University strategy 2019-28

Executive Summary

Reflecting on our progress so far

The University of Essex is equally committed to excellence in education and research, for the benefit of individuals, communities and society. We are proud to offer a transformational research-led education, welcoming students to the University on the basis of their potential, helping them to fulfil that potential, and transforming the lives of everyone who chooses to study at Essex.

The current strategic plan period, 2013-19, has been a period of outstanding achievements for the University. Under the current plan, the University has gone from strength to strength. We set ourselves some ambitious challenges: to achieve excellence in education and research, and to be recognised as a UK top 25 University, while growing our student numbers by 50%; to improve our financial sustainability, generating an annual cash surplus of at least 5.5% while significantly growing our academic staff base and developing our campuses. And, with every fresh challenge that faces Higher Education, to seek out opportunities for the University of Essex to grow, to thrive and to advance our mission of excellence in education and research, for the benefit of individuals and communities.

Highlights of our achievements since 2013 include:

  1. We are part of an elite group of dual intensive universities recognised for excellence in education (Gold Award, TEF 2017) and excellence in research; with four subjects in UK top 10 for research quality (Research Excellence Framework 2021) and five subjects in UK top 10 for research power (Times Higher Education 2022).
  2. We have successfully grown the University, attracting students from around the world to join our community and benefit from our distinctive Essex education. In 2018 more than 5,000 students came from outside the UK to study at Essex from 150 different countries, making us the most international mainstream university in the UK outside London (The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2018). We are ranked 24th in the world for international outlook in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2023.
  3. We’re recognised internationally for our globally important research with peaks of excellence in social sciences, human rights and data analytics. We were awarded the UK’s first Regius Professorship of Political Science, Queen’s Anniversary Prizes for Human Rights and Social Sciences, and the world’s first UNESCO Chair in Analytics and Data Science.
  4. We’re in the top 30 of all UK universities thanks to the outstanding student experience we offer, strong graduate prospects, and world-leading research (The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2019).
  5. We are top 15 amongst mainstream English universities for overall student satisfaction (National Student Survey 2018).
  6. We contribute more than £500m every year to the national and regional economy – according to our Economic Impact report.
  7. Our Knowledge Gateway technology and research park is becoming the location of choice for intelligent businesses who want to link up with our research expertise, graduate and student talent, and benefit from our campus services and business support capabilities. Our Parkside Office Village is fully let and we are top 5 in the UK for our technology-driven business partnerships (KTPs).
  8. In 2018 we were awarded the prestigious Times Higher Education (THE) award of University of the Year. The award citation recognised our commitment to putting student and staff success at the centre of everything we do, with tremendous effect. The citation read “What are Universities if not communities of talented, committed people. By putting these people – both staff and students – first, the University of Essex has every right to its claim to be a ‘home for staff and students who want to make the world a better place. It is also our University of the Year.”

Looking ahead to 2028

  • As we embark on our next strategic plan period, we are looking to the future with confidence, optimism and conviction. The mission and purpose of the University is clear and unchanged:
  • we are committed to excellence in education and research for the benefit of individuals and communities. The distinctive character of the University of Essex is clear and unchanged:
  • we are “freer, more daring, more experimental”; tenacious, bold, inquisitive, and impatient for change. Our Essex Spirit is nurtured by our global community and outlook, enabled through our culture of belonging and membership and powered by our research mind-set.
  • We are clear about what we stand for: transformational education and research, inclusion, academic freedom, partnerships based on shared values, and the commitment to make a difference in the world by putting ideas into action to create benefit for others.

What’s new in our proposed University Strategy 2019-28?

  1. Building on our commitment to be firmly established in the top 25 of the TGUG (KPI 1), we have set ourselves a new challenge: to be globally recognised as one of the world’s top 200 Universities (KPI 2).
  2. Building on our commitments to transformational education and inclusion, we have re-focused on consistency in the range and quality of learning opportunities for every student, responsive to our students’ needs and aspirations. This is reflected in our emphasis on supporting every student, from every background, to achieve outstanding outcomes. In addition to consistent excellence at subject level (KPI1 – TGUG; KPI3 – TEF) we have added a new challenge in KPI 6 (no attainment gaps for measures of student success).
  3. We have articulated more strongly and clearly the purpose of our commitment to excellence in education and research: to improve the lives of people and communities. This builds on the commitments of our staff and students to advocacy, activism, social entrepreneurship and service to our communities, and is reflected in our focus on social action as the defining characteristic of Essex education and research.
  4. We have re-framed our priorities to reflect our commitment to putting people (staff and students) at the centre of everything we do. This reflects our values of inclusion, partnership and community. We recognise the contributions that every member of our community makes to realising our vision and ambitions. We are a people-centred organisation: our priorities and objectives seek to realise the full potential of every member of our community in contributing to transformational education and research. Our priorities are based on the process through which we create benefit: our people (priority 1) create and apply knowledge (priority 2) to generate benefit for our community of students and staff and for the communities who benefit from our education and research (priority 3).
  5. We will aim to grow the University to a community of about 20,000 students and 1,000 researchers, including two new departments or disciplines to meet the needs of our time. This will generate the resources to realise our ambitions for world-class transformational education and research, and to ensure the financial sustainability of the University.