Students Staff
University of Essex

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.

February 20, 2017

Cherishing academic freedom

The University of Essex is one of the most international universities in the world and we have staff and students who travel to and from 135 countries. We place great value on academic freedom and the opportunity to exchange ideas directly and indirectly across the world.

But these values are being challenged, as seen most recently in Turkey and the United States. The University stands ready to answer any questions and, where possible, to offer advice and support to students and staff affected.

Members of our University have the right to question and test received wisdom and to put forward new ideas and controversial or unpopular opinions within the law, without placing themselves in jeopardy. We cherish the freedom to conduct research, teach, speak, and publish without interference or penalty and we value international mobility and staff and student exchanges which are vital enablers of research collaboration and the sharing of knowledge.

I am proud that our University is a place where different ideas are debated openly and passionately. We celebrate the diversity of opinions that our staff and students hold and we champion the right of all members of our community to give voice to their points of view, within the law.

Despite these principles being recognised internationally as central to what it means to be a university, they are not universally observed in higher education systems across the world.

The University is committed to developing the knowledge, skills and experience of people who want to make the world a better place and who have the courage and energy to shape it and we support our staff and students in lawfully taking a stand on this and other issues that they feel passionately about.

February 6, 2017

Setting our rents at the right level

Ever wondered how the University sets the rents for its accommodation? Here, our Director of Campus Services and Estates, Chris Oldham, explains the process.

CO croppedAs a growing campus university, our accommodation plays a key role in student satisfaction. From location to facilities, flat mates to rents, when you sign up to live on campus – you want to be assured that your new home will provide everything you need.

Setting the right level of rent is a complex business that must take into account a number of different factors, which is why we consulted and carried out extensive research before increasing the rents for 2017-18.

Calculating the right rate

For the Meadows and Quays accommodation, owned and operated by ULiving, we calculate the rents annually using an inflationary based formula.

Uliving conduct a market review every five years, comparing our rent rates to those of the market.

For University owned accommodation, we aim to minimise our rent price increases to within predicted inflationary levels, in order to keep prices as low as possible for our students.

With the Towers accommodation, we have been able to retain some of the lowest priced accommodation in the sector.


In order to get a clear view of the prices being charged across the higher education sector, we benchmark our rents against our competitor institutions and also against the private sector  – where purpose built student accommodation is provided, for example at the Maltings, Avon Way and Forest Road. It is important for us to remain competitively priced; our rent prices remain consistently below the sector average.


We also know it’s important to consult with our Students’ Union as part of the rent setting process. We make sure the SU has a full picture of what we charge and why, and make sure they are comfortable with any rent increases we introduce.

Value for money

Making sure our students receive value for money is an important part of what we do. We have increased the funding made available for refurbishment and maintenance by 40%, in order to continually enhance our accommodation. We also work hard to increase our efficiency, with the aim of minimising rent costs for our students, whilst enhancing the services we offer.

Rent increases for 2017-18 academic year

University Steering Group (USG) has now approved rent increases of between 1.70% and 4.48% for the academic year 2017-18.

These rates have been published on our accommodation website.