The horrifying violence in Israel and Gaza arising from the terrorist Hamas attacks in Israel is causing unimaginable suffering for those caught up in this conflict. This has impacted individuals and communities in Israel and Gaza and around the world, including on our own campuses. 

I have heard first-hand from members of our community about how this has affected them and their loved ones. Many people’s safety, way of life and freedoms have been profoundly damaged by the on-going conflict in the Middle East and its reverberations in our own communities in the UK. It is an incredibly painful and worrying time for University staff and students and their families and friends and we share the concerns of those who are affected by this conflict, directly and indirectly.

As a University, our immediate focus has been on supporting members of our community. Through Sara Limerick, our Director of People and Culture and Bryn Morris, our Registrar and Secretary we wrote to staff and students on Monday 9 October to share our concern at these distressing events and to remind our community about the range of support that is available to staff and students.

Colleagues from the University and the Students’ Union have reached out to the Jewish Student Society, the Palestinian Solidarity Society and to individual members of staff, to offer support and a point of contact, so that any issues or concerns can be raised quickly. Our Faith Centre has also been a focus for support, reflection and prayer. If you're a student who has been affected by these events, support is available through our Student Wellbeing and Inclusivity Service, and our Togetherall services, which offer peer-to-peer mental health support. Support is also available from the Students’ Union through SU Advice, who you can email in confidence at

Essex is an inclusive community where we respect and support each other through our values, our words, and most importantly our actions. We will continue to ensure that our campuses provide a supportive and inclusive environment for all, free from any form of harassment and bullying, in which we treat each other with dignity, respect and care. It is through our ethos of mutual care and kindness, that we can help to support members of our community who are affected by the conflict.

I would like to take this opportunity to remind our students and staff that in the UK support or promotion of any proscribed organisations, which includes Hamas, could be in violation of UK law and the University's own policies, and that we have a zero-tolerance approach to all forms of antisemitism and islamophobia. The University has adopted and published its support for the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definitions of antisemitism and the University’s Zero-Tolerance Policy and our Code of Student Conduct set shared standards of expected behaviour across the University community, including examples of behaviours that could constitute harassment or victimisation. In line with our policy, any incident found to be motivated by hostility or prejudice that may also constitute a crime, will be reported to the Police to investigate whether UK law has been broken.

Some have seen the horrifying events in Israel and Gaza, as cause for the University to alter its policy of openness to engagement and collaboration with scholars from all parts of the world, with the University instead instigating boycotts, disinvestment, and sanctions against particular countries, but this is not the University of Essex way.  Within the law, we want to offer an opportunity to all to learn and pursue scientific enquiry and to advance knowledge and understanding, irrespective of background, religion, nationality, or personal characteristics. Legislation currently being considered in the UK parliament will, if passed, prevent public bodies, including universities, from basing decisions on procurement and investment in ways that indicate political or moral disapproval of a foreign state, where this would contradict UK law.

I know that the bonds that draw our international Essex community together are strong, helping us to work, study and live together, even through extremely challenging periods, when events beyond our campuses cause pain and distress.  Our University has a proud tradition of pulling together to support each other and to demonstrate our collective values in times of uncertainty and crisis and it is more important than ever that we do this now.