Undergraduate Postgraduate taught Postgraduate research Professional development

Search undergraduate

Search postgraduate
taught courses

Search postgraduate

Search professional
development courses

[Important data protection stuff]

Select the image that matches the one in the box

icon2 icon1 icon2 icon3 icon4

Upcoming open days

Undergraduate Postgraduate
Colchester Campus
Saturday 21 June 2014 (booking now)
Southend Campus
None upcoming
Colchester Campus
None upcoming

Personal details

No open days are available for booking yet. You will be able to book your desired open day online three months before the date.

Tour details

Colchester Campus
Southend Campus

Select the image that matches the one in the box

icon2 icon1 icon2 icon3 icon4

Select the image that matches the one in the box

icon2 icon1 icon2 icon3 icon4

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 essential.”

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 business.

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

The University's former boiler house 
was converted into a state-of-the-art Teaching Centre in 2010.Under our 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.

The Sixties


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 conferred.


The Department of Art History and Theory admits first students.


An Essex team reaches the finals of University Challenge, losing to Sussex.

The Seventies


The number of students reaches nearly 2,000.


University Radio Essex makes first broadcast and the Lakeside Theatre opens.


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 centre approved.


Sports Centre opens.


A major extension to the Day Nursery opens.


The Kinks and Iggy Pop play in the dance hall.

The Eighties


The School of Law established and student numbers exceed 3,000.


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.


Students in Ivor CreweThe 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 Peruvian pottery.


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.

The Nineties


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 Sociology.


More than 1,000 revellers attend the Students' Union first Summer Ball.


Professor Ron Johnstone succeeded as Vice-Chancellor by Ivor Crewe, Pro-Vice Chancellor and Professor in the Department of Government.


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 doctorate.


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 football-like games.

The new Millennium


The University and East 15 Acting School merge.


Essex research is ranked tenth in the national Research Assessment Exercise.


A new partnership with South East Essex College in Southend is launched and the Department of Health and Human Sciences is created.


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 Vice-Chancellor.


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.