Students Staff
University of Essex

May 7, 2019

University Strategy AY 2019-25: Approved by Senate and Council

Our University Strategy is our road map for the future, setting out our priorities for the coming years. Following its formal approval by our Senate and Council, our Vice-Chancellor, Professor Anthony Forster, tells us more about the Strategy and its vision for our future. 

I am delighted to share the news that our next University Strategy AY 2019-25 has been approved by the University’s Senate and Council. This is a product of generous input from staff and students in a process of creative collaboration across our campus communities during the last 14 months. The scale of this engagement is set out in more detail here. The work of Essex Partners in developing a Vision for The Future of Essex has also been an important context in which the development of our new Strategy has taken place and which we have benefited from. I want to take this opportunity to thank our staff and students, and particularly the Students’ Union, for your help in defining our ambitions for the next six years.

Our story so far

The current strategic plan period, AY 2013-19, has seen a range of outstanding achievements for the University.

  • We are now in a group of dual intensive universities recognised for excellence in education (Gold Award, TEF 2017) and excellence in research (top 20 in REF 2014).
  • We have successfully grown the University to 16,000 students, attracting talent from around the world to join our community and benefit from our distinctive Essex education
  • Growth of the University has enabled us to increase our research power, growing our community of researchers submissible to REF 2021 to almost double our submission in REF 2014.
  • We are recognised internationally for our globally important research with peaks of excellence in political science, social sciences, human rights and data analytics.
  • We’re in the top 30 of all UK universities thanks to the outstanding student experience we offer, strong graduate prospects, and world-leading research (TGUG 2019), and top 15 amongst mainstream English universities for overall student satisfaction (NSS, 2018).
  • We contribute more than £500m every year to the national and regional economy, and our Knowledge Gateway technology and research park is the location of choice for intelligent businesses who want to link up with our research expertise, graduate and student talent, and business support capabilities. We are top 5 in the UK for our technology-driven business partnerships (KTPs).
  • In 2018 we were awarded the prestigious Times Higher Education (THE) award of University of the Year. The award citation recognised our commitment to putting student and staff success at the centre of everything we do, with tremendous effect.

Who we are and what we stand for

Throughout the process of developing our Strategy, our community of staff and students articulated a clear sense of who we are and what we stand for:

  • The distinctive mission and purpose of the University is clear: we are equally committed to excellence in education and research for the benefit of individuals and communities and society. We are proud to offer a transformational research-led education, welcoming students to the University on the basis of their potential and equipping them with the knowledge, skills and experiences that they will need to succeed and thrive in their future lives, future careers and future learning. We are proud that our research tackles challenging questions, negotiating the spaces between boundaries to shapes thinking, drive innovation and apply knowledge for the benefit of individuals and society.
  • The distinctive character of the University of Essex is clear: we are “freer, more daring, more experimental”; tenacious, bold, inquisitive, and impatient for change. Our Essex Spirit is nurtured by our global community and outlook, enabled through our culture of belonging and membership and powered by our research mind-set.
  • We are clear about what we stand for: inclusion, academic freedom, partnerships based on shared values, and the commitment to make a difference in the world by putting ideas into action to create benefit for others.

What’s new in our University Strategy 2019-25?

As we embark on our next strategic plan period, we are looking to the future with confidence, optimism and conviction: ready to meet the challenges and harness the opportunities of the coming period.

Our vision

  • Building on our commitment to be firmly established in the top 25 of the TGUG (Key Performance Indicator 1), we have set ourselves a new challenge: to be globally recognised as one of the world’s top 200 Universities (KPI 2).
  • Building on our commitments to transformational education and inclusion, we are determined to offer consistently excellent learning opportunities for every student, responding to the needs and aspirations of our diverse student community. We will support every student, from every background, to achieve outstanding outcomes (KPI1, KPI3, KPI 6).
  • Social action will be the defining characteristic of Essex education and research. We have articulated more strongly and clearly the purpose of our commitment to excellence in education and research: to improve the lives of people and communities. This builds on the importance that our staff and students place on advocacy, activism, social entrepreneurship and service to our communities.
  • We will aim to grow the University to a community of about 20,000 students and 1,000 academic researchers submissible to the REF, including two new departments or disciplines to meet the needs of our time. This will generate the resources to realise our ambitions for world-class transformational education and research, and to ensure the financial sustainability of the University.

Our priorities

To achieve this vision, we have adopted three priorities:

  1. People
  2. Knowledge
  3. Communities

People: We will put people (staff and students) at the centre of everything we do. We recognise the contributions that every member of our community makes to realising our vision and ambitions, and we will seek to realise the full potential of every member of our community in contributing to transformational education and research and in creating the environments in which these are made possible.

Knowledge: Our people are focused on creating, communicating and applying knowledge, ideas and innovation. From education and student experiences to research and enterprise, the environments in which we live, learn and work and the services we deliver, we will harness the power of new ideas and knowledge to identify the most effective ways of achieving our shared aims.

Communities: Serving our communities through transformational education and research that meets the needs of our time remains at the heart of our mission. We will ensure that our campus communities foster a sense of belonging, well-being, inclusion and purpose, support our connections with each other and with our global and regional partners and engage our students, staff, alumni and partners in collective action to create benefit for people and communities in our region and around the world.

Next Steps

In the coming months, we will formally launch our new Strategy internally and externally with partners, to ensure that our vision and priorities over the next six years are widely disseminated and well understood.  We will also turn our attention to developing our Education Strategy, Research Strategy, Supporting Strategies and sub-strategies. Together, these strategies will form an integrated plan that will determine how we prioritise our efforts and investments, to enable us to realise our vision for the University between 2019 and 2025.

I would like to thank you again for your support in developing our University Strategy and look forward to working with you on putting words into action over the next six years.

Anthony Forster


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