Students Staff
University of Essex

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.

launch 300x200

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.