Students Staff

31 March 2020

Will COVID-19 make families stronger?

Filed under: Latest news — mh17332 @ 3:38 pm

Relationships expert, Dr Veronica Lamarche, from the Department of Psychology, explores what impact COVID-19 could have on the family.

For many people around the world, the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak represents uncharted waters. Unlike more localised crises, the global nature of this pandemic means  citizens are able to benchmark their own government’s response to the outbreak against the response by governments in other nations.

This can lead people to question whether their government is doing too little or too much in response to managing the outbreak. For example, in the UK, doubts over the government’s initial reticence to mandate “social-distancing” policies that had already been mandated abroad led to public outcry and letters from scientists requesting greater transparency regarding the science behind these policy decisions.

However, these feelings of uncertainty towards the government may have unintended consequences for families in self-isolation trying to adapt and coexist under the same roof morning, noon and night.

Recent work from our team accepted for publication in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology suggests people may cope with uncertainty in their socio-political relationships by affirming their faith in their close familial bonds, and vice versa.

Across two daily diary studies, a weekly study in the build-up to the 2018 midterm election, and a 3-year study of newlyweds, we found that people coped with feelings of uncertainty in politicians by affirming greater trust and faith in their spouses and children.

What this meant is that on days when people felt that the government had behaved in a way that violated what they expected from them, people compensated for this uncertainty by affirming how caring their spouses and children had been that day.

On the other hand, when it was their close family members who were the ones behaving out of the ordinary, people compensated by affirming that they believed the president had their best intentions at heart.

It is worth highlighting this research was all conducted in the USA, nonetheless, there are important implications that we can take away to better understand the current circumstances many of us find ourselves in.

Our research highlights the importance of realising that our social worlds are more connected than many people have previously believed or realised.

Typically, people think about their romantic relationships, and even their broader family networks, as closed systems. For example, people would anticipate that a fight between spouses would have consequences for their children, but not necessarily assume they would impact their neighbours.

However, our research suggests that the actions within our family networks can change how we think, feel and act socio-politically. These socio-political actions directly impact others by virtue of changing who we vote for and the policies we support. Likewise, our research shows that the actions of our politicians can shift whether we are more or less forgiving of a quarantine partner who refuses to close the kitchen cupboard.

Maintaining satisfying, cohesive, and conflict-free relationships is not only good for our mental health, but is also important for our physical well-being. When it comes to coping with a bizarre and constantly changing world, the extent to which we feel satisfied in our relationships can be an important buffer against feelings of uncertainty and unexpected behaviour.

So, is there anything people can do to fortify their relationships during these challenging days ahead?

One strategy may be to try and reframe recent conflicts with family members. In a marital intervention study declines in marital quality and satisfaction were eliminated when couples were asked to spend seven minutes every few months re-imagining a recent conflict through the eyes of a neutral, third-party observer. Likewise, taking the time to clearly communicate what we want and expect from our partners can pay dividends in the future.

In these unprecedented times, we need to be able to lean on those close to us for support, comfort, and safety. Perhaps there is some solace in knowing that the nightly news updates and their accompanying uncertainty may have the unintended side-effect of drawing us closer to our loved ones by the end of this.



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30 March 2020

Graduation 2020

Filed under: Latest news — Communications, CER @ 4:31 pm

Our Academic Registrar Richard Stock emailed all final year students on Monday 30 March to update them on Graduation 2020.

“I am writing with a very heavy heart, to provide what I know will be very disappointing news about our plans for Graduation 2020. We know that our graduation ceremonies are the highlight of the University’s academic year – and even more important than this, these are the culmination of your hard work, and an important opportunity for you to celebrate your achievements with your friends and family.

“As a consequence of public health actions to minimise the spread of the COVID-19 virus, we have taken the very painful decision to postpone our summer 2020 Graduation ceremonies. We will provide you with an opportunity to celebrate your achievements with friends and family as soon as we can, but I am sorry to say that we are not currently in a position to confirm new dates.

“I want to  confirm that for all our students eligible to graduate this summer you will have your awards conferred as expected; you will have access to your certificates and transcripts this summer and the fact that we are not holing graduation ceremonies will not affect this in any way.

“We want to keep in touch with you and to let you know about ‘all things Essex’ after you officially finish. Please could I urge you to keep your external contact details up to date on ‘My Essex’ and do please  let us know how you would like us to communicate with you once you leave. You can update your preferences online, all you need is your PR_ID (formatted like ABCDE12345):

“I promise to be in touch with an update when we have more news. In the meantime, I wish you all the best as you prepare for the summer assessment period.”

Richard Stock

Academic Registrar

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16 March 2020

Changes to Essex Food outlets

Filed under: Campus news, Latest news — Laura Mathias @ 5:06 pm

Following the start of a period of ‘Enhanced Protection’ at the University from Monday 16 March, Essex Food have introduced several new service developments to ensure the wellbeing of our campus community. Tim Morris, Deputy Director of Operations Estates and Campus Services, explains the changes.

Currently, and for the remainder of the term, we will be operating all restaurants and cafes as normal, with the exception of the street food huts – which will be closed until after the Easter break.

Please see the Essex Food website for updated opening hours.

Tim Morris

Tim Morris

Within the restaurants, you will notice tables have been spaced to ensure safe social distancing, we would also request customers queue using a safe distance apart (one metre).

All our cutlery and crockery will be single use to minimise risk, all food displays will be covered and some of our usual services such as fresh water jugs and glasses will be removed. These services however will be available on request, so please just ask a member of the team.

With concerns around group congregation, we are planning to operate more restaurants on a takeaway basis only, providing continued service whilst minimising risk wherever possible.

Clearly things are changing at a fast pace, and we will continue to react to these changes in line with University and Government guidelines. We apologise for any inconvenience caused, but remain committed to serving the University community.

For more information on COVID-19, please see our guidance for staff and students.

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10 March 2020

How we’re making aspirations happen

Filed under: Latest news — Laura Mathias @ 1:41 pm

We chat to Stephen Pomfret, Head of Collaborative Outreach for Make Happen, part of the Uni Connect outreach programme, run by the Office for Students and based here at the University of Essex.

What kind of work have you been doing this week?
I have just taken up my new role. I’m the new Head of Collaborative Outreach for ‘Make Happen’, the regional Uni Connect (formerly NCOP) programme, having just taken over from Danielle Booth. So, I’m getting to grips with some new tasks, projects and responsibilities…so far, so good.

Stephen from Outreach team

Stephen Pomfret

What kind of roles did you do before joining Make Happen?
My previous role was leading on Make Happen’s monitoring and evaluation. Prior to that, I have worked in access and participation at other institutions. I first became involved in outreach as a student ambassador, I then worked as an outreach officer before moving into the evaluation and the strategic elements of access and participation.

How has Make Happen been making a difference to young people in Essex since it began in 2017?
Working with our partnership 66 schools and 11 colleges from specific postcodes, on successful completion of the first phase of Make Happen in 2019 we had reached 66,500 students across Essex where progression to higher education is lower than expected given the GCSE results of the area, through events, workshops, tours – all kinds of activities.

Make Happen phase two has been running since August 2019, and continues until July 2021, delivering a varied programme of activities to the same partner schools and colleges. All of this work has been supported by continuous evaluation and data analysis to provide a rigorous evidence base for the programme’s effectiveness.

What are you looking forward to in your new role, and what do you think will be the challenges?
Beyond July 2021 Uni Connect, and Make Happen as its regional base in Essex, will become one of a network of outreach hubs serving more schools across Essex. We offer support and activities but also signpost to services. So, while there are changes ahead, I’m looking forward to the challenge of ensuring a smooth transition, as well as delivering and evaluating all our activities while still operating ‘business as usual’.

What kind of tasks have you been doing recently?
Two new staff members have started who I have been working with, as well as continuing to implement our new CRM system. We’re also launching our new website ( to help share good news and good practice, and better signpost students, teachers and carers to other sources of support.

The new website also has a teacher’s community sign-in area with Make Happen documents and a communications toolkit to help teachers, and we’re launching a new newsletter soon.

Plus, we’ve been telling our partners about the recent name change from NCOP (the National Collaborative Outreach Programme) to Uni Connect.

Name three things you love about your job…

1. Working with the team! We have a fantastic team of Collaborative Outreach Officers who deliver brilliant content across the county. Behind the scenes is an equally brilliant team of admin and evaluation support as well the senior team.

2. Seeing the impact on students; especially on long-term projects and sustained interventions, the difference is fantastic to see.

3. Being a part of something that makes a difference –  it’s lovely to know that everything we do is with the purpose of supporting schools, colleges and students across the region.

…and one you don’t!

Sometimes having to say ‘no!’

Check out the team’s new website to find out more about the programme of support for local students.

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9 March 2020

Changes to our postal service

Filed under: Latest news — Laura Mathias @ 5:59 pm

Linda McCanna-Doyle, Deputy Director of Services, talks about the positive changes we’re making to our postal service.

What changes are we making?

  • We have increased our counter opening hours to include lunchtime.
  • We have installed a bank of Amazon lockers (in the corridor at 3NE) to provide a wider collection choice to our customers.
  • Due to changing patterns of incoming and outgoing mail, from Wednesday 1 April, we will reduce the number of post runs to one a day. This will improve how we sort, store and process mail help us to provide a better counter service.James in post room

Why are we making these changes?

  • The past three years have seen a 23% increase in the number of items being delivered to the Post Room. These are mainly parcels for students that are sorted and stored at the Post Room for collection.
  • Outgoing mail from departments has decreased by 68%

Find out more about our post services here.

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4 March 2020

Behind the scenes with the mechanical team

Filed under: Campus news — Laura Mathias @ 10:50 am

The sustainability team chat with Andy Beales, Technical Manager Mechanical and Sam Merritt, Mechanical Supervisor, at the University. Andy’s team carry out plumbing and heating works across our campus making sure all systems run safely.

Tell us a bit about your team?
The team do a fantastic job of keeping all services running throughout the year. There are 74 Boiler rooms across Colchester Campus which the team maintain – we make sure the heating and water keeps flowing.

Mechanical Team at University of Essex

The University of Essex mechanical team

What have you been working on recently?
We’ve been in South Courts Accommodation swapping out old cold water booster pumps for new ones which are more energy-efficient and a lot quieter! We also got creative with some old shelving to create stands for these new pumps.

So you’re good at repurposing materials across campus?
We always try to find ways to reuse and recycle materials. When renovating the Bertrand Russell Tower we salvaged parts from sinks, toilets and radiators so if there are any faults with the remaining towers, we have what we need to fix it. This not only saves the University money but is a sustainable approach to maintenance works.

What can we all do to make our offices environmentally-friendly?
If you have a thermostatic radiator valve turn it down if you get too hot rather than having your ra

Boiler room at Colchester Campus

Boiler room

diator on full and then opening the window.

If you have a dripping tap or broken window, make sure to report it to Estates on 2959. This helps us save energy by making sure everything is running smoothly.

Want to discuss how your work is related to sustainability and the environment? Email the Sustainability team to share your story.

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