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31 January 2013

Royal accolade for Essex excellence in political science

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.”

Rt Hon John Bercow MP with graduating students from the Department of Government

Speaker of the House of Commons, the Rt Hon John Bercow MP, with graduates from the Department of Government in 2010, when he was awarded an honorary degree by the University

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.”

Notes to editors
1. For further information please contact the University of Essex Communications Office, telephone 01206 872400, e-mail comms@essex.ac.uk .

2. Until the Government’s announcement on 29 January, Regius Professorships had been limited to the universities of Oxford, Cambridge, St Andrews, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Trinity College, Dublin. The Queen bestows the awards after taking advice from ministers, who were in turn advised by a panel of eminent academics led by Sir Graeme Davies, former Vice-Chancellor of the University of London.
The new posts of Regius Professor are:
- University of Dundee – Life Sciences
- Imperial College, London – Engineering
- London School of Economics and Political Science – Economics
- The Open University – Open Education
- University of Manchester – Physics
- Royal Holloway, University of London – Music
- University of Essex – Political Science
- King’s College London – Psychiatry
- University of Reading – Meteorology and Climate Science
- University of Southampton – Computer Science
- University of Surrey – Electronic Engineering
- University of Warwick – Mathematics

3. All entries were assessed by the expert panel on the merits of their application alone, against a scoring system based on the criteria, with greatest weight given to the excellence of the university’s work in the proposed discipline and the recognition the discipline has gained.

4. The chairman of the expert panel was Sir Graeme Davies, Vice-Chancellor of the University of London until 2010. Other panel members included Lord Broers of Cambridge (formerly Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge and President of the Royal Academy of Engineering), Lord Rees of Ludlow (formerly Master of Trinity College, Cambridge and President of the Royal Society) and Lord Sutherland of Houndwood (formerly Principal of the University of Edinburgh and President of the Royal Society of Edinburgh).

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