31 January 2013: Royal accolade for Essex excellence in political science

Government graduates with John Bercow MP

Fifty years of excellence in research and education in political science at the University of Essex has won recognition from Her Majesty the Queen with the award of a prestigious Regius Professorship.

The University of Essex will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2014, and now becomes one of the youngest universities ever to receive this accolade. Only two Regius Professorships were created in the past century.

The University’s Department of Government has topped the UK politics rankings for the quality of its research in every national assessment of research quality since the Research Assessment Exercise began in 1991. It also obtains consistently high student satisfaction scores, with 91 per cent overall student satisfaction in the 2012 National Student Survey.

To mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012, 12 Regius Professorships were announced in January 2013 for 12 different subjects to universities around the UK, recognising “outstanding” departments.

Vice-Chancellor, Professor Anthony Forster, said: “We are delighted with the news that the Department of Government will hold the Regius Professorship in Political Science – the only one of its kind in the country. Our Department has been at the forefront of research and education for half a century and has an unrivalled reputation for the quality of its research and the commitment of staff to our students. It is a great honour that Political Science at Essex has been recognised in this way.”

Essex politics graduate and Speaker of the House of Commons, the Rt Hon John Bercow MP, said: “I spent an immensely stimulating and enjoyable three years at Essex, learning from and interacting with an outstanding team of lecturers in the Department of Government. It is a fantastic and well-deserved achievement that in less than 50 years Essex has established such an enviable international reputation in political science and I warmly congratulate the University on the award of the Regius Professorship.”

Professor Thomas Plümper, Head of the Department of Government, said: “This award is particularly gratifying for us as we mark the 50th anniversary of the appointment of our founding professor, Jean Blondel. He established Essex as the UK’s premier university for political science and he defined the distinctive type of political science that we still conduct at Essex. Over its 50 years, the Department of Government has been the home not only to British academics such as Professor Sir Ivor Crewe, Professor Ian Budge and Professor Paul Whiteley, but also the intellectual home for leading researchers from around the world, including Professor Anthony King, Professor Kristian Gleditsch and Professor Robert Goodin.

“As we now look to the challenges of the next 50 years the Department is thrilled that our contribution to the field of political science has received such distinguished recognition.”

Students’ Union President, Nathan Bolton, who was awarded a first-class degree from the Department in 2012, said: “The Department of Government at the University of Essex fully deserves this recognition. As a student from the Department, I have experienced first-hand the stimulating intellectual environment that is encouraged by members of its academic community. This accolade further validates the principles upon which the department was founded, of academic freedom and rigorous enquiry.”

David Willetts, Minister for Universities and Science, said: “I was incredibly impressed by the quality and range of the applications received and am delighted that twelve new Regius Professorships are to be created. Together, the successful applications demonstrated an exceptionally high level of achievement in both teaching and research. It is testament to the quality and strength of our higher education sector that so many universities were considered worthy of such a distinguished honour.”

Our department is at the forefront of social science

The Department of Government is at the forefront of the University’s pre-eminence in the social sciences, with the last national assessment of research quality placing Essex as the UK’s top university for research in the social sciences. As well as ranking top for politics, Essex was top ranked for sociology, and third in economics.

Recent achievements and significant roles involving the Department of Government include:

  • Two leading members of staff were honoured by the Political Studies Association (PSA) last month. Professor David Sanders and Professor Vicky Randall received Special Recognition Awards for their commitment to outstanding research which has shaped our understanding of politics.
  • Essex politics graduate, and Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, was named Politician of the Year at the same PSA ceremony.
  • The department was home for many years of the prestigious Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) funded British Election Study – the principal academic survey-based study of electoral behaviour in Britain.
  • The Department is the editorial base for the British Journal of Political Science, providing the editorial team continuously since its launch in 1971.
  • Essex has been the home for the European Consortium for Political Research since it was founded in 1971.
  • The Essex Summer School in Social Science Data Analysis ia the largest and most successful in the world and is now in its 45th year. It has trained more than 12,000 scholars.

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