History of the University
“The University of Essex was born during a
rare moment of national hope and enthusiasm in the early 1960s,
when everything seemed possible and new departures seemed
Over the past five decades the University of Essex has grown into a thriving
research-intensive university with a worldwide reputation for academic
excellence across the social sciences, humanities, the sciences, law and
We are proud to be part of the wave of universities established in the 1960s
which have gone on to have a global impact.
In 1964 we admitted just over 100 undergraduates; now we have more than
11,000 students at our three campuses in Colchester, Southend and Loughton, from
more than 130 countries.
The early years
Under the leadership of our first Vice-Chancellor, Dr Albert Sloman, the
University of Essex set out to be 'cutting-edge', concentrating on new and
interdisciplinary approaches to study, research and teaching.
This forward-looking approach extended to the design of our Colchester Campus
under architect Kenneth Capon, who aimed to integrate social and educational
space to foster a real sense of community.
Expansion and new partnerships
fourth Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Ivor Crewe, we began validating degrees
from Writtle College, South Essex College, the Tavistock and Portman NHS
Foundation Trust and the Colchester Institute. This means we now have more than
17,000 students studying for our degrees.
The last decade has seen the development of our Loughton Campus, through a
merger with East 15 Acting School, and the launch of our town centre campus in
Southend. A joint initiative with the University of East Anglia, established
University Campus Suffolk in 2007.
We are now approaching our 50th anniversary and under current Vice-Chancellor
Professor Anthony Forster we have ambitious plans to invest more than £200 million
in new buildings and infrastructure at our three campuses.
Highlights from the past five decades.
Essex County Council starts inquiry into establishing a
university in the county.
After Essex County Council starts an inquiry in establishing
a university in the county in 1959, a Promotion Committee is
set-up to prepare a formal application for submission to the
University Grants Committee.
May - Chancellor of the Exchequer announces he has authorised
the establishment of a university and Wivenhoe Park on the
outskirts of Colchester is officially chosen as the site.
September - Academic Planning Board is constituted, under the
Chairmanship of the Provost of King's College, Cambridge, Noel
(later Lord) Annan.
June - Albert E Sloman, MA, DPhil, Gilmour Professor of
Spanish and Dean of the Faculty of Arts at the University of
Liverpool, is appointed as the first Vice-Chancellor.
September - The University is incorporated as a limited
company and in the first meeting of the Council of Governors, it
is agreed to invite leading Conservative politician the Right
Honourable R A (later Lord) Butler, CH, MP, to be the first
Chancellor of the University. Essex County Council presents the
University with the two-hundred-acre Wivenhoe Park site at
Wivenhoe Park. Architects are appointed and a site plan is
prepared which is adopted a year later when the University
launches a public appeal for £1 million.
March - The first professors are appointed.
Our first students are admitted - 77 men and 45 women. The founding departments are Chemistry, Economics, Government,
Literature, Mathematics, Physics, Sociology, the Language Centre and the Computing Centre.
Our Royal Charter is granted and the first new permanent
buildings are completed towards the end of the autumn.
The first residential tower Rayleigh is completed.
First graduation ceremony takes place with 135 degrees
The Department of Art History and Theory admits first
An Essex team reaches the finals of University Challenge,
losing to Sussex.
The number of students reaches nearly 2,000.
University Radio Essex makes first broadcast and the Lakeside
The Department of History admits first students.
The departments of Philosophy and Biological Sciences open.
The first Students' Union bar opens.
Plans to turn Wivenhoe House into a hotel and conference
Sports Centre opens.
A major extension to the Day Nursery opens.
The Kinks and Iggy Pop play in the dance hall.
The School of Law established and student numbers exceed
The Human Rights Centre is established.
The Data Archive appointed to help the BBC to compile a new
Domesday book to mark the 900th anniversary of William I's
original survey of England.
Queen makes her first visit to the University to mark the
University's 21st anniversary.
The Gallery opens with a major exhibition of pre-Columbian
Professor Martin Harris is appointed Vice-Chancellor, taking
over from founding Vice-Chancellor, Albert Sloman and Essex
alumnus Oscar Arias Sanchez receives Nobel Peace Prize for his
efforts to end civil wars in South America.
The Department of Accounting and Financial Management opens.
Wivenhoe Park is listed in English Heritage's Register of
Parks and Gardens.
Student numbers top 4,000.
The Department of Psychology founded.
Ron Johnston, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Academic Affairs and
Professor of Geography at the University of Sheffield appointed
Vice-Chancellor, succeeding Professor Martin Harris.
The University of Essex Collection of Latin American Art
(UECLAA) formally launched and Qualidata, a national archive for
machine-readable survey data, established with the Department of
More than 1,000 revellers attend the Students' Union first
Professor Ron Johnstone succeeded as Vice-Chancellor by Ivor
Crewe, Pro-Vice Chancellor and Professor in the Department of
Building work starts on a £1.6 million extension to the
Albert Sloman Library.
South African President Nelson Mandela accompanies Graca
Machel to the Colchester Campus as she collects her honorary
The Library becomes home to the Sigmund Freud Collection.
The Essex Wizards, a robotic football team from the
Department of Computer Science, come third in RoboCup 99 - an
international tournament where teams of robots compete in
The new Millennium
The University and East 15 Acting School merge.
Essex research is ranked tenth in the national Research
A new partnership with South East Essex College in Southend
is launched and the Department of Health and Human Sciences is
Work begins on a £4 million Networks Centre.
The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh visit the Colchester
Campus to mark the University's 40th anniversary.
The University, in partnership with the University of East
Anglia, receives funding for the development of University
Campus Suffolk in Ipswich.
The Ivor Crewe Lecture Hall opens as one of the largest
lecture halls at a UK higher education institution and a new
partnership with Colchester Institute is announced.
The Southend Campus' flagship building the Gateway Building,
on the town's High Street, opens it doors and Professor Colin
Riordan takes over from Professor Sir Ivor Crewe as
Essex is ranked ninth in the national Research Assessment
Exercise and Essex Business School is created with the merger of
the schools of Accounting, Finance and Management and
Entrepreneurship and Business.
The University is awarded the Queen's Anniversary Prize for
its work in promoting and protecting human rights. Nobel
Laureate Derek Walcott is appointed Professor of Poetry.
The University launches its 50th anniversary at the Speaker's
House at the House of Commons.