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University of Essex

June 29, 2017

In celebration of Professor Anthony King 1934 – 2017

Professor Anthony King was a giant of political science and one of our longest serving members of staff. In celebration of his life a memorial service was held at Speaker’s House in the House of Commons where more than 120 guests attended.

A welcome and tribute was given by The Rt Hon John Bercow MP, Speaker of the House of Commons along with tributes from Professor Albert Weale, University College London and a former Professor of Government at Essex, Peter Kellner, journalist and political analyst, Seth Dubin, a longtime friend of Professor King from New York and Mrs Jan King. Performers from the Suffolk Villages Festival performed Laudate Dominum (Psalm 150) and the guests gathered afterwards for a drinks reception with a toast to Professor King given by Professor Sir Ivor Crewe.

Our Vice-Chancellor Professor Anthony Forster paid tribute to the life and work of one of Essex’s most inspirational teachers, thinkers and writers:

Tony King memorial 300x200

The memorial to Professor Tony King was held in the Speaker’s House in the Houses of Commons.

As the sixth Vice-Chancellor of the University of Essex I am truly honoured to be here to pay tribute to Tony who has made such an extraordinary contribution to our world for almost the entire history of the University’s 53 years.

It is hard to overestimate Tony’s impact. When I mention the University of Essex around the world people will almost always ask me about ‘Professor King’. They recall seeing Tony on television especially on Election night they remember hearing or being told by friends about his amazing lectures or  they talk about the influence of his books or articles on their thinking. They know Essex through Tony.

Tony was attracted to Essex in 1966 because of our commitment to intellectual rigour and our determination to do things differently and for five decades Tony came to symbolise these values.

He combined what we admire most: intellectual brilliance combined in equal measure with personal warmth, humour and personal humility and it is this wonderful cocktail which informed his approach to his teaching and research and to his life.

It is no surprise that Tony played a key part in the leadership of the University, mentoring many junior staff; serving as Head of our world leading Department of Government from 1968 to 1971, then again from 1985-86. And from 1986 to 1989 he was also a Pro-Vice-Chancellor.

In his beautifully phrased tribute to our founding Vice-Chancellor Sir Albert Sloman Tony described what he believed to be the strengths of the University of Essex.

He said Essex is “a genuine community. People care about the place. Members of the academic staff do research and publish the results of their research. They work hard, and they think.”

“It is also a University that, unlike some, takes teaching very seriously and is very good at it.”

It is striking for me to read every one of the many tributes which poured in for Tony from around the world. They confirm that Tony was an intellectual giant who was also a great teacher who made time for his students and cared about them.

It was his lectures and tutorials that were often times the highlight of a student’s time at Essex; always inspirational and sometimes changing people’s lives and inspiring their future career choices. I am delighted so many of Tony’s former students have made such an impact on public life and that so many are here today.

People respected Tony for his tough-mindedness, but they were also touched by his humanity – his kindness and thoughtfulness and his wisdom.

One of the dozens of online tributes by former students reads: “ I will always remember Professor King’s inspirational Monday morning lectures that made me think about politics in a fresh way. Despite his research responsibilities, he was never too busy to discuss matters with students.”

Another recalled: “His lectures were impeccably prepared and delivered with contagious enthusiasm, his classes were the highlight of the politics timetable, and the door to his office was always open.”

That former student points out that Tony was also “scrupulously fair”. He said: “I got a First in 1984 despite rudely questioning both his impartiality and the politics of the SDP in the letters pages of The Guardian.”

A bottle of champagne was the prize Tony used to offer to students who correctly predicted 13 General Elections that took place during his time at Essex. I wonder what he would have made of the many former students who admit in their tributes to Tony that they didn’t actually drink the champagne but kept the bottle he gave them as the ultimate trophy from their time at Essex.

One former student who had actually earned a bottle of champagne for predicting one of the closely fought general elections of 1974 added: “I won but, more important was that Tony also spent an individual half hour with me that I have treasured ever since!”

Kevin Featherstone who went on to become  Head of the European Institute at the London School of Economics said in his tribute: “Generations of students are not only in his debt, they will also look back with a smile and count themselves amongst the most fortunate of all.”

Tony would often end his emails with the phrase ‘in haste’. This seems to encapsulate his restless energy. Tony was someone on a mission someone who had things to do – whether it be meeting politicians and civil servants writing award-winning books keeping in touch with former students or preparing a key note lecture.

Tony not only kept himself busy he also had a prodigious work rate. Somehow amongst all his teaching and research commitments Tony found space to be a public intellectual speaking with incredible insight always infused by sharp wit and warm humour which entranced listeners “connected” with BBC election night audiences and of course entertained friends.

Tony’s  love for his subject remained absolutely undiminished throughout his life and our love for his work – his breadth of knowledge his turn of phrase his astute analysis – remains undiminished too.

It is for this reason that at the University of Essex we are establishing a named Chair in the Department of Government – the Anthony King Chair in Comparative Government to ensure we can continue to honour Tony’s amazing contribution to our community and to political science – and to ensure his legacy lives on for past, current and future generations.

Thank you.

Professor Anthony Forster

Vice-Chancellor

Donations in Professor King’s memory can be made to the Dedham Ward Acute Cardiac Unit at Colchester General Hospital. You can donate via the Colchester Hospitals Charity website www.cohoc.org.uk. Or you can donate via telephone on 01206 745303.

 



June 23, 2017

Protecting refugees, the next generation

In 2014 we signed an historic partnership with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), formalising a relationship stretching back to the mid-1990s, which has helped us train the next generation of global refugee specialists.

It has offered our academics new research opportunities and crucially, offered our students vital access to UNHCR expertise and internships.

As the UK marks World Refugee Week, we speak to graduate Charlie Goodlake, one of 20 Essex students who have taken the opportunity to be an intern at UNHCR since 2014.

Charlie Goodlake (left) with a colleague from the Cairo NGO where he worked

Charlie Goodlake (left) with a colleague from the Cairo NGO where he worked

What was your role at the UNHCR?

I did my internship from summer 2015 to the end of 2015. My role was a law and policy intern for the asylum and migration unit.

I focused mainly on the movement of refugees and migrants together – and protection response to the movements.

I also did research on human trafficking, smuggling and protection at sea.

It was a challenging time to be at UNHCR because it was the height of the European refugee crisis.

What has been the impact of the internship on your career?

The internship gave me the opportunity to apply the skills and knowledge in practise that I learnt in my LLM.

After the internship I went on to be a consultant at UNHCR working on the state of the world’s refugees publication, on the #withrefugees campaign and with the executive office.

What are you doing now?

I have just finished a year in Cairo working on the resettlement and protection of refugees for a small non-governmental organisation (NGO).

It was good to see things from the perspective of a small NGO and I had much more responsibility then would have been possible at this stage of my career with the UN.

What advice would you give our students interested in a similar career?

I would tell them to persevere if they really want to do this work.

At the start of your career it’s internships, then short-term consultancies and contracts and it can be stressful, but the instability of it is worth it to see the effects of the work.

 



June 20, 2017

WE ARE GOLD – WE ARE ESSEX

Today we received notification from The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) of our GOLD rating in the Teaching Excellence Framework. Here, our Pro Vice-Chancellor Education, Professor Aletta Norval, tells us more about this important award.

an image of our Pro Vice-Chancellor Education, Professor Aletta Norval.

Our Pro Vice-Chancellor, Education, Professor Aletta Norval is delighted that we have received a GOLD rating in the Teaching Excellence Framework.

I am absolutely delighted with today’s announcement that we have been rated Gold in the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF). This is an award the whole University can be justly proud of and I want to thank everyone who made this possible.

Based on the evidence available, the TEF Panel judged that the University of Essex delivers consistently outstanding teaching, learning and outcomes for its students. It is of the highest quality found in the UK.

Awarding Essex the top Gold rating the TEF Panel stated that at Essex “students from all backgrounds achieve outstanding outcomes with regards to continuation and progression to highly skilled employment or further study, notably exceeding the University’s benchmark”.

The TEF panel also highlighted that Essex had “outstanding levels of satisfaction with teaching, academic support, and assessment and feedback, markedly exceeding the University’s benchmark”.

Our Gold rating recognises the close cooperation between our world-leading academic staff, our excellent professional services staff, and our wonderful Students’ Union, all of whom have contributed to providing a transformational education experience for all of our students.

We pride ourselves on working in partnership to enable all our students to reach their full potential; this is central to our mission. We are dedicated to giving our students the support they need to achieve their goals; we are committed to deliver wide-ranging, student-focused initiatives that help nurture the culture of membership which is unique to Essex and we are committed to preparing our students for the global world in which they live and will work.

We place the student voice at the heart of all we do. Real partnership working – reflected in our consistently strong performance in the National Student Survey, coming in the top 10 for mainstream institutions in the last four  years – has enabled us to deliver an amazing educational experience for all our students.

Our Gold award recognises our equal commitment to education and research. This award, alongside our top 20 ranking in the Research Excellence Framework in 2014*, places Essex among a very select group of leading universities who are able to deliver excellence both in education and in research. For our students this means that the research-led education they receive is of the highest quality, delivered by academics who are world leaders in their fields.

I am sure that receiving the highest award possible in the TEF will encourage and inspire us to build on this absolutely outstanding achievement, to continue to work as closely as possible with our amazing Students’ Union, to continue to innovate and to place students at the centre of our thinking.”

* (Ranked 19th in REF after excluding specialist research institutions the Institute of Cancer Research and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and the University of the Highlands and Islands which submitted less than 70 full-time equivalent members of staff)

Mapping excellence in education and research

TEF2017 mapped against TEF2014

Read our full TEF GOLD press release on our news page. Watch our TEF celebration video online.



May 26, 2017

Celebrating our students’ achievements

Our celebratory event for the presidents of our societies and sports clubs is one of the highlights of the year for me, as I get a chance to hear all about the amazing activities our students get involved in during their time at Essex. Here is the speech I gave on the night.

An image of our Vice-Chancellor with some members of our student societies.

Our Vice-Chancellor with members of our student societies.

I’m delighted to welcome you all to this celebration of the achievements of your societies and sports clubs over the past year. Talking to you makes me realise, once again, how student societies and sports clubs are absolutely at the heart of the life of our University and the epitome of the Essex spirit.

Current presidents are here today so that I can personally thank you all for your contribution over the last academic year. This is also a perfect opportunity for me to welcome and meet our newly elected presidents for 2017-18, and to find out about your plans for the year ahead.

I am excited to see we now have 146 societies and 45 sports clubs across our Colchester and Southend campuses and it is fantastic for me to see society membership has now reached more than 3, 100 students with active sports club members now over 4, 500. Our sports clubs are booming with 15 having more than 100 club members.

Thank you to all the societies and sports clubs who are represented here tonight. I am amazed by the incredible diversity and delighted there are so many opportunities for our students to get involved in something they love – whether it is politics, origami or korfball.

Our societies

I want to congratulate you all on your achievements this year but in particular those societies who have achieved Gold, Silver and Bronze standards.

I would like to give a special mention to this year’s individual society award winners, Nathan Casteler who won the Presidents’ Award and Kristina Enger, Emma Holland, Alexis Matei, Rosie Redstone and Mohammad Shoaib who received awards for Exceptional Services to Societies.

I would like to thank the societies who have really stood out:

  • Society of the Year – Feminist Society
  • Southend Society of the Year – Essex Entrepreneurship Society (Southend)
  • Event of the Year – Speech & Language Society
  • Southend Event of the Year – Theatre Arts Society (Southend)
  • Most Improved Society – Film Society
  • New Society of the Year – Animal Protection Society
  • Southend New Society of the Year – Coloured Theatre Society (Southend)
  • Most Active Society – Theatre Arts Society
  • Most Community Focused Society Of The Year- Speech and Language Society
  • Most Employability-Focused Society of the Year – Speech and LanguageS ociety
  • Kick-Ass Society of the Year – Malaysian Society
  • The ‘Shaping Everything Around You’ Society of the Year – Writing Society
  • The ‘Benefitting All Members’ Society of the Year –  Romanian Society

Some of the highlights of the year include three of our societies being shortlisted in last week’s National Society Awards. The Feminist Society for Best Campaigning society, Amnesty also for Best Campaigning Society and our Theatre Arts Society for Best event. Our own ‘Golden Guild Awards’ saw a record breaking 51 society standards awarded.

I’ve been really pleased to see the huge increase in the number of society events around our campuses. Many of these events have been to raise money for local and national charities and our students have raised thousands of pounds for causes close to their hearts. Our societies have also been getting involved in our Students’ Union’s fantastic annual events including the excellent Winter Fayre, which had more than 60 stalls and performances, and the wonderful, popular and colourful Holi celebration.

Sports clubs

The number of students involved in sport continues to grow and we have had a truly amazing year. Special mention again to those clubs that have achieved Gold, Silver and Bronze standards and to this year’s Sports club award winners:

  • Coach of the Year – Sam Edwards (Rugby Union)
  • Newcomer of the Year – Amie Mowlam-Tett (Archery)
  • Social Club of the Year – Hockey
  • Team of the Year – Men’s Volleyball
  • 2nd Team Club of the Year – Hockey
  • Victor Ludorum Award – Amelia Stamp (Volleyball)
  • Simon Loveday Award – Andy Ball (Hockey)
  • Sports Volunteer of the Year – Annabel Semmence (Rugby 7’s/Snowsports)
  • Essex Blades President Award – Andy Ball (Hockey)

We also presented three Outstanding Sporting Achievement awards to Amelia Stamp, Marion Stoykov and Monika Kucerkova and I would also like to commend the 15 students who received Exceptional Service to Sport awards.

It has been an incredible year for sporting achievement and Essex has continued to break records across the country. We’ve won nine British Universities & Colleges (BUCS) league titles in Men’s Volleyball, Men’s Basketball, Women’s Basketball, Women’s Badminton, Men’s Volleyball, Mixed Golf, Men’s Rugby Union, Men’s Squash and Men’s Tennis. We also have two BUCS Cup winners with the Men’s Basketball 1st team winning the BUCS Trophy and our Men’s Squash 1st team taking the BUCS Conference Cup title.

If I can just take a moment to pick out individual successes, Harry Hughes took National Championship Gold as he achieved a new BUCS record in the Javelin, Matthew Thompson won a National Championship Silver in Skiing and Marian Stoykov won a National Championship Silver in Judo.

Our sports stars have helped us achieve 32nd place in the overall BUCS rankings and you’ve hit a record total of BUCS points and there is more success to celebrate. Our Men’s Basketball team has won National League Division 4, our Men’s Futsal 1st team reached the National Super 8’s, finishing in 3rd, and our Men’s Pool A Team finished 3rd in the BUCS National Championships.

Our sports clubs have also raised an incredible £15,000 for various charitable causes with our Pole Dance Club, Equestrian team and Rowing Club the top fundraisers this year.

Can I just pay tribute to you all one final time.

We are very proud of each and every one of you and recognise the impact and contribution that you make to the student experience at the University. Societies not only improve the lives of students who join them, by developing their interests, widening social networks, and helping them engage with the wider community, but there are also real gains in terms of employability. Your membership of clubs and societies helps you develop the skills, qualities and knowledge that employers value, and will help you to make a success of your life beyond University.

As we come towards the end of the academic year, I want to thank current presidents for your contribution, and wish new presidents all the best for next year.



May 3, 2017

Welcoming our new Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Designate) – Professor Lorna Fox O’Mahony

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Designate) Professor Lorna Fox O’Mahony

Professor Lorna Fox-O’Mahony has been appointed as our new Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Designate). Here she tells us more about the role and about her priorities for the next strategic plan period.

Watch her video interview on our vimeo channel.

It is a privilege to be appointed to the role of Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Designate) at Essex. When I first came to this University, I was struck by what it means to be a University for the real world. Our University’s commitments to improving people’s lives, to human rights and social justice, and to transformational education drew me to Essex, and I have been proud to work with colleagues in the last four years to seek out new ways to advance our mission.

My own academic mission is motivated to put people at the centre of property problems, especially people in positions of marginality and vulnerability; seeking out solutions that advance social justice through law and policy. I am proud that so much of what we do at Essex is focused on creating positive impacts for real people, and that our emphasis on fostering a curious, inquiring, critical and challenging ethos – powered by a research mind-set – equips our students with the power to make a difference in the real world.

Next strategic plan period, 2019-2025

This is an exciting moment for us, as we begin to look ahead to the next strategic plan period, 2019-2025. Under the current plan, the University has gone from strength to strength. We set ourselves some ambitious challenges: to achieve excellence in education and research, consistently, across all our departments, while growing our student numbers; to improve our financial sustainability while significantly growing our academic staff base and developing our campuses. And, with every fresh challenge that faces Higher Education, to seek out opportunities for the University of Essex to grow, to thrive and to advance our mission in research and in education.

Many of our successes have resulted from our commitment to building strong partnerships. Across the University, we have seen how seeding new collaborations and sharing good practices helps us to deliver on our ambitious goals. Working in partnership with our amazing Students’ Union, we have focused our energies on what really matters for our students: a transformational education experience that supports our students in earning good degrees, being prepared for the future world of work and getting ready to make a difference in the world around them. And beyond the University, we have built strong relationships with local, national and global partners who share our values and our commitments to transformational education and research that improves people’s lives.

Developing our mission into new areas

As we start to think about our next strategic plan, I am looking forward to talking with members across our community about how we can go forward to build on these achievements, to develop our mission into new areas, and to deepen our existing strengths. I am proud of the work that we have done already, from the renewed focus we have placed on critical thinking, skills, and employability for our students, to closing the gender pay gap. But we know there is a lot more that we can do, and that we need to do.

I can’t think of a time when the world has needed our Essex Spirit more. I feel very fortunate to have found my home in Essex, and to be on this mission with colleagues, students and supporters who share a vision and commitment to be the change we want to see in the world.



April 26, 2017

Encouraging a healthy university for all

Our Healthy University Sub-Strategy sets out some innovative and interesting ways in which we can all live and work better. Here, our Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Jules Pretty, tells us more.

Our Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Jules Pretty.

Our Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Jules Pretty.

Being healthy does not just mean being free from disease or infirmity, healthy means being in a complete state of physical, mental and social well-being. That is what we want for our staff and our students.

Our Healthy University Sub-Strategy sets out the ways in which we are going to get there. It is an ambitious plan but as a University with academic and professional expertise in mental and physical well-being, I think it is entirely right that we push ourselves. And it is about more than just exercise and diet; it is about creating a healthier community on all campuses, engendering cultures of compassion, well-being, equity and social justice. This isn’t just about feeling better – it’s about being better too, which links well to our People Supporting Strategy and its underpinning principles, particularly the principle ‘Fit to Work’.

But a healthy University needs everyone to take part, so what does the strategy want us all to do? First, our Students’ Union, under the leadership of Vice-President Welfare Jess Rich and President Zoe Garshong, is launching a new and timely campaign called Wake Up to Well-Being, and also asks everyone: have you had your alternative five a day? The SU has appointed volunteer mental health ambassadors, and will be launching a new video shortly about what everyone can do to raise the baselines of mental health.

Our Health University action plan then has three priority themes:

  • Food and mood
  • Physical well-being
  • Mental well-being

These themes will be embedded across our whole University, encouraging both staff and students to take part.

We believe that our University should be a place where work is psychologically and emotionally healthy and where staff and students are encouraged to balance their work life and personal life. The strategy builds on the work we have already done, including encouraging further engagement with the Employee Assistance Programme and Occupational Health and our Student Support teams. We will also offer training on physical fitness, resilience, mental health first aid, and provide a variety of health and well-being interventions. We have also built external partnerships with Public Health Essex and Health in Mind.

We have also recognised the importance of being vigilant in searching for signs that someone may be struggling with their well-being. We will ensure our staff have the skills and knowledge to recognise and respond to such signs, referring those in need to the right help and support.

Overall we want our community to take an active approach to their own well-being; engaging in activities and building their own resilience, ultimately helping them remain well. Our Healthy University Action Plan contains 49 activities across the three priority themes and includes everything from ensuring there are plenty of healthy food options, to encouraging walking meetings, offering mindfulness and meditation classes, Friday shiatsu sessions, delivery of fresh fruit baskets, take-the-stairs stickers in Southend, and the creation of a new Well-being work out.

This is a timely opportunity for all of us to improve the ways we live and work and we will be communicating the opportunities regularly. Look out for updates and please do get involved wherever you can.



April 4, 2017

Launching our new School of Sport, Rehabilitation and Exercise Science

This summer will see two exciting developments within the Faculty of Science and Health. Executive Dean Professor Graham Underwood and Head of the School of Health and Human Sciences Vikki-Jo Scott, tell us more:

Professor Graham Underwood

Professor Graham Underwood

I am delighted that we are forming the first new school at the University for ten years – the School of Sport, Rehabilitation and Exercise Sciences.

This new School will bring together a new group of disciplines, joining academic teams from sports therapy and physiotherapy in the current School of Health and Human Sciences with those in the Centre of Sports and Exercise Science, currently within the School of Biological Sciences.

This is an exciting opportunity to develop sport and rehabilitation as a combined academic grouping at Essex to help us deliver excellence in education and excellence in research.

This is a coherent grouping of disciplines and will open up great opportunities for a range of different research collaborations around health and wellbeing. It will encourage working across disciplines and open up new research opportunities.

The School’s research will focus on two areas:

  • health, exercise and active lifestyle
  • sports performance and fatigue

It will mean researchers in sports and exercise science will benefit from regular interactions with academic scholars/practitioners with physiotherapy, sports therapy and rehabilitation expertise. We are hoping this will support our developing research culture in sports therapy and physiotherapy that has, until now, been largely focused on professional practice.

This new grouping of disciplines will mean Essex will be offering something a bit different from other higher education institutions in that we can bring new depth to our research and offer a much broader exercise and wellbeing package, from cradle to the grave.

Our new School with also place Essex in a better position to reflect NHS England’s five-year Forward View, which aims to reduce the nation’s health and wellbeing gap by supporting a healthier and fitter population.

The new School’s staffing infrastructure will enable us to integrate our research and education provision in the areas of healthy lifestyle, rehabilitation and sports performance. So, as well as supporting this NHS health agenda, we will continue our excellent work with elite athletes.

The new sports hall building will act as a hub for the new School, integrating education and research into the University’s sport and wellbeing agenda. Due to open during the 2017-18 academic year, the new sports building will house bespoke offices, teaching facilities, laboratories and therapy rooms to complement the existing labs already on our Colchester Campus. This includes the on-site sports therapy clinic which has been a huge success since opening to staff and students in the autumn.

This new School of Sport, Rehabilitation and Exercise Sciences will mean a new name for the School of Health and Human Sciences, as Head Vikki-Jo Scott explains.

Vikki-Jo Scott

Head of the School of Health and Human Sciences, Vikki-Jo Scott

Our School of Health and Human Sciences is a pioneering department committed to making a difference to local, national and international health and social care, through education, research and knowledge transfer.

Over the next five years the NHS is proposing to dissolve the traditional boundaries between health and social care. To mirror this and better reflect the range of research, professional and education interests of staff and students within the School, we will be renamed the School of Health and Social Care from August 2017.

There is a national trend towards better collaboration between health and social care services and we want to train and support professionals who will be better prepared to work in this new culture of collaboration. This includes recognising the significant contribution that inter-professional learning and service user engagement can make to the high quality education we provide and research that we generate at Essex.

With a stronger focus on research, the School’s new name will better reflect the already excellent collaborative work we are doing in health and social care. We have streamlined our research into four themes to reflect our expertise at Essex. We specialise in applied, multi-disciplinary research that addresses local, national and international issues relating to health and social care policy and practice, and other related fields.

Our four key areas of research are:

  • mental health and psychological wellbeing
  • research for public and patient benefit
  • social policy and social care
  • health professions education and workforce development research

Health and social care provision is changing and our plans build on the School’s existing strengths and place us on a solid footing for the future to continue to deliver the high quality provision of education and research we are known for in this field.



March 27, 2017

Engaging with our library users

If you’ve been in the Albert Sloman Library recently you’ll have noticed some big changes. These are part of a much wider strategy to engage more fully with students, staff and researchers and enable them to make the most of our extensive collections and resources.

Here, our Director of Library Services, Cathy Walsh, tells us more. 

Moving towards digital content

An image of Cathy Walsh.

Director of Library Services, Cathy Walsh.

As well as over a million printed items on our shelves the Library provides over 350,000 individual journal titles, 95% of which are accessible online.  This shows the extent to which the library has moved towards digital content and delivery while maintaining its traditional print collections.

Self service

We’ve made some significant changes to the the way we do things, including the introduction of self-service at the Albert Sloman Library. Our users now borrow their books using self- service kiosks and return them via an automatic returns unit which also sorts the books ready for re-shelving. More than 90% of library transactions at Colchester are now self service.

A new security system

Introducing RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) technology has allowed us to introduce a new security system, getting rid of bag checks as people leave the library. This has received a lot of positive feedback from our students!  This new approach means our staff now have more time to support students in other ways, including providing ‘roving’ support out on the library floors and brushing up on their information skills, enabling our students to make the best use of library resources for their studies.

Listening to our users

In October 2016 we abolished fines for all overdue books, unless they are requested by another library user, and we introduced unlimited borrowing so that people can take out as many items as they need. We also launched the new Library Advisory Group (LAG) which includes both staff and student representatives from all academic departments, Library staff, SU representatives and colleagues from other Professional Services. Any member of the university is welcome to come along if they have something to say about our services.

The LAG meets four times a year and meetings take the form of themed workshops, including an open forum where attendees can raise any library related issues. Themes this year have included ‘Time and Space’, looking at students’ views on study space and their preferred times for using the library, and ‘Simpler Fairer Quicker’, reviewing the changes we made at the start of the year and proposing further improvements .

See for yourself

We hope to see many more colleagues at future LAG meetings – in the meantime please do pop into the Albert Sloman Library  to see the changes for yourself.

You can also keep in touch with the library on Twitter and Facebook.



March 24, 2017

Guest blog: Students need to have say in getting ready for an ever-changing digital world

VP Education Josh Gulrajani

VP Education Josh Gulrajani

The University of Essex has positioned itself at the forefront of education and research into the ever-changing digital world. With increasing investment in this area, and new innovative opportunities arising at the University, a strategic plan setting out how we as a community look at Digital, Creative and Cultural Skills is being created. I want to make sure that students have a say in this, as it is your education that this can aid, and your experience and employability that this can aid!

From the impact of 3D printing on the manufacturing industry, to the delivery of healthcare and even to the impact of Big Data on human rights, it is clear that the digital age is going to have an immense impact on us as students and even more so as graduates. It is time to look at our values and interests, and set some key actions of the University to ensure that we harness the digital, creative and cultural shift that we as a generation are undergoing.

The lines between the physical, digital, and even biological spheres are blurring, caused by a fusion of technologies and the “real life human” elements. With the developments in artificial intelligence and virtual reality in recent years, what it means to be a worker or even a human may be changing. It is the job of the University to ensure that we are being prepared for this new environment and that the education we are receiving here is moving with the times.

This strategy is going to outline how we as learners can diversify our skill set, gain further real-life opportunities, and develop our critical thinking and digital capabilities, be that through traditional teaching or the use of live projects. It is also going to make some headway in ensuring that we are as interdisciplinary as possible, allowing students to gain knowledge in a field different to that of their subject, but that will come together to produce a well-rounded education.

Some example of how the University has already embraced the changing environment are the developments already made into the games design, robotics, digital theatre and curation fields. Also  the Knowledge Gateway, which is a physical example of the University’s commitment to enhancing the digital skills of its students. With an award-winning Games Hub, space for digital entrepreneurs and start-ups, and a further Innovation Centre opening next year, now is the time for students to get an input into shaping our University.

The University is looking for your ideas and suggestions on how to draw these ideas together. The aim of the strategy will be to benefit students in making connections, forging collaborations, and generating impact that improves people’s lives and prepares you to go out and change the world!

VP Education Josh Gulrajani

Have your say

Please visit our consultation web page to share your views on our draft Digital, Creative and Cultural Sub-Strategy.

The deadline for comments is Friday 14 April 2017.



March 23, 2017

Guest blog: Tell us your views on our draft Digital, Creative and Cultural Sub-Strategy

Professor Lorna Fox O'Mahony

Professor Lorna Fox O’Mahony

Our draft Digital, Creative and Cultural Sub-Strategy is now open for consultation.

The world is changing rapidly, and will be transformed many times over this century. A prominent feature of these changes is the role of digital and creative innovation in transforming how we work, live, communicate and consume. From the impact of 3D printing on manufacturing to social innovation in the ‘maker culture’, and from the delivery of healthcare to big data and human rights, the ‘fourth industrial revolution’, is characterized by a fusion of technologies that blur the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres. Huge computer power, automation, artificial intelligence and virtual reality are challenging how we understand what it means to be a worker, how governments function, how economies grow, how societies evolve, and – fundamentally – what it means to be human. Our success in harnessing the opportunities that this offers, and in managing the risks, will be driven by collaboration and creativity.

The Digital, Creative and Cultural Sub-Strategy is a new framework for bringing together some of our unique strengths in education and research. It sets out our approach in the context of our values, and identifies key actions that we will take to nurture and support excellence in education and in research. Our commitment to putting students at the centre of our thinking leads us to seek to develop further opportunities for our students to develop critical thinking, digital capabilities, creativity, communication and collaborative skills. Our commitment to research that makes a difference in the real world leads us to focus on how, across the University, we can be an effective partner in innovation to the digital, creative and cultural sectors, and also to the wider economy which draws on creative skills. And our commitment to inter-disciplinarity is reflected in our integrated and comprehensive pan-University approach to exploring, understanding and addressing digital, creative and cultural challenges.

Our approach to digital, creative and cultural education spans our activities, from schools outreach to graduate start-up support. The Sub-Strategy provides a framework for supporting and developing the education we offer through programmes of study that are directly focused on digital, creative or cultural learning, and for those which include digital skills, creative thinking, culture and communication within their broader aims. We encourage extra-curricular participation in arts and culture, and recognise its role in providing our students with opportunities to develop their cultural capital within an international and inclusive multi-cultural living and learning community.

Our researchers are leading the way in digital and creative arts in games design, digital theatre, digital curation and heritage, virtual reality applications, and support for creative and cultural economies. We are also undertaking research into data visualisation, visual perception, robotics and artificial intelligence. Our aim is to combine expertise in digital technologies, content generation, cultural engagement and communication to improve people’s lives.

On the Knowledge Gateway, our Parkside Office Village is already home to a wide range of digital and creative businesses. Our unique, award-winning Games Hub provides opportunities for digital creative entrepreneurs to participate in an innovative games and business development studio. The University’s investment in high-performance computing to support advanced data visualisation enables us to attract new businesses as partners, supporting companies in “seeing and showing” the outcomes of big data analysis. Our Innovation Centre will open in 2018, and includes a focal point for digital and creative start-ups, freelancers and social enterprise entrepreneurs to work alongside students and academic staff.

The draft Digital, Creative and Cultural sub-strategy aims to draw together our ambitions for excellence, and to ensure the University provides a supportive environment for this work. We wish to benefit our students and support our staff in making connections, forging collaborations, and generating impact that improves people’s lives. We welcome your ideas and feedback.

Professor Lorna Fox O’Mahony, Chair of the Digital, Creative and Cultural Task and Finish Group

Have your say

Please visit our consultation web page to share your views on our draft Digital, Creative and Cultural Sub-Strategy.

The deadline for comments is Friday 14 April 2017.


 

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