Students Staff
University of Essex

June 26, 2020

VC’s all staff and student update

Dear staff and students,

As the Summer Term ends today, this will be my last weekly email, although I will continue to share updates with our community as and when necessary through ‘Essex Weekly’ and ‘Essex Spirit’. I want to take this opportunity to thank all staff – those working on campus, working from home and those furloughed – and all students for your support and flexibility in responding to COVID-19.

I am proud of the way that we have responded to the pandemic: by putting our courses on-line; and by adapting assessment and delivering the best possible experience for our students. All this has taken place at the same time as developing dual delivery for next year – and looking after 1,500 students who have remained on our Southend and Colchester campuses. Over 850 University staff have been furloughed as a result of the pandemic. I know that this has been difficult and your support and forbearance are much appreciated.

I also want to thank all our students for the adjustments that you have had to make in continuing your studies in truly exceptional circumstances. The impact of the pandemic has been profound, both on our work at the University and on each of us personally, and I want to express my thanks to you. This has also been a challenging time for our Students’ Union, with major disruption since March and a significant number of staff furloughed. I want to thank the SU sabbatical team for your leadership this year in a wide range of areas. Student-led activism has been vital in highlighting that we must do more to tackle racism. A working group report will be considered by Council on 9 July and taking action is a priority for us. I would also thank the SU for your continued commitment to partnership working with the University in these unprecedented times. Our usual celebration events over the summer term have either not taken place, or been switched on-line and this is an opportunity for me to say thank you.

As we enter the summer period, there remains much that we need to do, including a significant focus on conversion and other recruitment activities, curriculum re-design, on-going Masters’ and PhD supervision, and research. Preparations are now underway for a move back to on-campus working and there will also be important routine summer work to prepare our campuses for the start of next academic year. This is important work, but I urge you all to take a break in the coming months so that you can rest, recharge and prepare for Academic Year 2020-21.

Once again thank you for your support – it is much appreciated.

Anthony Forster

Vice-Chancellor



June 17, 2020

VC’s weekly email

Dear staff and students,

I want to take the opportunity of my weekly email to update you on work that is now underway to ensure that the experience of University staff and students lives up to our commitment to be an inclusive community.

On 3 June I acknowledged that racism exists within our University and that we can and must tackle this head on, both at a systemic level and in confronting the ways in which racism affects the everyday lives of Black students and staff. We have established a working group comprising students and staff, including representatives of the SU, and we have launched an initial listening phase that offers our community of students, staff and alumni a range of ways to share their experiences. As part of this work we are holding a Tackling Racism webinar on 18 June. If you would like to participate please register here.

An interim report from the working group setting out the themes that are emerging from the initial listening phase will be discussed by Council’s Resources Committee on 22 June and by Senate on 24 June. The final report following the end of this listening phase on 19 June will be considered by USG on 30 June and Council on 9 July and will also include proposed actions which the working group recommends are taken in order to tackle racism.

The University does not want to prejudge how the work should be taken forward until we have collected input through this initial listening phase – other than making a clear commitment that our next steps must be focused on ensuring we take action in a sustained way. We want to be held to account in making rapid progress to address racism where it exists on our campuses, and it is essential that what we do and how we do it has the support of Black students and staff.

In our University Strategy 2019-25 we have re-framed our priorities to emphasise our commitment to putting staff and students at the centre of everything we do. This commitment reflects our values of inclusion, partnership and community. We need to do more to ensure that we can understand, in a systematic way, the everyday lived experiences of the diverse  groups of students and staff that comprise our University.

We have to ensure the lived experience is a regular and consistent focus for each of us as individuals, and informs all our planning and decision-making processes. It is clear that we have been too reactive in the past and that we need to be more responsive to the needs of our diverse communities in the future. On 9 July, in addition to considering the report from the working group, Council will discuss our approach to diversity and inclusion in general and will be asked to agree proposed actions to ensure that we are positioned to do better in future.

I know that policies and processes alone do not create inclusive environments and this is why we want to take an approach which places as much emphasis on how people behave as it does on policy and process. If you have any ideas that you would like to share, please email us at diversity@essex.ac.uk

Anthony Forster

Vice-Chancellor



June 4, 2020

The world is changing, and so are we – but we are still Essex

Our Academic Registrar, Richard Stock, tells us more about our plans for enabling you to continue your studies in the 2020-21 academic year. 

As the main summer assessment period draws to a close, I wanted to update you on our plans for enabling you to continue your studies in the 2020-21 academic year. I know this remains a difficult time for everyone – especially our students. I hope you and your friends and family are staying safe. Please remember we are here for you and will continue to do all we can to support you.

We understand that your University experience is an important period in your life. We really care about keeping you safe and making sure your remaining time with us is amazing. Essex has always been a home for ground-breakers and change-makers; free thinkers and people who challenge established conventions, who find solutions to complex problems and who want to make a difference in the world around them.

We are not going to let the pandemic stop you from succeeding in your studies. Our Essex students and graduates are doing fantastic things to make the world a better place, wherever they are. We are proud of our brilliant Essex community, and look forward to welcoming you back next year to continue to be part of it. The world needs you now, more than ever: your ideas and talents, your creativity and courage. We will be here for you in October, ready to help you every step of the way.

What can you expect next year?

Over the last few weeks, we have been working hard to plan for next year. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world but we remain absolutely determined to provide you with the best Essex education and student experience we can while safeguarding your health and wellbeing. Our commitment to enabling you to continue and complete your studies is stronger than ever.

The uncertainty created by the pandemic means we are focusing on flexibility to fit your circumstances. We are redesigning how we teach, deliver your learning and enable you to undertake research to make sure that you continue to have a great Essex experience next year.

The approach we are adopting puts you at the heart of our thinking. It is based on ‘dual delivery’ to provide flexibility for you and to reduce uncertainty so you can plan with confidence. We want and expect you to return to your campus at the start of the year. If you are unable to due to restrictions created by COVID-19, our dual delivery plan means you can register and resume your studies on time wherever you are and can then join us when you are able.

Our approach has a number of core elements at its heart, which I have set out below:

  • The academic year will start on time in October. Courses will be taught in a way that blends face-to-face learning with a range of virtual lectures and other learning activities. We want and are planning for this to be on our campuses from the start of term. We will protect your health and wellbeing by managing the size of face-to-face activities and ensuring that we are using all our available space to support physical distancing when you are face-to-face. The flexibility we are building into our ‘dual-delivery’ teaching programme will mean that you can and should plan to return this October with confidence. This offers the best of both worlds: great face-to-face teaching whenever safe, including classes, tutorials and group work, supported by the latest digital learning tools and techniques. Our postgraduate research community will also continue to benefit from research support and supervision on campus whenever safe and through using a range of digital tools.
  • Minimising any disruption during the whole academic year. Our dual delivery approach will mean that, if necessary, we can move to off-campus delivery at any point during the academic year. This will ensure you can continue your studies uninterrupted, whatever the circumstances.
  • Ensuring the best student experience – because you are still Essex. We know that your time at Essex is not just about your learning. We know you want to have fun; to meet your friends and to get the absolute most from your time with us. We are working with our Departments, clubs and societies and with our Students’ Union to make sure that, even if you join us physically later on and things are a bit different this autumn, your experience will still be as good as it possibly can be.
  • Welcoming you back to your home from home. We know you may have many questions about travel to, and life on, our campuses this autumn. If you were planning to book University accommodation and, for any reason, you do not move into the accommodation that we offer to you, please be assured we won’t charge you any accommodation costs. If you need to book private accommodation, please do so as normal while seeking advice from your landlord or agent about their plans for managing your booking.

Your safety, and that of our staff, is paramount to us and you should not be concerned about life on our campuses. Over 1,500 students who were not able to return home throughout this pandemic have safely lived and learned on campus over the last few months. We have looked after them and they have looked after each other, so – whether you are studying with us on-campus or off-campus – you can be confident that Essex cares and we will always look after you, at your home from home.

Arrangements about teaching, learning and supervision will differ between Departments. In the coming weeks, your Department (or Departments if you are studying a joint Degree) will be providing more information for you about your course next year. Module enrolment will open on 25 June 2020. Your Department or School will be in contact with you very soon to help you with your choices and with details of the opportunities you and your fellow students will have to raise any questions and hear from your lecturers.

In the meantime, if you have any questions about your course or modules, please contact the professional services team in your Department or School. They are there for you so please do make the most of them. They have a wealth of knowledge and can help if you’re not sure how to contact somebody in the Department.

Our Student Services Hubs for Colchester, Southend and Loughton are operating phone, email and live chat facilities and can provide information on our range of mental health and emotional support services. The Students’ Union Advice service is available and operating remotely.

Finally, we know you will have many questions about your course and your plans for next year, which my email today will not have answered. Please do not worry, we understand. When we know more, we will share the answers with you as soon as we can. We will provide regular updates over the summer, including more information about student life next year. We will continue to publish information online through our dedicated COVID-19 webpages to support you as the answers become available. We are working with the Students’ Union to ensure the information we provide responds to the questions you have and the issues that are of most concern to you.

We are looking forward to welcoming you back to the Essex community next year.



June 3, 2020

VC’s all staff and student email

Against the backdrop of the global protests in response to the murder of George Floyd, on our campuses the University is rightly being challenged to do better in tackling racism. In recent days discussions in our staff forums and networks; engagement with students in our academic departments; and the powerful personal testimony of students, alumni and black officers from our Students’ Union have reinforced how much more there is for the University to do. Following discussion with the Chair of Council, the Vice-Chancellor has set out the University’s response in the message below.

Dear staff and students,

Against the backdrop of the global protests in response to the murder of George Floyd, I want to acknowledge the racism which exists within our University. Students and staff face racism on a daily basis, on our campuses and in our surrounding communities, and are rightly outraged. We can and must tackle this head on, both at a systemic level and in our everyday lives.

Student-led activism has been vital in highlighting racial injustice and the role of the Students’ Union is essential in confronting the challenge.

A start has been made. Work is underway to decolonise the curriculum and ensure we address differences in outcomes across different student groups; ensure our recruitment procedures are fair and inclusive; evaluate the effectiveness of our ‘Report and Support’ system; constantly review our unconscious bias training; and create better dialogue between all our communities and the University. We are also implementing a wide range of actions as we seek Race Equality Charter status. At the same time, we are working with the Students’ Union and local communities to create inclusive environments for our staff and students.

Important actions though these are, they have not proved to be adequate in responding to consistent requests for action from brave students and staff. We have not done enough.

We need to re-double our efforts to identify what more we can and should do. We want to listen, we want to be challenged and we want to be held to account. To this end, I would like to ask you to share your views through:

  • email to diversity@essex.ac.uk;
  • an on-line discussion forum to be launched next week;
  • a webinar which we will hold in the next fortnight;
  • staff may also want to engage with our existing staff forums.

In addition, the Students’ Union is asking for testimony and feedback from Black students, and, if you feel more comfortable sharing information with the Students’ Union, please email vpactivities@essex.ac.uk. The University can then work with the Students’ Union to ensure we have a comprehensive picture and to identify what needs to be done to tackle racism and systemic barriers to inclusion.

We will respond quickly with reports to Senate on 24 June and Council on 9 July with detailed actions.

I am sorry we have taken too long to recognise that we need to do more. With the help of our community this is what we must now do.

Anthony Forster

Vice-Chancellor