Our Deputy Vice-Chancellor Designate, Professor Lorna Fox O’Mahony, updates us on the progress of our next strategic plan 2019-25.

Our next University Strategy will set out our priorities for the period 2019-25, shaping how we advance our mission of excellence in education and research in the context of our changing world.

Since January 2018 I have supported the Vice-Chancellor to ensure we engage widely across our community to gather ideas and input. These have shaped our approach to thinking about the priorities that will frame our work in this next period.

To give you a sense of the scale of engagement, Area Reviews in each of our three faculties and Professional Services have gathered ideas and input across departments and sections. We have collected input through themed workshops focused on education and research; two meetings of Senior Staff Conference; open consultation events at each of our three campuses; regular meetings with the Students’ Union leadership; discussions with our University Council and our dedicated Moodle site. We have shared ideas and sought feedback from our friends and supporters, through a consultation event at the Vice-Chancellor’s Summer Reception and a series of Lake House dinners; and we have tested emerging priorities with Senior Staff Conference, Education and Research Committees, Senate and Council.

I am very grateful to everyone who has contributed to this process: your ideas have been fundamental to shaping the direction of travel for the Strategy. As we prepare to move to the next phase of this work, it is a useful moment to share our thinking so far, and to invite your comments.

Essex Spirit

The Essex Spirit poster on a wall

Our vision for 2025 will be rooted in our shared purpose as a community of staff and students advancing education and research excellence for the benefit of individuals and communities. Nurtured over 54 years, the core of our identity is our Essex Spirit. Key to this is a commitment to challenge, creativity and collaborative action, rooted in our global mind-set, enabled through our culture of membership and powered by our research mind-set.

Through the process of developing our next strategic plan, we have really challenged ourselves to think about what our students will need if we are to prepare them to succeed and thrive in their future lives, future careers and future learning. And we have challenged ourselves to think about how the University will enable every member of staff to fulfil their role in advancing the mission of the University. We know that it is more important than ever that we support every student, regardless of background, to develop the knowledge, skills and capabilities that they will need to succeed to realise their own Essex Spirit. We also know that it has never been more important to ask challenging research questions, test new ideas, and apply our knowledge to solve problems, to shape thinking and to benefit individuals and society.

Through our consultation events three priority areas have emerged to form the framework for our Strategy: People; Knowledge, ideas and Innovation; and Communities.


Our ‘Essex Spirit’ is defined by, and sustained through, our people: tenacious, bold, inquisitive, impatient for change; activists, advocates, entrepreneurs, and change-makers. At Essex, engaged students and staff have the courage to challenge received wisdom, ask difficult questions and apply their knowledge and ideas to improve people’s lives. Our educators are committed to student success and responsive to the living and learning needs of our diverse student communities. Our researchers are ambitious, curious, creative, entrepreneurial, ethical and experimental, advancing knowledge, generating ideas and applying their insights to transform communities and improve people’s lives.

Every member of our community has a crucial role to play in achieving our goals, working in creative partnership and learning from each other, sharing, collaborating and innovating to harness the power of new ideas.

Knowledge, Ideas and Innovation

Paper fortune tellers with sign telling people to "Take me, keep me" 

At the heart of our mission of excellence in education and research is the creation, communication, transfer and application of knowledge, ideas and innovations. We have an enduring commitment to creating relevant, responsive and inclusive curricula, supporting our students through the multiple transitions of higher education, and enabling every student to develop their research mind-set – transitioning from knowledge and understanding to formulating their own ideas and putting these into action. We have an enduring commitment to generating globally important research that shapes and influences thinking and applies knowledge. Through our next Strategic Plan we will harness the power of new ideas to ensure that our campus environments and the services we deliver effectively enable our members to contribute towards achieving our shared aims.


Throughout the consultation process, staff and students have highlighted the importance of our collective commitment to our shared purpose of excellence in research and education, and to putting our ideas into action through transformative education and research that improves people’s lives. We have also received valuable feedback on the importance of continuing to develop our campus communities as places of belonging, where students and staff are enabled by our physical, digital, natural and relational environments. Beyond our campus communities, members of the University have emphasised the importance they place on our relationships with the communities in which our campuses are set, and their pride in the impact of the University on the lives of people and communities, locally and globally.

On 2 November we shared details of our progress so far through the dedicated University Strategy 2019-25 Moodle site. Consultation on the direction of travel will remain open until 16 November. Feedback through this site will help to inform the first version of our Strategy, which will also be shared through the Moodle site in a second consultation period from 5 December to 14 December.

Thank you to everyone who has contributed ideas, insights and suggestions to get us to this stage. If you’d like to see more detail on our emerging Strategy, and to comment on our direction of travel so far, please log into the Moodle site to continue engaging with this important process or email me lfox@essex.ac.uk – I am keen to hear your views on how we can best position the University in the next six years.