Students Staff
University of Essex

July 7, 2020

Our campuses

Dear all,

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

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

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

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

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

We are currently in Advanced Protection.

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

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

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

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

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

With best wishes to all,

Bryn Morris

Registrar & Secretary

University of Essex



June 26, 2020

VC’s all staff and student update

Dear staff and students,

As the Summer Term ends today, this will be my last weekly email, although I will continue to share updates with our community as and when necessary through ‘Essex Weekly’ and ‘Essex Spirit’. I want to take this opportunity to thank all staff – those working on campus, working from home and those furloughed – and all students for your support and flexibility in responding to COVID-19.

I am proud of the way that we have responded to the pandemic: by putting our courses on-line; and by adapting assessment and delivering the best possible experience for our students. All this has taken place at the same time as developing dual delivery for next year – and looking after 1,500 students who have remained on our Southend and Colchester campuses. Over 850 University staff have been furloughed as a result of the pandemic. I know that this has been difficult and your support and forbearance are much appreciated.

I also want to thank all our students for the adjustments that you have had to make in continuing your studies in truly exceptional circumstances. The impact of the pandemic has been profound, both on our work at the University and on each of us personally, and I want to express my thanks to you. This has also been a challenging time for our Students’ Union, with major disruption since March and a significant number of staff furloughed. I want to thank the SU sabbatical team for your leadership this year in a wide range of areas. Student-led activism has been vital in highlighting that we must do more to tackle racism. A working group report will be considered by Council on 9 July and taking action is a priority for us. I would also thank the SU for your continued commitment to partnership working with the University in these unprecedented times. Our usual celebration events over the summer term have either not taken place, or been switched on-line and this is an opportunity for me to say thank you.

As we enter the summer period, there remains much that we need to do, including a significant focus on conversion and other recruitment activities, curriculum re-design, on-going Masters’ and PhD supervision, and research. Preparations are now underway for a move back to on-campus working and there will also be important routine summer work to prepare our campuses for the start of next academic year. This is important work, but I urge you all to take a break in the coming months so that you can rest, recharge and prepare for Academic Year 2020-21.

Once again thank you for your support – it is much appreciated.

Anthony Forster

Vice-Chancellor



June 17, 2020

VC’s weekly email

Dear staff and students,

I want to take the opportunity of my weekly email to update you on work that is now underway to ensure that the experience of University staff and students lives up to our commitment to be an inclusive community.

On 3 June I acknowledged that racism exists within our University and that we can and must tackle this head on, both at a systemic level and in confronting the ways in which racism affects the everyday lives of Black students and staff. We have established a working group comprising students and staff, including representatives of the SU, and we have launched an initial listening phase that offers our community of students, staff and alumni a range of ways to share their experiences. As part of this work we are holding a Tackling Racism webinar on 18 June. If you would like to participate please register here.

An interim report from the working group setting out the themes that are emerging from the initial listening phase will be discussed by Council’s Resources Committee on 22 June and by Senate on 24 June. The final report following the end of this listening phase on 19 June will be considered by USG on 30 June and Council on 9 July and will also include proposed actions which the working group recommends are taken in order to tackle racism.

The University does not want to prejudge how the work should be taken forward until we have collected input through this initial listening phase – other than making a clear commitment that our next steps must be focused on ensuring we take action in a sustained way. We want to be held to account in making rapid progress to address racism where it exists on our campuses, and it is essential that what we do and how we do it has the support of Black students and staff.

In our University Strategy 2019-25 we have re-framed our priorities to emphasise our commitment to putting staff and students at the centre of everything we do. This commitment reflects our values of inclusion, partnership and community. We need to do more to ensure that we can understand, in a systematic way, the everyday lived experiences of the diverse  groups of students and staff that comprise our University.

We have to ensure the lived experience is a regular and consistent focus for each of us as individuals, and informs all our planning and decision-making processes. It is clear that we have been too reactive in the past and that we need to be more responsive to the needs of our diverse communities in the future. On 9 July, in addition to considering the report from the working group, Council will discuss our approach to diversity and inclusion in general and will be asked to agree proposed actions to ensure that we are positioned to do better in future.

I know that policies and processes alone do not create inclusive environments and this is why we want to take an approach which places as much emphasis on how people behave as it does on policy and process. If you have any ideas that you would like to share, please email us at diversity@essex.ac.uk

Anthony Forster

Vice-Chancellor



June 4, 2020

The world is changing, and so are we – but we are still Essex

Our Academic Registrar, Richard Stock, tells us more about our plans for enabling you to continue your studies in the 2020-21 academic year. 

As the main summer assessment period draws to a close, I wanted to update you on our plans for enabling you to continue your studies in the 2020-21 academic year. I know this remains a difficult time for everyone – especially our students. I hope you and your friends and family are staying safe. Please remember we are here for you and will continue to do all we can to support you.

We understand that your University experience is an important period in your life. We really care about keeping you safe and making sure your remaining time with us is amazing. Essex has always been a home for ground-breakers and change-makers; free thinkers and people who challenge established conventions, who find solutions to complex problems and who want to make a difference in the world around them.

We are not going to let the pandemic stop you from succeeding in your studies. Our Essex students and graduates are doing fantastic things to make the world a better place, wherever they are. We are proud of our brilliant Essex community, and look forward to welcoming you back next year to continue to be part of it. The world needs you now, more than ever: your ideas and talents, your creativity and courage. We will be here for you in October, ready to help you every step of the way.

What can you expect next year?

Over the last few weeks, we have been working hard to plan for next year. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world but we remain absolutely determined to provide you with the best Essex education and student experience we can while safeguarding your health and wellbeing. Our commitment to enabling you to continue and complete your studies is stronger than ever.

The uncertainty created by the pandemic means we are focusing on flexibility to fit your circumstances. We are redesigning how we teach, deliver your learning and enable you to undertake research to make sure that you continue to have a great Essex experience next year.

The approach we are adopting puts you at the heart of our thinking. It is based on ‘dual delivery’ to provide flexibility for you and to reduce uncertainty so you can plan with confidence. We want and expect you to return to your campus at the start of the year. If you are unable to due to restrictions created by COVID-19, our dual delivery plan means you can register and resume your studies on time wherever you are and can then join us when you are able.

Our approach has a number of core elements at its heart, which I have set out below:

  • The academic year will start on time in October. Courses will be taught in a way that blends face-to-face learning with a range of virtual lectures and other learning activities. We want and are planning for this to be on our campuses from the start of term. We will protect your health and wellbeing by managing the size of face-to-face activities and ensuring that we are using all our available space to support physical distancing when you are face-to-face. The flexibility we are building into our ‘dual-delivery’ teaching programme will mean that you can and should plan to return this October with confidence. This offers the best of both worlds: great face-to-face teaching whenever safe, including classes, tutorials and group work, supported by the latest digital learning tools and techniques. Our postgraduate research community will also continue to benefit from research support and supervision on campus whenever safe and through using a range of digital tools.
  • Minimising any disruption during the whole academic year. Our dual delivery approach will mean that, if necessary, we can move to off-campus delivery at any point during the academic year. This will ensure you can continue your studies uninterrupted, whatever the circumstances.
  • Ensuring the best student experience – because you are still Essex. We know that your time at Essex is not just about your learning. We know you want to have fun; to meet your friends and to get the absolute most from your time with us. We are working with our Departments, clubs and societies and with our Students’ Union to make sure that, even if you join us physically later on and things are a bit different this autumn, your experience will still be as good as it possibly can be.
  • Welcoming you back to your home from home. We know you may have many questions about travel to, and life on, our campuses this autumn. If you were planning to book University accommodation and, for any reason, you do not move into the accommodation that we offer to you, please be assured we won’t charge you any accommodation costs. If you need to book private accommodation, please do so as normal while seeking advice from your landlord or agent about their plans for managing your booking.

Your safety, and that of our staff, is paramount to us and you should not be concerned about life on our campuses. Over 1,500 students who were not able to return home throughout this pandemic have safely lived and learned on campus over the last few months. We have looked after them and they have looked after each other, so – whether you are studying with us on-campus or off-campus – you can be confident that Essex cares and we will always look after you, at your home from home.

Arrangements about teaching, learning and supervision will differ between Departments. In the coming weeks, your Department (or Departments if you are studying a joint Degree) will be providing more information for you about your course next year. Module enrolment will open on 25 June 2020. Your Department or School will be in contact with you very soon to help you with your choices and with details of the opportunities you and your fellow students will have to raise any questions and hear from your lecturers.

In the meantime, if you have any questions about your course or modules, please contact the professional services team in your Department or School. They are there for you so please do make the most of them. They have a wealth of knowledge and can help if you’re not sure how to contact somebody in the Department.

Our Student Services Hubs for Colchester, Southend and Loughton are operating phone, email and live chat facilities and can provide information on our range of mental health and emotional support services. The Students’ Union Advice service is available and operating remotely.

Finally, we know you will have many questions about your course and your plans for next year, which my email today will not have answered. Please do not worry, we understand. When we know more, we will share the answers with you as soon as we can. We will provide regular updates over the summer, including more information about student life next year. We will continue to publish information online through our dedicated COVID-19 webpages to support you as the answers become available. We are working with the Students’ Union to ensure the information we provide responds to the questions you have and the issues that are of most concern to you.

We are looking forward to welcoming you back to the Essex community next year.



June 3, 2020

VC’s all staff and student email

Against the backdrop of the global protests in response to the murder of George Floyd, on our campuses the University is rightly being challenged to do better in tackling racism. In recent days discussions in our staff forums and networks; engagement with students in our academic departments; and the powerful personal testimony of students, alumni and black officers from our Students’ Union have reinforced how much more there is for the University to do. Following discussion with the Chair of Council, the Vice-Chancellor has set out the University’s response in the message below.

Dear staff and students,

Against the backdrop of the global protests in response to the murder of George Floyd, I want to acknowledge the racism which exists within our University. Students and staff face racism on a daily basis, on our campuses and in our surrounding communities, and are rightly outraged. We can and must tackle this head on, both at a systemic level and in our everyday lives.

Student-led activism has been vital in highlighting racial injustice and the role of the Students’ Union is essential in confronting the challenge.

A start has been made. Work is underway to decolonise the curriculum and ensure we address differences in outcomes across different student groups; ensure our recruitment procedures are fair and inclusive; evaluate the effectiveness of our ‘Report and Support’ system; constantly review our unconscious bias training; and create better dialogue between all our communities and the University. We are also implementing a wide range of actions as we seek Race Equality Charter status. At the same time, we are working with the Students’ Union and local communities to create inclusive environments for our staff and students.

Important actions though these are, they have not proved to be adequate in responding to consistent requests for action from brave students and staff. We have not done enough.

We need to re-double our efforts to identify what more we can and should do. We want to listen, we want to be challenged and we want to be held to account. To this end, I would like to ask you to share your views through:

  • email to diversity@essex.ac.uk;
  • an on-line discussion forum to be launched next week;
  • a webinar which we will hold in the next fortnight;
  • staff may also want to engage with our existing staff forums.

In addition, the Students’ Union is asking for testimony and feedback from Black students, and, if you feel more comfortable sharing information with the Students’ Union, please email vpactivities@essex.ac.uk. The University can then work with the Students’ Union to ensure we have a comprehensive picture and to identify what needs to be done to tackle racism and systemic barriers to inclusion.

We will respond quickly with reports to Senate on 24 June and Council on 9 July with detailed actions.

I am sorry we have taken too long to recognise that we need to do more. With the help of our community this is what we must now do.

Anthony Forster

Vice-Chancellor



May 15, 2020

Planning our move back onto our campuses

Dear colleagues and students,

On Friday of last week, the Vice-Chancellor wrote to us all explaining how we are developing our plans to enable us to start a return to more campus-based work and study. He outlined that the University would not be re-introducing more on campus activities yet and that we would only do so when we are confident that a phased return can be managed in a manner that keeps our students and staff safe.

Since then, the Government has published its COVID-19 recovery strategy which is supplemented by more detailed guidance documents. Although the guidance is helpful, it is still our intention to make our own assessment of when we should move from the current Advanced Protection arrangements. In making sure we get our plans right, we want to take full advantage of the insight, expertise and understanding of the University community.

As part of this process, I am sharing the proposed approach to planning our move back onto our campuses, and invite your comments and feedback.  I am also consulting with the Trades Unions, the Students’ Union and our safety representatives in good time with regard to these proposals.

Our approach will be to identify progressively less restrictive levels of protection under which the University will operate in the future, to ensure that we maintain a safe and healthy environment with more staff and students on campus. The University’s business continuity plan for COVID-19 initially identified two escalating levels of response: Enhanced and Advanced Protection.  We are currently in Advanced Protection.

Since moving into the Advanced Protection stage, we have been working to enhance our business continuity plan by developing two further proposed levels of protection. These outline the different arrangements that we would put in place as we bring more activities back onto campus and progressively lift restrictions on how we study, live and work. As a consequence, our plan now comprises five levels of operation:

  1. Advanced Protection, where essential services only are delivered on campus with all activities that are not essential to support the needs of students remaining on our campuses being delivered remotely;
  2. Enhanced Protection, with the majority of activities still being delivered remotely, but where limited services may be available safely on campus, with strict limits on the numbers of staff coming onto campus at any one time to facilitate rigorous social distancing;
  3. Sustained Protection, a new stage, providing measures that enable more elements of on-campus activity to resume than within Enhanced Protection but retaining arrangements where a significant number of staff will continue to be working from home; once we are confident that it is appropriate to move to this level it would, if circumstances deem necessary, be possible to remain in this mode for an extended period of time, given the risks of further waves of infection that might occur;
  4. Targeted Protection, a stage in which most activities would be able to resume on campus, but where we may need to continue to restrict very high risk activities from being undertaken, where we could not be confident, for example, that social distancing or other protective measures would be adequate to mitigate risks of infection;
  5. Steady State, a new form of business as usual, as yet undefined but which may encompass aspects of our working and learning experiences over the recent months where these have worked well for staff, students and the delivery of our mission.

As the Vice-Chancellor has advocated, whatever level of protection we operate in, the individual circumstances of our staff and students will be taken into account. This means that extra care will be taken in relation to those with underlying medical conditions, or those with risks to members of their households who may be shielding, self-isolating or, themselves, have underlying conditions.

The Government’s timeline indicates an intention for further easing of lockdown measures from 1 June. We are working to a longer timetable than this. We do not expect to be moving away from Advanced Protection and into Enhanced Protection until Monday 6 July at the earliest. We also do not expect that circumstances will enable us to move into Sustained Protection measures until at least Monday 7 September. Both of these dates could be moved further back but will not be brought forward. Pacing ourselves in this way will not only give us time to evaluate the broader societal impact of derestriction, but also to take soundings from colleagues and union representatives to ensure our plans are the best that they can be.

Our proposed approach is published in the revised Business Continuity Plan (.docx) and applied in draft to the detail of the activities (.docx) we undertake across our campuses.

We are also developing separate guidelines on the management of social distancing across our campuses and guidance on undertaking risk assessments for staff before returning to campus-based work while the risk of contracting COVID-19 remains. I expect these to be made available next week.

I really would value your views. Please send any comments to registrar@essex.ac.uk. Many thanks indeed to all those who have already contributed. We will re-publish an updated version of the Business Continuity Plan in the week beginning 15 June, and so any comments would be gratefully received by 8 June so that we can give them careful consideration and make revisions as appropriate. Thank you again for all your support and contributions.

I wish you all a good weekend, and hope that you and your families stay safe and well.

With best wishes,

Bryn Morris
Registrar & Secretary



May 7, 2020

Planning for our return to campus-based working

Dear colleagues and students,

Talking to colleagues, I know that many of us are anxious about returning to work on our campuses and keen to know how we are going to manage a process of phased return, that prioritises the safety, health and well-being of our staff and students. You may also have seen reports in the national press over the last 24 hours that the Prime Minister will make an announcement about the Government’s “roadmap” for lifting the lockdown on Sunday 10th May. The key headline I want to share is that other than essential staff currently working on our campuses, you should continue to work from home until, as a University community, we are confident that we can manage a phased return to campus-based working, that keeps our students and staff safe.

First and foremost, whilst we will always take UK Government advice into account in shaping the actions of the University, our approach goes beyond merely obeying the law of the land. We are absolutely committed to doing all that we can to safeguard the health and well-being of staff and students. This is why, despite some criticism, we implemented our ‘Enhanced Protection’ measures on 16th March, suspending all face-to-face delivery of teaching and supervision, in advance of the Government’s lockdown of the UK on 23rd March. Whatever the Government says over the weekend, we will not be announcing a phased return to campus based working next week (11th – 15th May).

Second, we know that the trust and confidence that our community have in our plans to return to campus-based work and study will play a key role in ensuring that, when the time is right for a phased return, people feel willing and able to return to campus-based working. This is true for those of us who continue to work on our campuses in an environment where only 1,500 staff and students are currently on the Colchester campus – as well as for staff and students who have been off campus working from home. A key feature of our approach is to publish detailed plans to managing our campuses during the pandemic. Our ‘Enhanced’ and ‘Advanced’ Protection Plans are available on our website, so that everyone can clearly see the actions we are taking to protect the safety of our community, and so that we can benefit from your feedback on our approach. We will continue to adopt this approach: we will publish the next set of detailed plans for a phased return to campus-based working as soon as these are ready. We will also continue to work very closely with all three of our campus trades unions, noting TUC and sector-based union advice and other sector guidance from bodies such as Universities UK and the Society of College, National and University Libraries. We are also working with the S10 Group, a group of 10 campus-based universities in the south of England and we will also draw on experiences of return-to-work planning from organisations and sectors outside Higher Education when we meet with our external Council members at our Council Away Day next Monday. We haven’t got all the answers and we want your views on what you would like to see included – and on how we can best provide assurance to you. Please feel free to email us at covid19@essex.ac.uk if you have views that you would like to share.

Our approach will recognise the personal circumstances of staff and students. This includes specific consideration of health risks for our staff, including a colleague’s own underlying medical conditions and for those of us who live with people who may be shielding, self-isolating or, themselves, have underlying conditions. Our approach also includes us ensuring that we will protect your health in a variety of physical locations, such as teaching rooms, offices, accommodation, retail and catering outlets and entry and exiting of physical spaces. Equality, diversity and inclusion issues will be at the forefront of our minds and our plans subject to an equality impact assessment/COVID-19 risk assessment. We will also consult with health and safety representatives of our three campus trades unions, before finalising our plans.

It is most likely that the Government will adopt an approach of progressively loosening of lockdown restrictions. I want to assure you that we will begin to implement our plans for phased return to our campuses only when we can do so safely. Instead of my weekly email next week, Bryn Morris, our Registrar and Secretary will send an all staff email to share our draft plans and seek your feedback.

Finally, we are also reviewing all aspects of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) needs across the various environments in which we may need to work and to ensure PPE matches the personal circumstances that each of us might have. This includes: the adequate provision of PPE such as face masks/gloves; ensuring that we embrace sustainable solutions; and that, in looking after our needs, we do not take vital equipment away from the NHS, health and social care sectors and other emergency services. In addition, we are looking at the layout of facilities, how our staff and students can work safely in shared offices and navigate around campus with minimum congestion; and how we can best highlight our community’s expectations of individual staff and students in terms of social distancing, hand washing, the use of hand sanitizers and so on. We are also looking at a wide range of issues related to travel to and from our places of work.

In advance of any Government announcement, I hope this provides an update on our general approach and reassurance that, whilst we all want to return to campus-based working, it has to be in circumstances where risks are managed carefully and our staff and students have confidence that you will be safe.

I hope you have a good break over the early May Bank Holiday and that you and your families stay safe and well.

Anthony Forster

Vice-Chancellor



May 6, 2020

Supporting you to succeed

Our Academic Registrar, Richard Stock, tells us more about all the support we can offer our students to help them to prepare and to succeed. 

I hope you are settling into the new term after the Easter vacation. I know this remains a difficult time for everyone, and especially for our students. We have all had to adapt very quickly to working remotely. I know that for you this has meant new ways of learning at the same time as managing significant upheaval in your day-to-day lives. I understand how difficult this is. Our primary concern has and will always be the health and wellbeing of our students and staff. Everything we are doing is designed to enable you to continue and complete your programme of study while staying safe.

As we prepare for the start of our main summer exam period next week, I am keen to share with you information on how to access all the support we can offer to help you prepare and to succeed. In the run up to the exam period, please remember to:

In my previous updates to you, I have explained why we are continuing with the exams during the summer term. We are committed to safeguarding your success and we believe it is important that we provide you with opportunities to demonstrate your learning. Our alternative assessments have been adapted to the circumstances of the pandemic and will enable you to continue and complete your programmes of study through this uncertain time.

Our aim is to support you to undertake the assessment set out in your timetable in the same way that you would have been expected to sit the exams that were planned before the COVID-19 pandemic started. At the same time, we do recognise the difficult circumstances that you may be facing and that this means you might not be able to give of your best.

We understand that you may have caring or childcare responsibilities, other personal commitments, or may find it difficult to access IT facilities, all of which might affect your academic performance. The pandemic itself may be causing you to worry as you continue to deal with the implications of social distancing and protecting yourself and your family and friends.

Our approach to alternative assessment takes these factors into account, to ensure that you have a fair opportunity to demonstrate your learning. You will only be assessed on the content of your modules that you have been taught, and the methods of assessment have been adapted to recognise the disruption in your learning as well as the new circumstances in which you are completing them.

How we can support you
If you have any questions about your assessment or your course or modules, please contact the professional services team in your Department or School. They are there for you so please do make the most of them. They have a wealth of knowledge on all the support available in your Department or School and can help if you’re not sure how to contact somebody in the Department.

Please remember to contact your Personal Tutor if you need them. You can talk to them if you have any questions about your course or if you’re having any difficulties with your studies.

We provide a wide range of academic skills support. There are webinars and individual support sessions provided by the Skills for Success team. Events are bookable via CareerHub and more information about the support available can be found on our academic skills pages. Please book a place, or if you have a specific inquiry, please ask: we are here to help.

The Library team is also available to provide you with additional advice and help. The team are working hard every day, responding to emails and providing advice through live chats. Subject Librarians are providing one to one support via Zoom. Please remember to access our online Library resources, you can find information on these pages about how to book a session with your Subject Librarian. The Library team can live chat via the website or you can email them enquiries at libline@essex.ac.uk.

Whatever your circumstances, you will not be disadvantaged
We have taken a number of actions to support you to succeed so that you can progress to the next stage of your studies or graduate this summer. I want to stress that, whatever your circumstances, you will not be disadvantaged by the COVID-19 pandemic.

I wrote to you on 16 April to set out the main elements of our ‘No Detriment’ approach. We have responded to the exceptional circumstances we are all facing together, while recognising your needs as individual students and the different requirements of your modules and courses. The full details of our no detriment approach are available on our website, which will continue to be updated. Our approach will be applied for all taught students, both undergraduate and postgraduate, and all assessment you have or will undertake in this academic year, including coursework and dissertations, as well as the alternative assessment.

We have streamlined the extenuating circumstances and exam absence notification processes to ensure that we capture and support all students who have experienced difficulties in successfully completing assessments. More information and guidance is now available online so please do take time to read it.

If you can’t take your alternative assessment right now, for whatever reason, we will offer you another opportunity with no penalty. All decisions by the Board of Examiners will take into account the impact of the pandemic and you will not be disadvantaged by the difficulties created by COVID-19.

Student Support Services
Your academic success matters to us as does your wider experience and wellbeing as a member of the Essex community, whichever campus you are on and wherever you are studying now.

Our Student Services Hubs for ColchesterSouthend and Loughton are operating phone, email and live chat facilities and can provide information on our range of mental health and emotional support services.

We are offering online activities to help our community to continue to come together, even if we can’t meet in person. We know some of you are facing financial hardship. We have adapted our student hardship fund, opening it up to all students experiencing hardship and making it as easy and straightforward as possible to apply for support. We are working hard to increase the total amount of funding available through this route.

The Students’ Union Advice service is available and operating remotely. They are able to book Zoom or telephone appointments and can be contacted using the following details:

Or via telephone between 10am and 4pm, Monday to Friday:

  • 07395 955656
  • 07511 303169

For specific queries relating to COVID-19, please email our dedicated team at covid19@essex.ac.uk. Our COVID-19 webpages continue to provide a wealth of information on support available.

I understand that this continues to be a tough time for you and I want you to remember that we are always here to help. Please keep an eye on your Essex email but also Facebook, Twitter, Moodle and MyEssex for updates and support. I wish you all the best as you prepare for the summer assessment period and remainder of this academic year. Stay safe and keep in touch. We are here to support you in any way we can.



May 1, 2020

An update on research spend

In light of the restrictions that COVID-19 has placed on our budgets a number of questions have arisen about spending for research. Our Pro-Vice Chancellor (Research), Professor Christine Raines, tells us more.

Can I spend funds from external research grants?
Yes, there is no change to spend on external research grants and this should continue as normal, all approved costs on grants are available including, for example, appointment of research and professional services staff or externally funded extensions to contracts (these require financial and HR approvals), purchase of equipment and consumables and attendance at conferences (virtual while travel not permitted). The REF census date for spend on research grants is still 31 July 2020 and it would helpful to maximise legitimate spend on grants before 31July. This in turn will also help with Indirect Costs Returned (ICR) generation.

Can I advertise posts funded by external grants during the pandemic and throughout next academic year?
Yes, externally funded posts on research grants can be advertised as per the funding application. To ensure this process runs smoothly, colleagues need to include the text “EXTERNAL FUNDING” and the FUNDER’S NAME, in block capitals in the “Case for Position” section of the “Request to Recruit – Grant Funded (REO)” form found in Unit 4. This will enable our colleagues in People and Culture to identify the roles that can still be recruited to and will prevent any potential delays in the recruitment process.

The University has an established redeployment process to support staff who are at risk of redundancy in applying for other roles that become available within the University. Staff on the redeployment register will be notified of external grant-funded posts when they are advertised. All offers must be approved by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (academic) or Registrar and Secretary (professional service).

Can funds obtained for teaching buy out be drawn on?
a. Yes, if the research funds obtained have a specified budget line for staff buy-out from teaching as per the request in the application.

b. If the funds obtained are to cover Academic time on a research grant to undertake or manage research, a case should be made upon notification of grant success based on the revised teaching programme, areas to be covered and available existing resource. Any requests for teaching backfill in these circumstances should be made by the Head of Department to the Executive Dean for approval by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor. Requests should be based on the lowest cost option for delivering essential teaching. We remain committed to ensuring Principle Investigators are able to fulfil the research time commitments detailed in the research bid and that departments are able to manage any subsequent teaching need.

Can I continue to spend the funds in my Education and Research Incentive Account (ERIA)?
Yes, any funds held in ERIA accounts will continue to be available to support excellence in research, but should be restricted for essential, time sensitive activities. For example, costs of carrying out time-sensitive pandemic-related research during the period from now until the 31 July 2020. ERIA funds roll over from one financial year into the next and any funds not spent during 2019-20 are guaranteed to remain available during 2020-21. There is no need to spend up these funds before 31 July 2020. Furthermore, as the Vice-Chancellor explained in his email about securing our future, moving expenditure into next academic year wherever possible will help us to avoid returning an accounting deficit in 2019-20. For this reason, wherever possible, it would be better to move this spend to 2020-21, but it will remain available for staff to use in support of time sensitive research activities if needed.

Can my department continue to spend Department Operating Budget on research activities in 2019-20?
Spend from Departmental Operating Budgets has been restricted since the 13 April, with only essential purchases that are mission critical for the sustainability of the University being possible. The pressure we are facing to avoid an accounting deficit in 2019-20 means that we have to limit all spending against operating budgets except where these relate to essential needs. The process for Heads of Department to make requests to meet essential needs is through the faculty accountants with approval by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor. We are asking that those making requests set a high threshold on their definition of essential. The Vice-Chancellor has set out the reasons why this really matters between now and 31 July 2020.

Are internal funds available for COVID-19 research?
Yes. There are 4 potential routes to support essential COVID-19 research

a. Staff who hold external research funds should continue to draw down on these as usual.

b. Staff with access to ERIA funds should continue to use these as you have in the past, noting that where possible it would be better for spend to be accrued in 2020-21 rather than 2019-20.

c. Funding remains available for projects that could fit under either the Impact Acceleration Account (IAA), Higher Education Innovation Fund (HEIF), Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) or Enabling Innovation: Research to Application (EIRA) funds.

d. If no other funding is available, and the project is time-sensitive, please contact me, providing a brief outline of the proposed research and summary of costs.

NB. ECR and junior staff who have no ERIA funds should be prioritised for alternative funding sources (provided the quality and importance of the research is competitive).



April 22, 2020

Principles of our ‘no detriment’ approach

As we enter the summer assessment period, we have been thinking hard about how we can support you at a very difficult time and we have agreed and launched a ‘no detriment’ approach. Madeline Eacott, our Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education), tells us more.

Some students have told me you are anxious about what this might mean for you and your circumstances. So I wanted to provide you with reassurance that whatever your circumstances, whatever your course, you are in our thinking and the approach applies to you. I want to start by outlining the principles of our approach and the values that underlie our thinking. This means that if we have a circumstance that is not completely covered in our guidance or FAQs, you can be sure that we will apply our principles to ensure the fairest outcome for you.

Principles of our ‘no detriment’ approach

Principle 1: Student success is at the heart of our thinking

We understand that these have been difficult times for you and we want to support you to succeed to the best of your ability. We recognise the difficult circumstances and know that you may not be at your best at the moment. We will take this into account to give you every opportunity to fulfil your potential to succeed.

Principle 2: Our courses offer a high quality transformative education

We want to recognise your achievements by providing you with opportunities to demonstrate your learning so that you can graduate with pride. But if now is not the right time for you to demonstrate your learning, we understand and we will provide you with other opportunities when the time is right, without any penalty.

Our no detriment approach applies to everyone on a taught course at Essex, whether undergraduate or postgraduate, whether you are in your first year of study with us or final year. We may not yet have the answer to every question you may have at the moment but you can rely on these principles to be confident that we are seeking the best outcome for you.

What no detriment means for everyone:

  1. If you can’t take your alternative assessment as timetabled, for any reason, no detriment: we will offer you another opportunity with no penalty.
  2. If you take an assessment but feel that under the current circumstances, you are not at your best, no detriment: we will offer you another opportunity with no penalty.
  3. If your year group as a whole perform more poorly on your module than we would expect based on the last three years of students on that module, no detriment: we will consider the marks to ensure that you are not disadvantaged.
  4. The Board of Examiners will consider the situation of every student based on their results and ensure that the pandemic situation does not disadvantage them, no detriment.

Not yet having met the learning outcomes

We know that some of you are concerned because you have not taken, or passed, assessments in your modules earlier in the year, that have allowed you to demonstrate the full range of your learning. We describe this as not yet having met the learning outcomes. If this is you, the opportunity to take the assessments during the summer term enables you to demonstrate your achievements and to meet the learning outcomes. I want to assure you that our no detriment approach also applies to you. While we want you to take assessments to demonstrate your learning, we will apply the no detriment approach above, particularly point 3. In this way, we will ensure that undertaking assessment during this difficult situation does not disadavantage you and you will achieve as well as previous year groups who did not face the difficulties you have had. If you feel that the current situation has impacted you beyond those experienced by your year group as a whole, you can submit an extenuating circumstances form to explain, and the Board of Examiners will take this into account for your individual marks as well as any adjustment they may make to marks of the whole year group.

Help and support for you

We know this is a difficult time for you but although we cannot be together at our campuses, we are still here to help and support you. If you have any other questions about your assessments, please check our FAQs online or contact the professional services team in your Department or School. We have created a dedicated set of COVID-19 webpages, which provide information on the support available and they are updated regularly. For specific queries relating to COVID-19, please email our team at covid19@essex.ac.uk.

Our Student Services Hubs for ColchesterSouthend and Loughton campuses can be contacted by phone, email and live chat facilities; and our Library team can live chat via the website or you can email them enquiries at libline@essex.ac.uk.

Remember that we want you to succeed and are here to support you.

Madeline Eacott

PVC Education


 

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