Students Staff
University of Essex

July 22, 2020

All staff and student update from our Chair of Council and Vice-Chancellor

Dear staff and students,

On 17 June following consultation with the Chair of Council, the Vice-Chancellor sent an email (which is published as a blog) to let you know about the work that is underway to ensure that the experience of University staff and students lives up to our commitment to be an inclusive community. We are now writing to update you on the actions that we have been taking to address racism within our University.

The Tackling Racism Working Group, established in early June, planned and oversaw an initial listening phase to gather the views of our community. The Group has since prepared reports which have been discussed by the Resources Committee of University Council (on 22 June), by the University’s Senate (on 24 June), by the University Steering Group (USG) (on 30 June) and by the University’s governing body, Council (on 9 July).

The initial listening phase ended on 19 June. The Working Group has been in touch to thank our community for the views expressed and to set out next steps and we too wanted to express our gratitude to all those who shared their lived experiences and their ideas about how we should take this work forward.

We also wanted to let you know that at its meeting on 9 July, Council made an explicit commitment that the University will continue to listen to the views of our community in relation to how we tackle racism. We will hold ourselves to account for making progress to change our culture by taking actions that will have both immediate and long-term impact. Council approved all of the initial actions that the Working Group proposed including:

  • Identifying, agreeing and ensuring delivery of actions that will be taken quickly and that have the potential to make a real and immediate difference to the experiences of Black students and staff.
  • Undertaking a detailed analysis of the extensive feedback that we have received from our community and developing a detailed, fully costed, time-specific Anti-Racism Action Plan setting out short, medium, and long term actions (with final reports going to USG, Resources Committee of Council, Senate and Council at their first meetings in the autumn term).
  • Immediately recognising (both financially and in non-financial terms) the contribution of the Black students who are actively involved in delivery of this work as members of the Working Group.
  • Also recognising the contribution of staff involved in the Working Group and in particular, of one or two members who will have time specifically allocated to lead this work (alongside dedicated central leadership).
  • Allocating professional project management and coordination support for this work and drawing on the University’s qualitative and quantitative data analysis and reporting expertise.
  • Seeking independent external expertise to help us shape our Anti-Racism Action Plan.

We have been determined to make rapid progress but we know that these initial actions are simply first steps in achieving the scale of change that members of our community rightly expect from us. We are determined to ensure that we maintain this initial momentum, build on the current levels of engagement and discussion, and take decisive actions that lead to a real and sustained difference to the lived experience of our black students and staff.

Jane Hamilton
Chair of Council

Anthony Forster
Vice-Chancellor



July 15, 2020

Enhanced protection

Dear Colleagues and Students,

The University’s Council has taken the decision that the University should move back into the ‘Enhanced Protection’ level of our response to COVID-19 from today (Monday 13 July).

We have set out what this means on our website in our University Business Continuity Plan. The University’s Business Continuity plan sets out four different levels of protection – Advanced (the most stringent), Enhanced, Sustained and Targeted.

As a consequence of moving to ‘Enhanced Protection’ we will begin the process of bringing more activities into on-campus operation in a carefully planned and phased way. Access to campus will still be very limited. Staff and students who have a specific need to come onto campus will be able to do so, with approval, as part of a phased return plan.  Everyone else – and those who can – should continue to work and study from home, until we move into Sustained Protection, which will not be before 7 September at the earliest. Any University staff who are unsure about how they should be working during this period of ‘Enhanced Protection’, should contact their line manager.  The approaches we have developed allow us to start a careful and phased return to more on-campus work and study and to plan for the new academic year.

Our ‘How to come onto our campuses’ pages for staff and for students have been updated to share this information with you so that you can see how we are planning to keep you safe and what will be expected of you.  I would ask all staff and students to read the contents of these webpages carefully.  Please do continue to review them, as they will be updated to reflect changing government requirements and scientific advice.

We will share detailed communications as and when further changes happen. If you have any questions, please contact covid19@essex.ac.uk.

Bryn Morris

Registrar and Secretary



July 7, 2020

Our campuses

Dear all,

Many thanks for all your feedback on our proposals for how we, as a community, could return to our campuses safely. I am pleased to be writing now to share the detail of how we will do this.  I know that everyone is very keen to hear how we can live, learn and work on our campuses – both now and for the new academic year.

We have revised and developed our plan following comments and feedback from staff and students.   The plan will inform the way in which we will manage our safe return to on-campus work and study.

We have also developed guidance on, for example, how the spaces on our campuses will be used, how we should behave when we come on to campus, and the things we all need to consider before we do so to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all staff and students.

Our ‘How to come onto our campuses’ pages for staff and for students have been updated to share this information with you so that you can see how we are planning to keep you safe and what will be expected of you.  I would ask all staff and students to read the contents of these webpages carefully.  Please do continue to review them, as they will be updated to reflect changing government requirements and scientific advice.  We will share detailed communications as and when changes happen. If you have any questions, please contact covid19@essex.ac.uk.

The Business Continuity Plan sets out four different levels of protection – Advanced (the most stringent), Enhanced, Sustained and Targeted.

We are currently in Advanced Protection.

The University’s Council (our governing body) will consider whether the time is right to alter our level of protection at their meeting of 9 July, after reviewing and assessing the guidance and policy documents that we have developed.  Our proposal is that we should move to Enhanced Protection from 13 July.  Once we are ready to move to Enhanced Protection, we will let you know.  When we move to Enhanced Protection, we will begin re-opening campus in a carefully planned and phased way and access to campus will still be limited.  Staff and students who have a specific need to come onto campus will be able to do so, with approval, as part of a phased return plan.  Everyone else – and those who can – should continue to work and study from home, until we move into Sustained Protection, which will not be before 7 September at the earliest.

The approaches we have developed allow us to start a careful and phased return to on-campus work and study and to plan for the new academic year.  As one component of this, and in line with Government guidance, we will be building our timetable on the basis of a requirement for 1 metre of social distancing, where the characteristics of the teaching room (such as layout and ventilation) and the type of activity make this appropriate, with a 2 metre social distance between lecturers and students.  This will require that we all follow guidance on other mitigations needed to support this level of occupation of our teaching rooms (for example, including the wearing of face coverings).

When you return to campus, plans will be in place to protect our community.  This does mean that the campuses will look a little different in places (for example, with new screens in place in some areas, and updated signage) – but they will still be the Essex we all know as our work and study place.

We are continuing to work hard on further enhancements to our plans, in consultation with our campus trade unions and safety representatives.  For example, we know how important it will be to have a clear approach to test, track and trace as part of our preventative and responsive measures.  We will keep you updated as this additional work progresses.

Lastly, I want to send huge thanks to everyone who has helped keep our University operations going, both those working remotely, and those members of staff who have been on site and have kept our campuses running in the last few months.   You have been central to supporting all the students who have remained in our residences – students who call our campuses home.  Thank you so much for your support and dedication during this challenging time.

With best wishes to all,

Bryn Morris

Registrar & Secretary

University of Essex