Students Staff
University of Essex

February 16, 2018

Our commitment to the planet and its resources

Our Sustainability Sub Strategy sets out our targets for building a greener, cleaner University. Here our Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Jules Pretty tells us more about the work he’s doing to ensure we continue to live up to our commitment to the planet and its natural resources.

Our Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Jules Pretty.

Our Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Jules Pretty.

At the beginning of 2017, the University’s Council approved our Sustainability Sub-Strategy. Through this we made clear our commitment to acting responsibly and positively with respect to the planet and its natural resources. These are under threat: almost all evidence points towards the insidious effects of climate change. Before the industrial revolution, the atmosphere contained 280 ppm (parts per million) of carbon dioxide: 350 ppm is taken to be a safe place for humanity, today levels have passed 400 ppm and are rising at about 2ppm each year. At this rate, we will see 450 ppm by mid-century.

The UK government signed into law in 2008 the Climate Change Act, still a remarkable piece of legislation. It commits us as a country to 80% reductions by 2050 in carbon emissions from a 1990 baseline. This might just save the planet, if everyone did this. Our role as a University is thus to act responsibly and show leadership: it can be done.

Here is a top ten for our recent actions and outcomes in relation to sustainability:

  1. We are committed to reducing our contribution to carbon in the atmosphere: from 2012-13 to 2016-17, our annual carbon emissions fell from 18,850 tonnes to 14,100 tonnes. Emissions per unit area fell from 0.08 to 0.05 tonnes per square metre, and halved per student, from 1.8 to 0.9 tonnes per person.
  2. When the Innovation Centre is complete, we will have a total of 1700 solar PV panels generating about 430 MWh per year. As a registered power station, we are thus feeding into the National Grid. Solar panels are now installed on the Essex Business School, Health and Social Care and Computer Science and Electronic Engineering buildings, the Albert Sloman Library, the new Essex Sport Arena, the STEM building, the Parkside offices, and the Corbett Theatre in Loughton.
  3. Our energy savings and generation has brought a financial benefit to us: if these had remained at 2012 levels, we would be spending £800k more a year on energy.
  4. There are now 35 Green Impact teams across University Departments, Sections and the Students’ Union. Six were awarded Gold in 2016-17, and in one year the 138 active participants completed 1145 actions.
  5. The Colchester campus was awarded a prestigious Green Flag for the quality of the grounds and natural environment. The judges praised the campus for being “one of the best sites for environmental principles.” We have installed 10 swift nest boxes on the roof of the Albert Sloman Library, with sounder to broadcast song to attract them in, and hope to see swifts flying around the buildings and lake this spring and summer, each harvesting 100,000 insects daily.
  6. All new vehicles owned and used by Estates Management Section will be electric vehicles (except where specialist use prevents use of EVs or hybrids).
  7. We have installed 41 plumbed-in water coolers across the three campuses so as to replace water bottle units, thus reducing our use of plastic and the transport of large bottled water to campuses by vehicle.
  8. We replaced 12 boilers in 16-17, increasing our energy efficiency by 15%, and have replaced roof insulation wherever refurbishment has been undertaken.
  9. Total waste production from the University has fallen 19% from 1450 tonnes in 2012-13 to 1176 tonnes in 2016-17. The No Waste Graduation programme raised £42,000 for the British Heart Foundation. We are also trialling a new furniture re-use online tool, Warp-it.
  10. We have amended the approach to how we invest our financial reserves, extending the existing restrictions on investments in tobacco and armaments also to cover fossil fuel extraction.

Every little helps. Here are four actions each of us could do to help the university become more sustainable:

  • To save carbon: switch off lights and power down computers or other energy hungry equipment whenever you can;
  • To enjoy nature and the outdoors: arrange a walking meeting once a month, or just go for regular walks;
  • To ensure waste is recycled: ensure recyclable waste is put in the right bins;
  • To build a community of practice: join the Green Impact team in your department or section.

And much more, if you feel inclined!

Professor Jules Pretty

Deputy Vice-Chancellor



January 31, 2018

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion: How far have we come, how far do we still have to go?

Professor Jules Pretty, Deputy Vice-Chancellor tells us about the work being done to create a truly inclusive environment for our staff and students.

Our Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Jules Pretty.

Our Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Jules Pretty.

A time to reflect

In the week we celebrate returning to the Stonewall Top 100, it is a good time to reflect on the impact of our work to promote LGBT+ inclusion as well as reflect on our journey towards achieving equality for all.

When the University of Essex admitted its first students in 1964, the world was a very different place in terms of the legal framework in place to protect people from discrimination. It was the year the Civil Rights Act was passed by the US Congress, and was followed a year later by the Race Relations Act in the UK. But protection on the basis of gender did not come into force until the 1970s, and it was not until the 1990s that legislation was introduced in relation to disability, sexual orientation, age, religion and belief.

More than just legislation

At the University of Essex, our approach has never been just about complying with legislation. As a university committed to challenging convention, daring to be different and with inclusivity at our core, we have always tried hard to do more. In the early 1990s, before the introduction of the Protection from Harassment Act in 1997, we introduced our Harassment Advisory Network (HAN) which offers a confidential service to employees, workers, contractors, visitors and students experiencing bullying or harassment.  The service is still in operation today and will soon be re-launched as the Harassment Report and Support Service.

The longevity of HAN is an indication that we still have some way to go in achieving an environment that is free from any form of harassment or bullying. It is also an indication that we will not give up in our quest to do so.

Using equality frameworks to help shape our work

We have engaged actively with the Athena SWAN and Race Equality Charters, Stonewall Workplace Equality Index, Mindful Employer and Disability Confident. These have helped us to understand the barriers to progression faced by some groups of staff and students and we are working hard to try and address those. For example, we have committed to enabling staff at all levels to work part-time if that is their preference and to advertising all jobs as being suitable for part-time work or job share unless a case can be made for not doing so.

It has also put into focus the importance of all staff being aware of their rights and responsibilities. For this reason we are placing increasing emphasis on ensuring staff complete the essential training relevant to their role.

Values-based decision-making

That said, we are not taking action because it might secure us an award, we are taking action because it is the right thing to do. It is about our ethos, and who we are as an institution.     

This is the reason we took the decision to eradicate the gender pay gap for female professors and we continue to monitor the gap to ensure it does not re-open. We have also signed the TUC’s ‘Dying to Work’ charter, providing additional employment protection for terminally ill employees.

Acceptance without exception

Whilst we are extremely proud to be recognised as one of the most LGBT+ inclusive employers in Britain, we know that signing up to charters and achieving awards does not mean that we have ended our journey.

We joined the Stonewall Diversity Champions programme as their values chime with ours and we subscribe to their mission of ensuring that everyone is accepted without exception. If we achieve that, our staff and students will have the best possible chance of achieving their potential and making a difference in the world.

What next?

Our Athena SWAN action plan commits us to taking steps to advance gender equality through, for example, developing and delivering career development activities targeted at grade 8 and 9 academic staff on ASE and ASER contracts to help increase the proportion of female academic staff on grades 9 and 10. We will also be reviewing the support available to staff returning to work after a career break and introducing an observer role for Senate and a number of its sub-committees. We are also starting a concentrated piece of work to tackle racial inequality, using the Race Equality Charter as a model for instigating institutional change.

Alongside this we will be conducting research to identify opportunities to embed equality, diversity and inclusion in learning and development events and activities, in the guidance provided to reporting managers, and in the planning round.

We have come a long way since the 1960s; together we can achieve more again.



November 24, 2017

Ensuring a safe environment for our students and staff

Susie Morgan is our Director of Human Resources. Here she tells us about the work being done to ensure we have a safe environment for our students and staff.

Susie Morgan is our Director of Human Resources.

Susie Morgan is our Director of Human Resources.

We find ourselves at a time when, at long last, the subject of sexual harassment, violence and hate crime has hit the headlines. In March, the Vice-Chancellor wrote about our work in this area in his blog and explained the high priority we give to ensuring a safe environment for our students and staff. It seems timely then to update you on the progress we are making.

Zero tolerance

This is the approach we take to dealing with inappropriate behaviour. This means that when an incident is reported we will take action and that the action we take will be proportionate to the circumstances of the case.

Reporting incidents

Currently, students and staff are able to report incidents in a variety of ways. One of these is to the Harassment Advisory Network. The University has appointed and trained a network of Harassment Advisers who will listen to you and offer advice and support. This network is currently being reviewed and will transform into the Harassment Reporting and Support Service which may be accessed by employees, workers, contractors, students and visitors to the University.

Reports of harassment or bullying received by an Harassment Adviser will be passed on, anonymously in the first instance, to either the Early Intervention Team in Human Resources (where the alleged perpetrator is an employee, worker, contractor or visitor) or to the Student Conduct Team (where the alleged perpetrator is a student) and appropriate action will be taken.

Where a complaint of harassment or bullying received directly by the Student Conduct Team involves an employee, worker, contractor or visitor, it will make Human Resources aware of the complaint and appropriate action will be taken. Where a complaint of harassment or bullying received directly by Human Resources through the Complaints of Harassment or Bullying Procedures involves a student, Human Resources will make the Student Conduct team aware of the complaint or report and appropriate action will be taken. In order for appropriate action to be taken the complainant’s anonymity may need to be lifted.

You can also raise concerns with your Head of Department/Section or line manager, Occupational Health or your trade union representative.

Improving reporting

Whilst being able to report incidents in a number of different ways has many benefits, it does mean that, once disclosed, not all incidents are channelled through the same mechanisms and this can impede the effectiveness of our response and cause those reporting some confusion about what the best method of reporting may be.  To improve this, we are working towards establishing a single route for ‘report & support’ that offers an electronic mechanism to report incidents, allows for anonymity if preferred and signposts individuals to relevant internal and external support and is accessible to everyone – those within and without the University.

Significant progress has been made in this area. A group of University and Students’ Union staff and officers tasked with implementing a comprehensive action plan on tackling sexual harassment, violence and hate, has received a demonstration of a low cost system developed by the University of Manchester and we are actively pursuing adopting it. We hope to have a new system in place in the spring of 2018.

We are also establishing guidance on anonymous reporting to ensure that everyone is clear on how the University will deal with such reports.

A new Complaints Procedure for staff use is also under consideration.

How we work at Essex

Most importantly it is how we behave towards each other and how we assess our impact on others that determines everyone’s safety and happiness. To help us with this, we are about to consult on an updated staff Code of Professional Conduct which will articulate our shared understanding of how we work together.

Support

Please don’t forget that advice, support and training is available to anyone who has either experienced harassment, violence or a hate crime or wants advice about how to challenge unacceptable behaviour.

Remember, it is up to each and every one of us to ensure that this University is free from this type of behaviour.



November 10, 2017

Essex – among the best of Europe’s Young Research Universities

YERUN is a network of 18 young European research universities. Our Vice-Chancellor, Professor Anthony Forster, played an integral role in the network’s establishment and spoke at its official launch event.

Read the full speech he gave at the event, held on 7 November at the European Parliament:

Professor Forster played an integral role in the establishment of the YERUN network.

Professor Forster played an integral role in the establishment of the YERUN network.

This launch event has been a wonderful opportunity for us to showcase our YERUN network of 18 young research universities.

As Vice-Chancellor of the University of Essex I have had the privilege of being involved since the first exploratory discussions that resulted in the establishment of the YERUN network so I am delighted to be here today at the formal launch.

YERUN is a cross-European initiative and I am delighted to say that, as some of Europe’s best young research universities, we are already successfully cooperating and collaborating in a range of areas and making a positive impact.

YERUN is a network of really highly regarded universities, but I’m delighted that it is also a network of friends with shared values.  Working with great scientists is rewarding.  Working with great scientists who are friends is life enhancing.

The presentations today of the six research projects from Subhash, Paul, Jörg, Mónica, Tess and Renée, Iona and Artemis are a superb example of this collaboration.  They really serve to demonstrate our interdisciplinary nature and the range of high quality European-funded research currently being undertaken by colleagues working across our network of universities.

It has been wonderful to see the enthusiasm and clear commitment of  colleagues to undertaking research that really makes a difference to people’s everyday lives.

Professor Dom Micklewright, our Dean of Partnerships, also attended the YERUN launch.

Professor Dom Micklewright, our Dean of Partnerships, also attended the YERUN launch.

And it highlights that:

As a group of young research universities, YERUN is:

  • empowering early-career researchers;
  • contributing to the design of the future research environment, and fostering an open science culture;
  • working with civil society and industrial partners to ensure our education and research are aligned with labour market demands  and contributing to addressing the needs of our societies; and
  • ensuring that our graduates have the skills that will make them highly employable and able to succeed in building their futures.

Each of our 18 universities plays a crucial role in the development of local and regional economies and innovation eco-systems and, by working together, we are sharing knowledge and experience so that we can maximise both our individual and collective contributions to society.

By bringing a young research university perspective to European discussions, and working together on initiatives that positively impact on European students, staff and researchers, YERUN is already making a distinctive contribution to our competitive knowledge-based economy.

Future perspectives

The major changes that we all see taking place in European societies underline the importance of new and dynamic interdisciplinary and multi-disciplinary linkages and innovative research.

I am delighted that, two years on from our inaugural meeting and just one year after the opening of the Brussels office, YERUN is already firmly established as a network and well placed to build these linkages … to emphasize graduate employability and to play a role as the voice of young research universities in Europe.

As a network, our universities are already actively engaged in student and staff mobility, are collaborating on joint research on topics that really matter, and are sharing best practice.

I am delighted that in January the University of Essex will be hosting the first YERUN Research Workshop bringing together researchers from across the Network to collaborate on one of our strategic research priority themes: Big Data, Data Analytics and the Digital Economy. I look forward to welcoming colleagues to the University of Essex and to seeing the research collaborations that result from the workshop.

As a network we have expressed our support for the position of the Commission and EU stakeholders to establish an FP9 budget that matches the world-leading ambitions of the programme. We have presented our views and key requests for the next EU Framework Programme, FP9. We look forward to continuing to work with you and the EU institutions to deliver a FP9 that matches the world-leading ambitions of EU Research and Innovation.

And we look forward to continuing to build relationships and cooperation with the European Parliament and European Commission, permanent representatives, universities and research associations, and with all our European stakeholders.

Above all our YERUN network is about using the collective strength of our 18 universities to bring the young research universities’ perspective to policy debates and to make the World a better place.  I can think of no better group of universities and friends to take on this challenge.

Thank you.



November 3, 2017

Launching our new Department of Psychosocial and Psychoanalytic Studies

Sasha Roseneil is our Executive Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences and Professor of Sociology. Here she talks about the launch of our new Department of Psychosocial and Psychoanalytic Studies.

An image of Sasha Roseneil

Sasha Roseneil, Executive Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences and Professor of Sociology.

Universities are Janus-faced organisations, looking simultaneously backwards and forwards. We have a unique societal role in preserving the past, in ensuring the protection of bodies of knowledge and ways of thinking, and at the same time carrying the collected understandings of our already existing world into the future, from one generation to the next, asking new questions as social change throws up new challenges, and developing thereby new knowledge and ways of thinking. Through this we contribute to the re-creation of the world.

A living entity

A University is, therefore, a living entity, one that moves and changes constantly, whilst also seeking to hold steady enough to capture the past and contain the present. A University values both the old and the new, recognising that the future emerges out of the past, that innovation and creativity do not spring from nowhere, but depend on the accumulation and assimilation of our inheritance from previous generations.

A momentous occasion

The founding of a new department is a momentous occasion in the life of a university. Departments are our ways of organising our work. They delineate every day interactions, they structure how we manage resources, and they mark the boundaries of bodies of knowledge and ways of thinking. They are a way of settling, making solid, putting a framework around the flow of intellectual life and the ongoing pursuit of understanding, so that people with shared interests and approaches, with broadly similar ways of tackling an intellectual, scientific or social problem can work alongside and with each other, without having to constantly explain, justify and defend their assumptions, methods and practices. Ideally, a department provides us with a home at work, a place of membership and belonging – a community of colleagues with whom to identify.

(Of course, that is the ideal, and it does not always feel like that in departments. Departments can operate as mechanisms of exclusion as much as inclusion, with identities defined oppositionally and negatively, as much as positively. But that line of thought is for another occasion.)

So, it is a big thing for a university to establish a new department. It grants recognition to a body of knowledge and a way of thinking.  It constitutes them as legitimate, alongside other long established fields of study, and it marks thereby the transformation of intellectual life and what we might call “science” in its broadest sense.

Moving with the times

Essex is a university founded in the white hot heat of the 1960s that remains fundamentally committed to re-inventing itself, to moving with the times, to riding the wave of the contemporary, whilst always remembering its roots. We are a university that is willing to do things differently, and to allow new bodies of knowledge and ways of thinking the time and space to grow and, ultimately, the institutional recognition needed to flourish.

The Centre for Psychoanalytic Studies emerged out of our enormously generative Department of Sociology, and has existed now for more than two decades as a unique locus globally for research and education in psychoanalysis. Psychoanalysis is a body of knowledge and a way of thinking that simultaneously looks back into the past – into an individual’s biographical history, early life experiences, and the intergenerational legacies of which conscious awareness may not exist – whilst also attending, with precision, care, and an open mind to experience in the present moment, in order to release the hold of the past and to open up possibilities for the future.

launch 300x200

The launch event took place in our Hex venue and was attended by staff and students.

Recognition and expansion

The establishment of the new Department of Psychosocial and Psychoanalytic Studies offers recognition to the work that has been carried out in the Centre in the past. But it also marks an expansion and reconfiguring of the work of the Centre. The adding to the new department’s name the notion of the psychosocial points to, and embraces, important new developments in the social sciences and beyond.

The idea of the psychosocial

The idea of the psychosocial – a concept that has a long history in social science and medicine – has been taking on new shape and meaning in the past two decades. [1] It is carving out a new transdisciplinary space of thinking and practice that challenges the 19th century configuration of the social and human sciences, and the disciplinary division between psychology and sociology. This distinction, represented and reproduced in almost every university around the world, allocates to psychology the scientific study of the mind, the individual, and, in some formulations, ‘inner life’, affect and emotion, and to sociology the study of ‘society’, ‘external worlds’, macro-structures and processes.

Developing most rapidly in the UK, but with parallel developments across Europe and beyond, and indeed with its roots in pre-second world war Frankfurt, psychosocial studies rejects the separation of the spheres of ‘psychic’ and ‘social’, and the idea that ‘inner’ and ‘outer’ worlds are empirically or theoretically separable. As people we are always already beings with both singular, personal experience and with shared, collective experience – we cannot know one without the other, we cannot know ourselves without others, individual and society are always entangled.

As psychoanalyst Joan Riviere said in 1952:

“There is no such thing as a single human being, pure and simple, unmixed with other human beings. Each personality is a world in himself, a company of many. That self, that life of one’s own, which is in fact so precious though so casually taken for granted, is a composite structure which has been and is being formed and built up since the day of our birth out of countless never-ending influences and exchanges between ourselves and others […] These other persons are in fact therefore parts of ourselves, not indeed the whole of them but such parts or aspects of them as we had our relation with, and as have thus become parts of us. […] We are members one of another (Riviere, 1952:166-167).[2]”

Psychoanalytic understandings

To add psychoanalysis into the psychosocial mix is to suggest that the process of seeking to understand and know ourselves and our world is always one about which we are conflicted. It is to recognise that whilst there are things that we expressly want to know, that we long to know, there are things that we might be protecting ourselves from knowing. It is to acknowledge that there may be defences against uncomfortable realities, within each of us as individuals, in our organisations and institutions, in our society and polity. It suggests that there are forces that resist our best, avowed intentions, pulling us in the opposite direction – back to the past, rather than onward into the future, towards death and destruction, as much as towards life and creativity.

To some readers this might sound rather too mystical and unscientific. It might not seem like the proper business of a Faculty of Social Sciences that is known across the world for its rigorous quantitative research, its commitment to the rational, the empirical and the measurable.

The uniqueness of the social sciences at Essex

Professor Roseneil spoke at the launch of the new Department

Professor Roseneil delivered her speech to mark the launch of the new Department.

But I believe that that what makes the social sciences at Essex both unique and great is our breadth and range. We work across the whole gamut of approaches and topics, with an enormous variety of methods and materials – from the study of macro processes of social, economic and political change to the study of micro moments and inner worlds. We study numbers – population statistics, big data, longitudinal surveys – and we study texts – historical documents, narratives, biographies, discourse and language. We build models, and we deconstruct them. We embrace quantitative and qualitative, macro and micro, the historical and the contemporary, analysis and criticality, the theoretical and the empirical, the political and the personal, the psychic and the social.

And our innovation and our rejuvenation reside in our desire to explore and inhabit the spaces in between all of these. It is in the spaces in between, the new places that, with hard work and struggle, we carve out for thinking differently that our collective life, our culture, sociality and self-understandings are transformed.

Our new Department of Psychosocial and Psychoanalytic Studies is part of that process of renewal and transformation, at Essex and in the wider world. I wish its members – staff and students – now and of the future – intellectual excitement, good humour and a spirit of collective enterprise in the work that you will do together and with the rest of the University, in Colchester,  Southend, and beyond.

 

Take a look at all the photos from the launch event on flickr.

[1] See Roseneil, S. (2014) ‘The Psychosocial Challenges of Establishing the Field of Psychosocial Studies’, Journal of Psycho-Social Studies, Vol. 8, Issue 1 http://www1.uwe.ac.uk/hls/research/jpss/volume812014.aspx

[2] Riviere, J. (1952) ‘The unconscious phantasy of an inner world reflected in examples from literature’. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 33:160-72.



October 13, 2017

Keep it On Campus

Chris Oldham is our Director of Estates and Campus Services. Here he tells us about the latest Campus Services campaign, Keep it on Campus, which helps support our University by reinvesting the money we spend in the food outlets and shops on campus.

Chris Oldham is the Director of Estates and Campus Services.

Chris Oldham is the Director of Estates and Campus Services.

When the  layout of the original Colchester Campus was first proposed, the plan put forward by Sir Albert Sloman, our founding Vice-Chancellor, was to create the variety and liveliness of town life, with ‘our own shops and coffee bars, bank and post office’.

More than 50 years later this still holds true. There is a wealth of services on the campus, which not only helps to foster a sense of community but also raises funds that are re-invested into the University as a whole.

Wherever you see the Keep it On Campus badge you can be reassured that the goods you are about to buy or the facility you are about to use, are owned by University of Essex Campus Services, UECS, a company owned entirely by the University. UECS gift aids any surpluses generated back to the University, for the benefit of all our students.

There are also plenty of part-time job opportunities for students within the businesses, either during term-time or the holidays when through Event Essex, Southend and Colchester campuses host residential conferences in student accommodation.

Staff development is vital to our goal to continuously develop and improve our services to you. Our programme of training keeps everyone up to the date with the latest innovations in each business and ensures good customer service across the University.

You will probably be most familiar with Essex Food, which runs many of the catering outlets across the Colchester campus,  including the striking No 64 bus and Food on the Square, a pop up takeaway option, set up to provide quick and tasty hot food for busy staff and students during term time.

This initiative is a great example of how Campus Services responds to the challenges of ever growing student numbers and the changing demands of you, our partners.  Feedback is vital to ensure we are providing the right services. Can we do it better, or differently, should we be trying something new? By helping each other, we can keep it in the family.



October 10, 2017

Welcoming our postgraduate research students

An image of Professor Martyna Śliwa

Professor Martyna Śliwa

It may sound like a cliché, but there is no such thing as a ‘typical’ student. The extent of diversity within the student population is perhaps nowhere else as pronounced as in the case of postgraduate research students. This, in turn, requires us to think about how best to support them and how to make the start of the year, and their new research degree, as enjoyable and ‘smooth’ for them as possible.

Our research students come from all over the world – from 91 countries, to be precise. From Algeria to Canada, to India, Mexico, Nigeria, Portugal and Vietnam, to name just a few. Some are local to the UK, and some even to the University of Essex, having studied here before. To others, last week might have been their first ever week in this country and they will also be faced with needing to adapt to an unfamiliar education system. Some of our research students commence PGR study directly after their undergraduate degree, and are likely to be in their early 20s when they begin working towards their doctorate. Others might decide to take up a PGR degree mid-career or following a career break, with a view to improving their qualifications or perhaps completely changing the direction of their professional development. Yet others might choose to enrol on a research degree programme to fulfil their retirement dream. They all have their own hopes, ambitions, and plans for the future.

Our PGR students come to Essex to explore research questions across a great range of disciplines and from a variety of methodological perspectives. We educate PhD students and those who pursue professional doctorates. We have postgraduate research students who are fully funded through the University of Essex and other scholarships, those who are self-funded, and those who rely on funding from a combination of sources. Most of our research degree students are registered full-time, while some study on a part-time or distance-learning basis.

PGR students not only enrich the University’s research environment but also greatly contribute to its Education Strategy, with many of them working for the University as Graduate Teaching Assistants and Graduate Laboratory Assistants. Throughout their research degree, they often become very closely integrated with their home Departments, and it is not uncommon for Essex PGR graduates to go on to undertake full-time employment at the University, be it in academic or professional services-related roles.

The multiple contributions that postgraduate research students make to our community – both through adding to the diversity of its culture and to its research and educational environment – have made me particularly excited about welcoming our new PGR cohort to Essex. The PGRE Team, along with colleagues from Student Engagement, Organisational Development, and each of the University’s Faculties and Departments organised a dedicated PGR Welcome Day for our news starters. This included a range of activities and sessions focussing on different aspects of PGR provision, from an introduction to postgraduate research study at Essex and the support, training and development opportunities available to all our PGR students, to conversations with individual supervisors.

We have registered 199 new PGR students, with more set to join the University in January and April. There are also 1081 research students returning to Essex to continue with their PGR study this academic year.  For first year postgraduate research students in particular, there will be a lot of new things to get to know in the coming weeks and months. A research degree has its own unique nature and rhythm, different from that of an undergraduate or postgraduate taught degree. What is certain is that all of our research students will work very hard, since there is a good reason why a research degree is referred to as ‘advanced study’! Equally, all the teams and individuals involved in PGR provision will work hard to support them in becoming successful in their degree and making the most of their PGR study.

Professor Martyna Śliwa is Dean of Postgraduate Research and Education and a Professor of Management and Organisation Studies.

 



Welcome to the University of Essex

Our Pro Vice-Chancellor Education, Aletta Norval

Our Pro Vice-Chancellor Education, Aletta Norval

Congratulations on achieving your place with us. We’re very excited to welcome you to our unique, global ‘Essex family’ and to beginning your new adventure.

We want you to have the best possible time with us and to do so, I have some advice for you:

Manage your time and shape your experience

Use the Welcome period as an opportunity to make networks, find your feet and settle in. It is important to pace yourself and plan your time. You may find it useful to work out a personal timetable, factoring in all of your commitments. Above all, have the courage to explore and the confidence to ask when you don’t know.

Get involved and step out of your comfort zone

I do hope that both within the classroom and outside, you will make full use of every opportunity available to you to explore, create and contribute to life at the University. Think, work and strive to live beyond your comfort zone. Join societies, volunteer, and discover the joys of stretching yourself intellectually.

Take advantage of the support on offer

Whilst your university experience can be exciting, it can also be very daunting. We’re here to support you with any aspect of your life with us as a student; both academically and personally.

I hope you enjoy your first year with us to the full.



September 29, 2017

Belonging – a work in progress…

An image of Sasha Roseneil

Professor Sasha Roseneil

Will I fit in?

Will I meet people I can relate to?

Will I make friends?

How long will it feel uncomfortable for?

When will it all become familiar and normal to be here?

Will I lose touch with where I came from, my friends and family?

Do I have to stop being me and become someone different in order to belong here?

These are some of the questions that run through our minds when we start somewhere new. Going to university is one of the biggest transitions we make in our lives. Not only does it mean, for most students, moving away from home, sometimes to a new country, and leaving behind family and friends, but it also means encountering multiple new groups of people. There is a group of flat or housemates to get to know. There are much larger groups of fellow students on your course and in your department, and then smaller groups taking particular modules and in seminars. There are groups of varying size in the clubs, societies and sports teams that you think about joining. Everywhere you go, university is about groups.

But joining a group isn’t easy. Everyone – yes, everyone – finds it difficult, however confident and at ease they seem to be.

As human beings we are fundamentally social beings. We need to feel attachment, not just to a small number of intimate others – our immediate family and close friends – but to the people we meet out there in the world, away from home. We need to feel connected to wider networks, to intermediate groups, to the institutions and communities of which we become part, and to society more generally. To belong is a basic human need.

It might seem, therefore, that belonging should come naturally, that it should just happen. And to some extent it does. Over time, new people and strange places become familiar. We recognise faces in the crowd. We find the people we can relate to. We start to understand the culture. We learn the rhythms of our new life. We settle in. And suddenly, one day, we realise that it feels ok. Or better. It’s feels good to be here.

But before that happens, it often feels uncomfortable, unsettling, or worse. We might feel alienated and alone. We might feel utterly separate and different from everyone else. We might feel that no one notices us, or recognises us for who we are. We might feel lost in the crowd and that we do not belong.

In my work as a group analyst, I run therapy groups, and I have spent many years witnessing up close the struggles that people have in joining a group. They want to join the therapy group. They have chosen to do it. They think it’s the right thing to do at this point in their lives, and they are committing to do it. It will cost them time and money. It will involve sacrifice. But they think it will be worthwhile. They hope that they will learn and change through it. Yet, still it is a deeply ambivalent process. It is scary, at times, to even show up, let alone to speak.  The whole thing feels odd and unnatural. They experience strong psychological urges to resist really joining the group and connecting with the other members. They focus on how different they are from everyone else in the group, and how impossible it is that anyone will understand them. Paradoxically, they also fear that they will merge with the group and lose their own identity, that they will change too much, and no longer recognise themselves, that they will become distant from the people who matter to them. So they back away from the group. They don’t participate. They are late. They miss sessions. They start wondering if it was a good idea in the first place. They undermine the very thing that they wanted to do, and the hope that they were investing in it for the future.

Now, a therapy group is certainly not the same as a group of flatmates, or a seminar group, or a university club or sports team. But there is the same basic, powerful tension at work for us, whatever group we are entering, between wanting to be part of the group and wanting not to be. We are all, when we join a new group, unconsciously torn between the desire to fit in, to be accepted by, to bond with the other members, and the desire to maintain our separateness, our difference and individuality. And that tension can be difficult to live with. It can be painful. It can sabotage our best intentions.

But, the good news is that if we recognise this, if we acknowledge that it is difficult to join a new group, and that we are not the only one feeling this, it can and does become easier. If we manage to stick with it, if we tolerate the early period of discomfort, then the feelings change. If we summon up the courage to say hello, if we dare to smile, if we risk sharing something of ourselves with people we don’t yet know, we will be rewarded. If we look for groups of potentially like-minded people, as well as challenging ourselves to reach out to people we think we have little in common with, we will find ourselves connecting. Because, if we participate, we will become part of things. We won’t agree with everyone we encounter. We won’t become best friends with everyone we meet. We might not even like everyone or everything we try our hand at. And that’s ok.

Gradually, over time, we start to feel at home. We start to feel like we belong.

Welcome to Essex. We are a diverse and friendly community, and you don’t have to stop being you to be one of us. Be brave, be you, and, in time, belong!

Sasha Roseneil is a group analyst and a sociologist. She is Executive Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences, and a Professor in the Department of Sociology.



August 4, 2017

Championing inclusivity at the University and beyond

Our university has signed up to the ‘City of Sanctuary’ project, a movement committed to building a culture of hospitality and welcome, especially for refugees seeking sanctuary from war and persecution. This is just one part of our One World, One Spirit, One Essex campaign which we are extending beyond our campuses into work with local partners. The whole project is being led by our Chief of Staff, Monica Illsley, who tells us more about the work she is doing to encourage a global community outlook across Essex. 

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Our One Essex inclusivity campaign logo.

At Essex we pride ourselves on being a global university community; it’s one of the reasons that we as staff choose to work here and why many of our students want to study here. In March we launched a new initiative in response to concerns and anxiety amongst our community about what a post Brexit world might bring. In the wake of the referendum, we saw examples of unwelcoming and racist behaviours, comments and incidents which prompted us to want to do something to re-affirm our University campuses as inclusive and safe places and spaces.

Our Chief of Staff, Monica Ilsley.

Our Chief of Staff, Monica Ilsley.

Given that our staff and students live out in the community, we also wanted to extend beyond our campuses and work with local partners to reach out into our local communities, championing inclusivity and the benefits of membership of a global community. The One World, One Spirit, One Essex campaign is about showing that we’re proud of our global community, proud of our diversity, our people and our inclusive spirit. It’s very much a joint University and Students’ Union initiative and we’re working with a number of local partners including: Colchester Borough Council, the Police, the Safer Colchester Partnership, Essex Community Foundation, Firstsite, and local volunteering and community organisations. We’re partnering on initiatives and promoting each other’s efforts to promote inclusivity and diversity so that together we can achieve maximum impact.

Knocking down the hate wall

The campaign was launched with a very successful Students’ Union-led event that involved building a Hate Wall at the Colchester campus and inviting our community to write their views and experiences of racist behaviour on the wall. Emotions ran high as the wall was covered with examples of hateful behaviour until, at the end of the day, our community (joined by our then Chancellor Shami Chakrabarti and the Mayor of Colchester at the time Julie Young) came together to physically knock the wall down to symbolise us standing firm together in relation to our values. The response was fantastic and captured and shared via social media. It was followed up with a contrasting Love Wall event on our Colchester Campus and with the Hate Wall being taken out into the community as part of the John Ball Day event at Firstsite on 15 July.

Our University values

The University’s inclusivity values seem to sit well with those of the people of Colchester, one of the most active towns in welcoming and supporting Syrian refugees. There are a number of growing local movements that really resonate with what we’re doing. As a large and influential organisation with over 2,000 staff and more than 15,000 students, many living in our local communities, it makes sense for us to be part of these initiatives.

Our SU ran their Hate Wall event at Firstsite as part of John Ball day.

Our SU ran their Hate Wall event at Firstsite as part of John Ball day.

We have already committed to the University being an active partner in the growing Citizens UK movement in Colchester, and have recently agreed to support the Colchester as a Borough of Sanctuary initiative. Part of a national ‘City of Sanctuary’ project, the aim is to build welcoming communities for vulnerable groups, especially for refugees seeking sanctuary from war and persecution. By signing up, we have committed the University to stand ready to contribute in whatever way it can.

Get involved

Over the coming year, there will be many opportunities for students and staff to get involved in the One Essex campaign as it gathers momentum and reaches out to our other campuses. So look out for events and activities taking place on our campuses and in our local towns and get in touch with the One Essex working group if you have any ideas for what more we can do to celebrate and champion inclusivity. Email Benita Ganeva with your ideas on bdgane@essex.ac.uk.

 

ONE WORLD, ONE SPIRIT, ONE ESSEX

At Essex we’re proud of our diversity, our people and our inclusive spirit.

We’re proud of our global community and we’re celebrating these values with One Essex.

OUR GLOBAL COMMUNITY

Essex is home to people from all over the world.

We’ll respect and support each other, no matter who we are or where we come from.

Join us in making sure that we are a welcoming and supportive community and a place that feels safe and inclusive.


 

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