Have you ever wondered about the purpose of Senate, the responsibilities of its members, what business it discusses, and how it affects our work?

Senate is the supreme academic authority of the University and is accountable to Council.  Its role is to promote our education and research mission and to oversee our academic work, and so it has an impact across nearly all of the activity that we undertake.  It is chaired by the Vice-Chancellor, and is the largest of the University’s formal committees, comprising 56 members including members of our academic leadership, including Heads of Department, elected academic staff, and student representatives.

Shaped by our research and education priorities, the business of Senate is governed by its powers, which are set out in Ordinance 14 (.pdf).  Through exercising these powers, either directly or through the work of Senate’s Sub-Committees (.pdf), Senate makes decisions on a range of academic matters, which have an impact on how the University works.  Whilst Senate is responsible for considering recurrent items of business on an annual basis, it also has scope to consider new and emerging topics as these arise.  These might be topics that are instigated by agendas that are external to the University, such as the new Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Act 2023, or by those that are important to us as a University community, such as our ongoing work to support student engagement and attendance at teaching events, and to enable our students to gain international experiences during their studies with us.  Senate also supports progress towards the ambitions that we have set ourselves in our Education (.pdf) and Research (.pdf) Strategies.  For example, during 2022-23, Senate discussed the strategic use of the uplift in QR funding received as a result of our REF2021 outcome in supporting open research and our research environment and developing our impact and research support.  Senate is also actively engaged in considering the output from our PGR Review, with the report from Phase 2 scheduled for consideration later this year.

To support the development of business for Senate to consider, the Senate Agenda Group meets four times per year, in advance of each meeting of Senate to discuss potential items of business for future Senate meetings.  Senate Agenda Group is made up of the four members of Senate who are also elected Senate members of Council and the President of the SU.  This year’s members are:

  • Professor Diana Bullen Presciutti (Chair), Head of PHAIS
  • Dr Laurie James-Hawkins, Faculty Dean UG Social Sciences and elected Senate member
  • Professor Shane Martin, Dean PGRE
  • Professor Onyeka Osuji, Head of Essex Law School
  • Kieran Phillips, President of the Students’ Union

Through the work of Senate Agenda Group in 2022-23:

  • Senate received a paper and discussed the importance and availability of opportunities for our students to engage in international experiences.
  • Senate discussed the importance and value of student attendance at teaching and the work that was underway on a joint campaign with the Students’ Union to encourage and support active student participation in educational activities.
  • In support of the student experience, Senate received regular updates on the work that the University was undertaking, in partnership with the SU, to support students through the cost of living crisis, and in supporting student safety on our campuses.
  • An Artificial Intelligence Advisory Group was established to discuss and consider the implications of developments in AI technology for the University’s education and research.

In 2023-24 and in accordance with its powers, Senate will be actively engaging in the work that is underway to ensure our financial sustainability through recruitment recovery planning, the development of our academic frameworks, the development of our education partnerships, and in safeguarding and ensuring the very best student experience.  

To keep informed and in touch with the work of Senate:

  • Make use of our Senate Digital Committee Portal that hosts all agendas, papers (that are not restricted to Senate members), and minutes.
  • Sign-up to Top Lines, a regular briefing for all staff summarising the key issues, debates, and decisions of University Steering Group, Senate, Policy and Resources Committee, and Council.  Email comms@essex.ac.uk to subscribe.
  • Through your departmental meetings.  Ordinance 27 sets out that the agenda for each Departmental Meeting shall have a standing item on Senate to provide the Head of Department with an opportunity to update staff on Senate decisions and related activity and to provide a forum for discussion.
  • Through our summary of academic policy decisions.

If you have an item of business that is relevant to the remit of Senate and that you would like Senate Agenda Group to consider, please contact a member of the Senate Agenda Group, or its Secretary, Emma Hardy, Deputy Academic Registrar.