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November 2003

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University of Essex



Colchester's 'forgotten' library finds new home

The Albert Sloman Library has recently started cataloguing some 900 books, comprising the personal library of a great Colcestarian, Archbishop Samuel Harsnett (1561-1631) which has been deposited with the library for archiving and preservation.

Harsnett, born the son of a baker in St. Botolph's Street and educated at Colchester grammar school, was, at the age of ten, left money to buy books, by a wealthy puritan. At 16 Harsnett attended Cambridge followed by an unsatisfying return to Colchester as master of the grammar school. Harsnett then became Master of Pembroke College and Vice-Chancellor before rising through the church as Bishop of Chichester, Norwich and then in 1629, Archbishop of York. Whilst Harsnett is commemorated in Colchester with a statue on the Town Hall and a stained glass window in St. Boltophs Church, his library adds another legacy by which Colchester can remember one of its famous sons.

Harsnett's life covered an age of great growth in the literacy of the English population and the works available to them, which is reflected in the collection. But the collection is also a reflection of the wider age in which Harsnett lived - an age of great controversy. Many of the books are polemical treatises relating to contemporary controversies between the Churches of England and Rome, as well as works on theological subjects and travel published throughout Europe in the fifteenth, sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. Also included in the collection are several incunabula - books printed before 1501 as well as one book from the library of King Henry VIII.

As part of his will Harsnett bequeathed his personal library to the Corporation of Colchester for the benefit of the Clergy of the town. The collection has remained in the town ever since, residing at various times in the Grammar School, Colchester Castle, and the County Library. Its new home in the special collections room of the Albert Sloman Library allows the collection to be stored in controlled archival conditions and professionally catalogued in a machine-readable form for the first time. The cataloguing of this spectacular collection got under way recently under the supervision of Clare French, Sub-Librarian.

Nigel Cochrane, Deputy Librarian, said: 'Cataloguing the entire collection is quite a task and will take us some time to complete. However, once catalogued it will provide an invaluable research resource for members of the University and also the wider community. We hope to have completed cataloguing in about a year or eighteen months times.'

Higher education for Suffolk

The University is at an early stage of discussion with the University of East Anglia (UEA) and Suffolk College with a view to becoming involved in a significant expansion of higher education in Suffolk.

Suffolk College, based in Ipswich, has suggested that it would be willing to contribute its current higher education provision - amounting to 2,100 full-time and 2,900 part-time students  - towards the project. Suffolk College has been an accredited college of UEA since 1992.

It is hoped that the partners will be able to develop proposals leading to the establishment of a new campus based on the waterfront in Ipswich supported by a number of learning centres across the county.

Discussions have been advancing, and the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) and the East of England Development Agency (EEDA) have both indicated that they are prepared to support the provision of higher education in Suffolk.  HEFCE has also indicated that it is likely to make more resources available for a collaborative development involving more than one higher education institution.

As part of the discussions KPMG were engaged in 2002 by UEA to assess the demand for higher education in Suffolk and the feasibility of a new campus. Cambridge based consultants, Segal Quince Wicksteed (SQW) were subsequently asked by the Suffolk Stakeholders' Group to review the potential options for enhancing higher education provision in Suffolk.

In discussions, the two universities have agreed that the project should be owned and managed collaboratively. Essex and UEA, together with Suffolk College, have established a six-person steering group accountable to all three institutions. The group is charged with taking forward ideas for the academic and institutional plan for the 'combined universities' model. 

Richard Lister, Director of External Relations, said: 'Although still in the early stages of development the new venture will help to diversify our curriculum and expand our local area of influence, particularly with the NHS, and provide more choice with flexible delivery within the region.'

Also in the printed November edition of Wyvern:

  • University to pilot plagiarism detection service
  • Have your say on Europe
  • Celebrations for Southend graduates
  • NTI celebrates first birthday
  • New Sociology social space unveiled
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