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