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Colchester Campus
Saturday 21 June 2014 (booking now)
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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

1959

Essex County Council starts inquiry into establishing a university in the county.

1960

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.

1961

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.

1962

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.

1963

March - The first professors are appointed.

1964

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.

1965

Our Royal Charter is granted and the first new permanent buildings are completed towards the end of the autumn.

1966

The first residential tower Rayleigh is completed.

1967

First graduation ceremony takes place with 135 degrees conferred.

1968

The Department of Art History and Theory admits first students.

1969

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

The Seventies

1970

The number of students reaches nearly 2,000.

1971

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

1972

The Department of History admits first students.

1974

The departments of Philosophy and Biological Sciences open.

1975

The first Students' Union bar opens.

1976

Plans to turn Wivenhoe House into a hotel and conference centre approved.

1977

Sports Centre opens.

1978

A major extension to the Day Nursery opens.

1979

The Kinks and Iggy Pop play in the dance hall.

The Eighties

1980

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

1983

The Human Rights Centre is established.

1984

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.

1985

Students in Ivor CreweThe Queen makes her first visit to the University to mark the University's 21st anniversary.

1986

The Gallery opens with a major exhibition of pre-Columbian Peruvian pottery.

1987

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.

1988

The Department of Accounting and Financial Management opens.

1989

Wivenhoe Park is listed in English Heritage's Register of Parks and Gardens.

The Nineties

1990

Student numbers top 4,000.

1991

The Department of Psychology founded.

1992

Ron Johnston, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Professor of Geography at the University of Sheffield appointed Vice-Chancellor, succeeding Professor Martin Harris.

1993

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.

1994

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

1995

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

1996

Building work starts on a £1.6 million extension to the Albert Sloman Library.

1997

South African President Nelson Mandela accompanies Graca Machel to the Colchester Campus as she collects her honorary doctorate.

1998

The Library becomes home to the Sigmund Freud Collection.

1999

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

2000

The University and East 15 Acting School merge.

2001

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

2002

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

2003

Work begins on a £4 million Networks Centre.

2004

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh visit the Colchester Campus to mark the University's 40th anniversary.

2005

The University, in partnership with the University of East Anglia, receives funding for the development of University Campus Suffolk in Ipswich.

2006

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.

2007

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.

2008

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.

2009

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.

2010

The University launches its 50th anniversary at the Speaker's House at the House of Commons.