Our Sustainability Sub Strategy sets out our targets for building a greener, cleaner University. Here our Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Jules Pretty tells us more about the work he’s doing to ensure we continue to live up to our commitment to the planet and its natural resources.

Our Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Jules Pretty.

Our Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Jules Pretty.

At the beginning of 2017, the University’s Council approved our Sustainability Sub-Strategy. Through this we made clear our commitment to acting responsibly and positively with respect to the planet and its natural resources. These are under threat: almost all evidence points towards the insidious effects of climate change. Before the industrial revolution, the atmosphere contained 280 ppm (parts per million) of carbon dioxide: 350 ppm is taken to be a safe place for humanity, today levels have passed 400 ppm and are rising at about 2ppm each year. At this rate, we will see 450 ppm by mid-century.

The UK government signed into law in 2008 the Climate Change Act, still a remarkable piece of legislation. It commits us as a country to 80% reductions by 2050 in carbon emissions from a 1990 baseline. This might just save the planet, if everyone did this. Our role as a University is thus to act responsibly and show leadership: it can be done.

Here is a top ten for our recent actions and outcomes in relation to sustainability:

  1. We are committed to reducing our contribution to carbon in the atmosphere: from 2012-13 to 2016-17, our annual carbon emissions fell from 18,850 tonnes to 14,100 tonnes. Emissions per unit area fell from 0.08 to 0.05 tonnes per square metre, and halved per student, from 1.8 to 0.9 tonnes per person.
  2. When the Innovation Centre is complete, we will have a total of 1700 solar PV panels generating about 430 MWh per year. As a registered power station, we are thus feeding into the National Grid. Solar panels are now installed on the Essex Business School, Health and Social Care and Computer Science and Electronic Engineering buildings, the Albert Sloman Library, the new Essex Sport Arena, the STEM building, the Parkside offices, and the Corbett Theatre in Loughton.
  3. Our energy savings and generation has brought a financial benefit to us: if these had remained at 2012 levels, we would be spending £800k more a year on energy.
  4. There are now 35 Green Impact teams across University Departments, Sections and the Students’ Union. Six were awarded Gold in 2016-17, and in one year the 138 active participants completed 1145 actions.
  5. The Colchester campus was awarded a prestigious Green Flag for the quality of the grounds and natural environment. The judges praised the campus for being “one of the best sites for environmental principles.” We have installed 10 swift nest boxes on the roof of the Albert Sloman Library, with sounder to broadcast song to attract them in, and hope to see swifts flying around the buildings and lake this spring and summer, each harvesting 100,000 insects daily.
  6. All new vehicles owned and used by Estates Management Section will be electric vehicles (except where specialist use prevents use of EVs or hybrids).
  7. We have installed 41 plumbed-in water coolers across the three campuses so as to replace water bottle units, thus reducing our use of plastic and the transport of large bottled water to campuses by vehicle.
  8. We replaced 12 boilers in 16-17, increasing our energy efficiency by 15%, and have replaced roof insulation wherever refurbishment has been undertaken.
  9. Total waste production from the University has fallen 19% from 1450 tonnes in 2012-13 to 1176 tonnes in 2016-17. The No Waste Graduation programme raised £42,000 for the British Heart Foundation. We are also trialling a new furniture re-use online tool, Warp-it.
  10. We have amended the approach to how we invest our financial reserves, extending the existing restrictions on investments in tobacco and armaments also to cover fossil fuel extraction.

Every little helps. Here are four actions each of us could do to help the university become more sustainable:

  • To save carbon: switch off lights and power down computers or other energy hungry equipment whenever you can;
  • To enjoy nature and the outdoors: arrange a walking meeting once a month, or just go for regular walks;
  • To ensure waste is recycled: ensure recyclable waste is put in the right bins;
  • To build a community of practice: join the Green Impact team in your department or section.

And much more, if you feel inclined!

Professor Jules Pretty

Deputy Vice-Chancellor



January 31, 2018

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion: How far have we come, how far do we still have to go?

Professor Jules Pretty, Deputy Vice-Chancellor tells us about the work being done to create a truly inclusive environment for our staff and students.

Our Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Jules Pretty.

Our Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Jules Pretty.

A time to reflect

In the week we celebrate returning to the Stonewall Top 100, it is a good time to reflect on the impact of our work to promote LGBT+ inclusion as well as reflect on our journey towards achieving equality for all.

When the University of Essex admitted its first students in 1964, the world was a very different place in terms of the legal framework in place to protect people from discrimination. It was the year the Civil Rights Act was passed by the US Congress, and was followed a year later by the Race Relations Act in the UK. But protection on the basis of gender did not come into force until the 1970s, and it was not until the 1990s that legislation was introduced in relation to disability, sexual orientation, age, religion and belief.

More than just legislation

At the University of Essex, our approach has never been just about complying with legislation. As a university committed to challenging convention, daring to be different and with inclusivity at our core, we have always tried hard to do more. In the early 1990s, before the introduction of the Protection from Harassment Act in 1997, we introduced our Harassment Advisory Network (HAN) which offers a confidential service to employees, workers, contractors, visitors and students experiencing bullying or harassment.  The service is still in operation today and will soon be re-launched as the Harassment Report and Support Service.

The longevity of HAN is an indication that we still have some way to go in achieving an environment that is free from any form of harassment or bullying. It is also an indication that we will not give up in our quest to do so.

Using equality frameworks to help shape our work

We have engaged actively with the Athena SWAN and Race Equality Charters, Stonewall Workplace Equality Index, Mindful Employer and Disability Confident. These have helped us to understand the barriers to progression faced by some groups of staff and students and we are working hard to try and address those. For example, we have committed to enabling staff at all levels to work part-time if that is their preference and to advertising all jobs as being suitable for part-time work or job share unless a case can be made for not doing so.

It has also put into focus the importance of all staff being aware of their rights and responsibilities. For this reason we are placing increasing emphasis on ensuring staff complete the essential training relevant to their role.

Values-based decision-making

That said, we are not taking action because it might secure us an award, we are taking action because it is the right thing to do. It is about our ethos, and who we are as an institution.     

This is the reason we took the decision to eradicate the gender pay gap for female professors and we continue to monitor the gap to ensure it does not re-open. We have also signed the TUC’s ‘Dying to Work’ charter, providing additional employment protection for terminally ill employees.

Acceptance without exception

Whilst we are extremely proud to be recognised as one of the most LGBT+ inclusive employers in Britain, we know that signing up to charters and achieving awards does not mean that we have ended our journey.

We joined the Stonewall Diversity Champions programme as their values chime with ours and we subscribe to their mission of ensuring that everyone is accepted without exception. If we achieve that, our staff and students will have the best possible chance of achieving their potential and making a difference in the world.

What next?

Our Athena SWAN action plan commits us to taking steps to advance gender equality through, for example, developing and delivering career development activities targeted at grade 8 and 9 academic staff on ASE and ASER contracts to help increase the proportion of female academic staff on grades 9 and 10. We will also be reviewing the support available to staff returning to work after a career break and introducing an observer role for Senate and a number of its sub-committees. We are also starting a concentrated piece of work to tackle racial inequality, using the Race Equality Charter as a model for instigating institutional change.

Alongside this we will be conducting research to identify opportunities to embed equality, diversity and inclusion in learning and development events and activities, in the guidance provided to reporting managers, and in the planning round.

We have come a long way since the 1960s; together we can achieve more again.



November 24, 2017

Ensuring a safe environment for our students and staff

Susie Morgan is our Director of Human Resources. Here she tells us about the work being done to ensure we have a safe environment for our students and staff.

Susie Morgan is our Director of Human Resources.

Susie Morgan is our Director of Human Resources.

We find ourselves at a time when, at long last, the subject of sexual harassment, violence and hate crime has hit the headlines. In March, the Vice-Chancellor wrote about our work in this area in his blog and explained the high priority we give to ensuring a safe environment for our students and staff. It seems timely then to update you on the progress we are making.

Zero tolerance

This is the approach we take to dealing with inappropriate behaviour. This means that when an incident is reported we will take action and that the action we take will be proportionate to the circumstances of the case.

Reporting incidents

Currently, students and staff are able to report incidents in a variety of ways. One of these is to the Harassment Advisory Network. The University has appointed and trained a network of Harassment Advisers who will listen to you and offer advice and support. This network is currently being reviewed and will transform into the Harassment Reporting and Support Service which may be accessed by employees, workers, contractors, students and visitors to the University.

Reports of harassment or bullying received by an Harassment Adviser will be passed on, anonymously in the first instance, to either the Early Intervention Team in Human Resources (where the alleged perpetrator is an employee, worker, contractor or visitor) or to the Student Conduct Team (where the alleged perpetrator is a student) and appropriate action will be taken.

Where a complaint of harassment or bullying received directly by the Student Conduct Team involves an employee, worker, contractor or visitor, it will make Human Resources aware of the complaint and appropriate action will be taken. Where a complaint of harassment or bullying received directly by Human Resources through the Complaints of Harassment or Bullying Procedures involves a student, Human Resources will make the Student Conduct team aware of the complaint or report and appropriate action will be taken. In order for appropriate action to be taken the complainant’s anonymity may need to be lifted.

You can also raise concerns with your Head of Department/Section or line manager, Occupational Health or your trade union representative.

Improving reporting

Whilst being able to report incidents in a number of different ways has many benefits, it does mean that, once disclosed, not all incidents are channelled through the same mechanisms and this can impede the effectiveness of our response and cause those reporting some confusion about what the best method of reporting may be.  To improve this, we are working towards establishing a single route for ‘report & support’ that offers an electronic mechanism to report incidents, allows for anonymity if preferred and signposts individuals to relevant internal and external support and is accessible to everyone – those within and without the University.

Significant progress has been made in this area. A group of University and Students’ Union staff and officers tasked with implementing a comprehensive action plan on tackling sexual harassment, violence and hate, has received a demonstration of a low cost system developed by the University of Manchester and we are actively pursuing adopting it. We hope to have a new system in place in the spring of 2018.

We are also establishing guidance on anonymous reporting to ensure that everyone is clear on how the University will deal with such reports.

A new Complaints Procedure for staff use is also under consideration.

How we work at Essex

Most importantly it is how we behave towards each other and how we assess our impact on others that determines everyone’s safety and happiness. To help us with this, we are about to consult on an updated staff Code of Professional Conduct which will articulate our shared understanding of how we work together.

Support

Please don’t forget that advice, support and training is available to anyone who has either experienced harassment, violence or a hate crime or wants advice about how to challenge unacceptable behaviour.

Remember, it is up to each and every one of us to ensure that this University is free from this type of behaviour.



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.


 

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