We are celebrating a record-breaking year at the University of Essex with our incredible work receiving four nominations in the prestigious Times Higher Education Awards. This is the most the university has ever received in one year and is the joint highest for 2023. As the University marks our 60th anniversary we are proud to highlight this outstanding achievement across our teaching, research and professional services teams.

Outstanding Support for Students

At the University of Essex we are impatient to transform lives and academic outcomes which is why we offer a tailored study skills course that gives applicants the support they need and makes them feel connected to our community before they even enrol.

The Essex Preparation Programme (EPP) ensures undergraduates have the right skills to succeed. It is driving up engagement and retention and giving students greater confidence as independent learners.

From the minute they apply, Essex students feel supported.

As part of our pandemic bounce back strategy we developed a six-week online pre-arrival undergraduate course in 2020-21, to give applicants affected by multiple school closures a chance to feel like part of our community. It proved so successful that in April 2021 we developed it into the Essex Preparation Programme (EPP).

The EPP is offered to undergraduate applicants as part of our Ready for Success Project, which also provides tailored preparation courses for current students, postgraduate taught applicants, students in years 12 and 13, and school leavers.

The EPP is delivered in the summer before enrolment with new content released weekly from the start of July.

First offered to applicants joining in 2021-22, EPP students learn at their own pace working through six topics covering academic skills: learning, speaking, thinking, reading, integrity, and writing. Students who complete the course by the first week of the autumn term are awarded a £250 bursary.

In 2021-22 we added new innovative and effective online lectures and webinars, which complement the topic courses and give students the chance to virtually meet each other and connect with our Skills for Success Tutors before arriving on campus.

Working across departments, with a range of academic and professional services stakeholders, we identify common skill gaps and target the development of new content, ensuring the EPP is always relevant and valuable.

During the 2021-22 academic year a full review of the EPP showed it was meeting its aims of improving engagement and retention, and ensuring our students felt supported in their studies as they transitioned into higher education.

In 2021-22 1,029 students engaged with the course and 761 responded to a post-course survey. The data collected shows that 97.4% agreed or strongly agreed that the subject matter was relevant and 94.3% agreed or strongly agreed that the course made them a more confident learner.

Data from our Learner Engagement Activity Portal (LEAP) in 2021-22 showed that: 83% of students who completed EPP had engagement rates categorised as ‘Good’ or ‘High’, compared to 51% for new undergraduate starters who did not complete the course; and 2.27% of EPP students withdrew, compared to 3.71% undergraduates who didn’t complete the course.

Consultation with a range of internal stakeholders, including the Students’ Union, confirmed the findings and helped secure the sustainability of the project which, has been described as “really helpful” and “rich and interesting” by students who praise it for changing their “perception of university work” and “an excellent way of ensuring the new university starters understand what is expected.”