Students Staff

25 October 2019

Essex remains committed to inclusivity

Filed under: Campus news, Latest news, People pages — Communications, CER @ 2:46 pm

Despite uncertain times and within the context of a potential Brexit, our University remains committed to inclusivity and prides itself on being a home to people from all sorts of different backgrounds and countries.

Here, four members of our community tell us about the work they are doing to ensure Essex remains an inclusive and welcoming place.

Our One Essex campaign was born following the referendum result.

Monica Illsley is our Chief of Staff and Chair of our One Essex inclusivity group.

We pride ourselves on being a wonderfully diverse university community, it’s one of the reasons that staff choose to work here and why many of our students want to study here.

I think we ‘live’ these values as a community on a day-to-day basis and there are a number of University, Students’ Union and community-driven events and activities that take place across the University all the time that demonstrate our diversity and our inclusive spirit.

But occasionally, there are instances of behaviours, examples of things happening, that remind us that we cannot take these values for granted and that shock us into taking proactive action.

This is why the One World, One Spirit, One Essex messaging, first used in response to the Brexit referendum, remains relevant today. It helps bring our community together to champion inclusivity and the benefits of being a diverse cosmopolitan global community.

The One Essex Inclusivity Group that I convene and chair brings people together to find ways of reinforcing and celebrating our One Essex spirit

We welcome ideas and suggestions which staff and students can put forward either through the diversity network Chairs but also direct to me at

Karen Bush is our Head of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion.

What area of inclusivity are you working on?

Together with my colleagues in Organisational Development, we are working to build a culture in which equality, diversity and inclusion are central to everything the University does. This means embedding it within our ways of working, our decision-making processes and ensuring we recruit and reward people who  are committed to our values. This aspiration can only be realised if every member of our community takes personal responsibility for their behaviour and treats others with respect and as individuals, irrespective of differences in background, culture, experiences and views and this is my particular area of focus.

We are proud of our internationalism – we are a global family.

What are your priority projects or themes?

One key piece of work I am involved in this academic year is the Race Equality Charter. Through this, we are starting an institutional conversation about race equality. We will be looking at how we recruit staff and students from different ethnic groups, how we support them to progress, and how we create a race-inclusive culture.  As part of this work we are currently seeking the views of staff and students on race equality at the University. Tell us about your experience of working and/or studying at Essex and what we can do to advance race equality across the University by

completing the staff Race Equality Charter survey or the student Race Equality Charter survey.

I am also involved in work on inclusive leadership, which research shows is critical in helping leaders maximise the potential of the diverse talent in their organisation. Working in this way is also known to make people feel more valued and have more confidence and self-belief. We will be working across the University to cultivate inclusive capabilities in all our leaders and managers.

What are your hopes for the future of this work?

I would like to get to a point where we do not need to ask people to disclose their personal characteristics in order to identify where under-representation or differential outcomes exist as everyone is accepted without exception for who they are, people respect difference and treat others fairly and with dignity at all times.

Dr Ilaria Boncori is a Senior Lecturer in management, marketing and entrepreneurship, currently serving as a Dean deputised for education in the faculty of Arts and Humanities.

I have always been keen to understand how different  organisations foster or hinder inclusivity, with a personal approach stemming from critical perspectives that consider power dynamics both at the systemic and individual level.

Our annual staff strawberry picnic is one way our community finds time to get together.

Initially focussed on cross-cultural practices in international business, my research and teaching interests in terms of inclusion then developed into explorations of gender, gender identity (particularly transgender and gender non-conforming), ethnicity and intersectional identities. This predilection towards the study of various forms of inclusion (or lack thereof) has prompted me to create and edit our University’s collection of  volumes bringing together expertise and experiences from staff and students: ‘LGBT+ Perspectives’ (2017), ‘Race, Ethnicity and Inclusion’ (2018) and ‘Health and Wellbeing’ (forthcoming in 2020).

My priority, as a teacher and Deputy Dean Education, centres around our ability to develop and consistently deliver a truly inclusive curriculum underpinned by sound pedagogy. In order to do so, we have created a series of teaching and learning toolkits to support our educators, and we are currently involved in a number of initiatives to enhance our educational environment and provision. My vision for the future is of a University which enables all students to achieve their potential through the embedding of inclusive mindset and practices, with equal opportunities and no significant differential outcomes.

Erkan Ibrahim is our Inclusion Manager.

What area of inclusivity are you working on?

My role focuses on the inclusion of underrepresented students at the University of Essex, and I work with various key stakeholders including the Students’ Union, Organisational Development, Communications and External Relationships, Academic Departments and Schools and many colleagues within the Academic Section to ensure that all students feel a strong sense of belonging and have the best possible chance to succeed whilst at Essex.

What are your priority projects or themes?

We offer a very international welcome to new students from around the world.

One key priority at present is working with Inclusivity Leads within each Academic Department/School to identify the good practice that is taking place across the University, and work with them to address any challenges they currently have with regards to student success, engagement and belonging. Over the past year, we have established the Inclusivity Lead network, all of whom are academic staff members that we have been working with to improve communications between Departments/Schools and professional services, share examples of inclusive practices currently taking place in each Department/School and gain feedback from academic staff around their current challenges and opportunities in relation to the inclusion of their students.

I am also currently leading on the planning and organisation of our yearly Inclusion and Wellbeing Conference which is scheduled to take place on Wednesday 29 April (save the date!). This year we shall be including information on challenges the HE sector faces around race disparities (and potential solutions around reducing them), how Universal Design for Learning can support us to meet the needs of all students and how we can build Enabling Environments here at Essex.

  • Any staff member wishing to find out more information about our work with Departments/Schools should see the Inclusivity Lead webpage on the Staff Directory or contact me directly to discuss anything else.
  • Students wishing to find out more about our work are more than welcome to get in touch with me directly, or get in touch with their Department/School Inclusivity Lead

Our Students’ Union family is another part of our diverse and inclusive community.

In terms of inclusivity – where would you like us to get to? What does inclusivity look like at Essex for you?

A place where no complaints of harassment, discrimination or bullying are made as all members of our community treat each other with respect and compassion, the environment that we live, work and study in meets the physical, psychological, social and spiritual needs of all, and all members of our community value and celebrate diversity.

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18 October 2019

Committee meetings go meat-free to reduce climate impacts

Filed under: Latest news — ckeitch @ 12:53 pm

Daisy Malt, our Sustainability Engagement Officer, tells us more about the work we’re doing to ensure we’re serving healthy food prepared with the minimum harm to nature.

Daisy Malt

Daisy Malt

Here at the University of Essex, we have been continuously working to reduce our carbon emissions and improve the quality of our environment, as detailed in a recent blog from our Head of Sustainability, Rob Davey. Within the sector, our emissions are, overall, lower than many other institutions. In fact, our carbon emissions have fallen by a third, compared with 2005 levels (a drop of just over 5,700 tonnes of CO2, which is approximately equivalent to 2,500 white rhinoceros!) and our current goal is to achieve a reduction of 43% by the end of the 2020-21 academic year. Our long-term goal is to become carbon neutral.

In support of the University’s Sustainability Sub-Strategy 2016-19, which “commits to serving healthy food prepared with the minimum harm to nature” as well as championing “ethical production, alternatives to meat, local ingredients and avoiding foods derived from endangered species”, the University will now be offering only meat-free catering at all committee meetings and committee events beginning in the 2019-20 academic year. This is a fantastic step towards reducing our impact on the environment – reduced meat consumption is one of the biggest ways people can lower their carbon footprint. While this applies only to committees at this stage, we hope that teams across the University will follow suit by choosing meat-free options when catering for other meetings and events.

Livestock takes up around 83 percent of farmland, yet only contributes 18 per cent of our food calories, and huge quantities of resources, including water, are needed to feed and rear animals that we then eat. In addition, those same animals produce large amounts of greenhouse gases, like Methane, whose negative effect on the climate is 23 times higher than the effect of CO2. Regular meat-eaters can lower their impact and decrease their carbon footprint by having just one meat-free day per week.

Of equal importance is reducing food waste too; we encourage everyone who orders catering for meetings to ensure they don’t over-order and, when there is excess food, consider how it can be distributed.

If you’re looking for an alternative for lunch, Essex Food outlets on campus, plus SU venues, offer a wide range of meat-free options.

The new meat-free catering menu and order form for committees may be found on the SharePoint Committee Portal under Resources for Committee Management.

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Meet the Essex Apprenticeships and Summer Schools Team

Filed under: Latest news — ckeitch @ 12:21 pm

Our Apprenticeships Team and the Summer Schools Hub have recently merged to become EASST (Essex Apprenticeships and Summer Schools Team). We met the team to find out more about their work.

The EASST team

The EASST team

Who are EASST

There are four of us in total

  • Rachel Brown – Senior Apprenticeships and Summer Schools Manager
  • Julie Hewitt – Summer Schools Manager
  • Samantha Williams – Apprenticeships Officer
  • Olivia Hume – Summer Schools Officer

What is the main purpose of the team?

The main purpose of our team is to manage the Higher and Degree Apprenticeships and flagship Summer Schools delivered at the university. The team was brought together to promote the alternative routes in Higher Education available at Essex. Both the Summer Schools Hub and Apprenticeships Hub offer students flexibility in their studies to enhance their skillsets and employability.

What are the main responsibilities of your team?

The Apprenticeships Hub is responsible for supporting academic departments delivering Higher and Degree apprenticeships, as well as helping to develop new apprenticeships, including the writing and submission of Apprenticeship bids.  We also work closely with apprentices, employers, assessment organisations to make sure that everyone has the best possible experience as part of their apprenticeship.

The Summer Schools Hub focuses on supporting our flagship summer schools. These bring together experts from around the world to share their expertise and experiences, provide insight into current trends and developments and train participants in a range of specialised fields. We support departments in all areas of these summer schools from coordinating and planning to marketing and promotion.

Tell me something funny or unique about yourselves

Rachel has been High Hurstwood’s May Queen since 1977, Julie was invited to Iron Maiden’s very first professional gig by Steve Harris, who was friend at the time.

Sam is obsessed with all things Christmas and watches a Christmas film on 24 June every year to mark the six month countdown to Christmas, and Olivia is surprisingly good at hula-hooping.

What projects are you most proud of?

Essex was one of the first Universities in the country to go through a full three day Ofsted inspection for the Higher Apprenticeships and we were thrilled to receive the outcome of ‘Good’. The areas covered were leadership and management, quality of teaching, personal development and outcomes for learners.

The Summer Schools Hub has also produced new webpages to showcase the Academic and Professional Summer Schools at the University, creating a more visible web presence. We hope that this will make it easier for potential delegates to find out information about the Summer Schools we offer here at Essex, whilst also providing an opportunity for cross marketing.

What are your current priorities?

Our key priority is the growth and expansion of both Apprenticeships and Summer Schools in order to provide a diversity of learning opportunities in line with the University Strategy 2019-25.

What is your one tip for other people working at the University?

Essex Sport run some excellent fitness classes. Sam and Olivia often attend Zumba and step classes in their lunch break and find that this energises them for the afternoon ahead.

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17 October 2019

Impact Acceleration Accounts – an impact pipeline for Essex research

Filed under: Latest news — ckeitch @ 4:16 pm

Professor John Preston is Deputy Dean (Faculty of Social Sciences) and the Principal Investigator of IAA2. Here he tells us more about how the Impact Acceleration Accounts are helping researchers collaborate with businesses and policymakers.

Professor John Preston

Professor John Preston

The impact agenda is impossible to ignore in Higher Education. The Research Excellence Framework makes increasing demands on academics to evidence their influence on the economy, society and culture. Research funders, particularly funding councils, require ‘pathways to impact’ to be mapped out when a grant is submitted and working with business or policy makers requires sustained engagement. That’s why it’s so important for us to to provide ‘impact pipelines’, routes by which research impact can be generated and supported, for our researchers at Essex. One of these pipelines is the Impact Acceleration Accounts and we have been awarded a second tranche of funding from the Economic and Social Research Council to fund impact activities.

This round of the Impact Acceleration Accounts awards us nearly a million pounds of funding over four years to transform our research into deep and lasting real world impact. Although the funding is focused on social sciences, researchers in any discipline are welcome to apply as long as the research contains a substantive element of social science, as defined by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). This means that there are opportunities for researchers in the Faculty of Science and Health and the Faculty of Humanities as long as their research involves social science elements.

In July this year we carried out our first ‘challenge lab’ activity on public health.  Our researchers, alongside stakeholders from Public Health England; the NHS; charities; and the private sector, to find solutions to future public health challenges like ageing, social isolation and mental health. We preceded this challenge lab with an ‘impact dialogue’, which gave our academics, working closely with the other stakeholders, the opportunity to define, and then act on, the impact agendas of the future.

As well as our other IAA funding streams, we will continue with the impact dialogue and challenge lab format over the next three years, enabling our researchers to better engage with policy makers and other stakeholders. Through the Impact Academy the IAA will also deliver a rolling programme of workshops to provide training, advice, and guidance to researchers on impact activities at all levels.

Professor Jennifer Rubin, Executive Chair of ESRC, said that the aim of the IAA is to bring: “ world leading research … to bear on the pressing social and economic challenges and opportunities we face.” By further developing our ‘impact pipeline’ from ideation through to implementation we are rising to this challenge at Essex.

Apply to the IAA Impact Fund and Active Engagement Fund

The Impact Fund provides funding for novel ideas for engaging with research users to deliver impact of social science research. Up to £10,000 is available per project.

The deadline for applications to this round of the Impact fund is Wednesday 20 November. Find out more.

The Active Engagement Fund supports events designed to enable the development of relationships with research users (up to £2,000 is available per event) and meetings with potential research users (up to £500 is available per meeting).

As a responsive fund, applications to the Active Engagement Fund can be made at any time.

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4 October 2019

First ever Deputy PVC Research appointed at Essex

Filed under: Latest news, People pages, Research impact — Communications, CER @ 2:36 pm

Dr Leila Musavian has been announced as our first ever Deputy Pro-Vice-Chancellor Research. We speak to both her and our PVC Research Professor Christine Raines, to find out more about this crucial new appointment.

Dr Leila Musavian is our first Deputy PVC Research.

Professor Christine Raines; the Deputy PVCR is a new role that the University hasn’t had before. Could you tell us more about it and why it is important in the lead up to REF2021?

REF2021 is a key part of our strategy for Research and in this final year, as we run up to the submission on 27 November 2020, the PVCR is responsible for the delivery of our submission. Therefore to allow the space and time for focus on REF at the same time as developing our new Research Strategy the role of DPVR has been established to provide support for the PVCR. This will enable priorities for our Research agenda to move forward.

Dr Musavian, tell us more about yourself, how long have you been at Essex?

I am a reader at the School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering. I have been with the University of Essex since December 2016. My main research field is Wireless Communications. In recent years, my research is focused on challenges related to 5G and Beyond 5G communication technologies, in terms of investigating innovative enabling technologies, understanding the requirements for the future use-cases and investigating solutions for rural coverage.

Professor Christine Raines is our PVC Research.

What do you hope to achieve in your new role?

This year is an exciting and important year for the University as we develop our new Research Strategy and we finalise our submission for REF2021. I will work closely with the PVCR, Professor Christine Raines, to have a smooth transition throughout the year so that while we focus on these exciting new tasks, the normal day-to-day activities for implementing the current University Research Strategy are fulfilled.

What will be your immediate priorities?

My immediate priority is to provide support to Professor Christine Raines, the PVCR, for developing and maintaining policies and activities towards enabling our staff to carry out world leading research. I will work closely with academics and professional services staff to support the University’s mission for “excellence in education and research, for the benefit of individuals and communities”.

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