Students Staff
University of Essex

March 22, 2019

Review of the Experiences of Jewish Students and Staff at the University of Essex Phase 2

I am writing to offer a further opportunity for students and staff to feed into the Review I am leading on the experiences of Jewish students and staff on all three campuses at the University of Essex.

First, I would like to thank everyone who has taken the time to write or to meet. All comments have been helpful, and will help to shape the Review. I would now like to offer an independent route for any further testimony or comments.

The University has appointed an independent external group to act as recipients of testimony and to advise on the Review content and recommendations. These are:

  • Rabbi Baroness Julia Neuberger dbe, House of Lords, London
  • Simon Johnson, Chief Executive, Jewish Leadership Council, London
  • Mark Gardner, Deputy Chief Executive, Community Support Trust, London
  • Rt Hon Baroness Jan Royall, Principal, Somerville College Oxford

Assurances

I would like to offer the following assurances:

  • The core aim of the Review is to ensure that students and staff are able to thrive at the University of Essex and have a positive experience during their time here;
  • The University will not tolerate antisemitic behaviour in any form and will act whenever it becomes aware of such behaviour;
  • Communications to the external independent group will be treated as confidential and anonymous and there will be no reference to specific communications in any report without the consent of the communicator(s);
  • Communications to the independent group will not be made public;
  • The University will take matters further where university policies appear to have been breached, whilst respecting the confidentially of the process.

There is thus one additional route for passing testimony, experiences and recommendations:

  • By email to this account: independent-group@essex.ac.uk
  • All correspondence will be passed directly to the independent group (with no editing or shaping by the University).
  • The deadline for comments will be 4 April.
  • The dvc@essex.ac.uk email remains open for any comments you would like to pass to me.

I will be providing an update to the University Council on 13 May 2019, with the final report to be discussed and approved on 11 July.

The independent group looks forward to all feedback.

With best wishes

Professor Jules Pretty OBE PFHEA FRSB FRSA

Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Professor of Environment & Society

University of Essex



March 21, 2019

How Essex informs global humanitarian debates

Our human rights community has a global reputation for theory, teaching and practice. That reputation was illustrated this month when the United Nations chose Essex for a global symposium to discuss humanitarian responses to crises. Professor Geoff Gilbert, from the School of Law, explains.

Professor Geoff Gilbert

Professor Geoff Gilbert

There are more than 40million people internally displaced because of conflict. Their particular vulnerabilities are complex and men, women, girls and boys are affected in different ways.

In ensuring no one’s needs go unmet because of age, gender or diversity mainstreaming, the United Nations turned to our multi-disciplinary human rights experts to hold a global symposium tackling the issue.

The UN’s Global Protection Cluster (GPC), which is responsible for protecting conflict-driven internally displaced persons, met at our Colchester Campus to work with our Human Rights Centre and ESRC-funded Human Rights, Big Data and Technology Project (HRBDT) team.

The symposium was an opportunity to draw on our expertise in collecting information about people that could assist humanitarian responses.

At present, there are about 130 million persons of concern to the UN, with 43 million internally displaced, who are caught up in conflicts in places such as Syria, Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia and Ukraine.

Necessarily, the relevant humanitarian actors are trying to bring some order to that chaos.

Humanitarian agencies collect vast amounts of information on the 130 million people in need of humanitarian assistance. At the same time, they often lack information about the age, gender or characteristics of people in need, inhibiting their efforts to provide protection and assistance.

A lack of coherence and innovation in information gathering leads to multiple information gathering exercises, which exhausts people in need, stretches resources and often fails to provide helpful data. Against this background, humanitarian agencies are challenged to do better in assisting people according to their needs but are also challenged to take action outside their comfort zone.

Almost all of the operations with a Humanitarian Country Team are characterised by conflict based on ethnic and religious lines or where such differences affect the humanitarian response.

Conflict differentially impacts men, women, boys and girls and those with particular vulnerabilities, as well as creating further vulnerability.

In addition, these operations are in the main characterised by difficulties in accessing people in need, gathering reliable information, analysing the severity of need and defining priorities.

An approach to humanitarian assistance, which requires working towards a reduction in risk, demands that humanitarian agencies identify needs accurately and work in an imaginative way to respond to need – be it to stay, to flee, to receive aid or psychosocial support. Individually, none of these questions are easy to answer and together they present a sizeable problem.

The Essex symposium brought together experts in protection and information management from the field, government, international organisations and academics.

Together we explored what is and is not possible for humanitarian agencies to do in promoting age, gender and diversity mainstreaming through data: to challenge all these actors to do more and better, but to set realistic expectations of what can be achieved.

It follows a long association between the GPC and the HRBDT Project that has sought to ensure that the academic research has an impact in some of the world’s most acute crises.

Most recently, Simon Russell, GPC Co-ordinator, invited myself, Professor Klaus McDonald-Maier from our School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering, and Sam Dubbberly, consultant to HRBDT, to present work of the HRBDT to its field mission directors. As a result, Essex was the obvious choice for a discussion on data collection in humanitarian operations.

The symposium involved GPC leads from Ukraine and Iraq, data collection specialists, representatives from the Department for International Development and the Swiss government, Stonewall, and field actors who provide assistance and protection.

Essex contributors included myself, Dr Daragh Murray, Dr Ahmed Shaheed, Dr Ayman Alhelbawy and Dr Patricia Palacios Zuloaga.

Students from our LLMs in International Humanitarian Law and International Human Rights Law too got valuable note-taking experience, ensuring our Essex human rights community plays a crucial role in the resulting UN report.



March 15, 2019

We remain impatient for change

Susie Morgan

Susie Morgan, Director of Human Resources

Susie Morgan, our Director of Human Resources, tells us more about our ongoing work to close the gender pay gap.

The Government requirement for all UK employers with more than 250 employees to publish their gender pay gap data reflects the importance of fair pay for women, both nationally and for the University. In an article in the Times Higher following the publication of the first national data on fair pay, our Vice-Chancellor said that we must resist attempts to explain away the gender pay gap. This remains the case after the second year of data has been published.

The gender pay gap is the difference between men’s and women’s average earnings across an organisation. This should not be confused with equal pay for work of equal value, which is the pay women and men receive for doing the same or similar work. In relation to equal pay for work of equal value we have no significant pay gaps at any grade across the University. However, in relation to the gender pay gap, whilst we have seen a 7.2% reduction in the overall mean gap between 2013 and 2018, and in the last 12 months a further reduction of 1% on the 2017 figure, it is still too high. The median gender pay gap also remains unacceptably high at 18.6%, the same as in the last reporting period.

We have made some progress in increasing the proportion of female professors, which is 8.4% above the sector average. There has also been a 2.1% increase in the proportion of women in the highest pay quartile between 2017 and 2018. The proportion of women in grades 9, 10 and 11 increased from 42.1% to 43.9% in the year from March 2017 to March 2018 and there has been a 4.4% increase in the proportion of female academic staff over the last five years to 44.4%. This is all good news, but our progress is too slow and we remain impatient for change. So, what are we doing to close these gaps?

All departments are now engaged in Athena SWAN and we are extending this to Professional Services sections. This means that across the whole of the University, conversations about gender equality/inequality are taking place and staff are implementing actions to close the gender pay gap. In the latter part of 2018 we put in place a robust system to monitor completion of essential training (a policy introduced in 2017), with reminders going to individuals and reporting managers. Although completion rates have risen by 18% to 46% since the policy was introduced, they are still unacceptably low. Essential training is important as it helps to ensure that across the University, our decision-making practices are aligned to our commitment to transparency, natural justice in the workplace and – very importantly in this context, the avoidance of bias.

We are continuing to use positive action statements in all recruitment material, embedding unconscious bias training, running academic promotion workshops, engaging with informal networks, encouraging flexible working and we have put in place robust processes to manage any variations in salary. Our gender pay gap report outlines our other actions.

The eradication of the gender pay gap is a critical measure of our success in living by our values, and every member of the University can be involved in helping achieve this. If you have a particular interest or are conducting research in this area or have ideas to help with this work, we would be very pleased to hear from you at
diversity@essex.ac.uk.