New Vacancy

Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research) 

View of Colchester Campus lake

Welcome from Professor Anthony Forster 

The University of Essex is equally committed to excellence in research and education.

We are ranked 19th in Research Excellence Framework 2014 and in 2017 awarded the top Gold rating in the Teaching Excellence Framework. The 2019 National Student Survey results placed Essex 14th out of all English mainstream universities, and in the top 15 for the seventh year in a row. Confirming our global reputation, the Times Higher Education World Rankings placed Essex in the world’s top 20 for international outlook.

In November 2018 we were awarded the accolade ‘University of the Year’ by the Times Higher Education. Judges said ‘This is a university that is putting people first.’ And we have done this by seeking to live up to the founding vision and our values by putting students and staff success at the centre of what we do…” The award panel pointed to many proof points – including a systematic de-casualisation of our workforce, ensuring we have no pay gaps by grade so that there is equal pay for work of equal value, and creating staff contracts for graduate teaching assistants. They also singled out that we are ‘unabashed’ in our strategy to recruit students based on potential rather than just prior achievement – and that we really do help all our students fulfill their aspirations. The Panel said “…what are universities if not communities of talented, committed people? By putting those 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.” 

The University has an annual turnover of £250m and 16,000 students at our campuses in Colchester, Southend and Loughton and a further 5,000 students based at our strategic partners. Earlier this year we approved our Strategic Plan, which sets our ambition to be acknowledged nationally and internationally as a leading research-intensive university. By 2025 we want to be firmly in the top 25 of UK universities in the Times Good University Guide and all of our subjects in the top 20% of their discipline within the UK, and in the top 200 universities in the world. 

As we have grown our student numbers, we have ensured that we increase our research power. We therefore plan to submit double the number of researchers to REF 2021 (675). We want to grow the size of the University to 20,000 students and continue to prioritise the appointment of staff with a research component to their roles, to allow us to submit 1,000 researchers to the REF in 2026. To support our growth plans we will also launch two new academic departments/subjects and want to further develop our interdisciplinary research work and impact. 

The University is seeking to appoint a Pro-Vice-Chancellor Research at a very exciting time. Though UK universities face unprecedented challenges, we take encouragement from the increase in demand for an Essex education and our research expertise. The University is growing in reputation and standing, making significant step-change investments in our research capacity and we are confident about our future. Our current PVC Research, Professor Christine Raines is leading our REF 2021 preparations. We therefore want to appoint a PVC Research (Designate) to work alongside Christine from 1 July 2020 to 31 July 2021 and during this period the PVC Research (Designate) will have a focus on implementing our new Research Strategy. They will succeed Professor Raines as the PVC Research on 1 August 2021, with their first term of office from 1 August 2021 to 31 July 2024.   

Reporting directly to the Vice-Chancellor and a member of the University's executive team (University Steering Group), the Pro-Vice-Chancellor Research is a senior academic leadership post within the University. The PVC Research is responsible for the leadership of our research and enterprise agenda, in collaboration with other members of the University executive, Deans, Deputy Deans and Heads of Department.

Applications are invited from candidates with an excellent research standing, and academic credibility in a research-intensive environment as well as demonstrable leadership and management experience. The appointee will need to be returnable to one of our Units of Assessment for REF 2021.

The appointee will hold a substantive post of Professor in a relevant academic department. The normal term of appointment to the role of the PVC Research is three years (1 August 2021 to 31 July 2024), with eligibility for re-appointment for further three years. They may exceptionally be re-appointed for a further period of up to three years making a total of nine years. Re-appointment is proposed by the Vice-Chancellor and approved by the Council on the recommendation of the Senate. The post-holder will be appointed to a substantive Chair in one of our academic departments, to which they will revert at the conclusion of their term of office. 

We recognise that in a research-intensive university research credibility is essential and 20% of the PVC’s time will be allocated to maintaining and developing their research career and they are expected to be eligible for submission to the REF in one of our units of assessment as part of the contractual requirements of this post. This is a full-time appointment.

I have been the Vice-Chancellor since August 2012 and you can find out more information about me, including my blogs on key issues on my Vice-Chancellor webpage and my tweets @Forster_Anthony. I would welcome a conversation with potential applicants. 

Anthony Forster, Vice-Chancellor

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Find out more about this opportunity

Our commitment to research excellence

The University of Essex is a research intensive university and our researchers are people who challenge conventional wisdom. This is one of the reasons why we are amongst the UK’s leading research-intensive universities and we are proud of our focus on making the world a better place. 

Research Excellence Framework

The Research Excellence Framework 2014 confirmed our track record of research excellence, with Essex ranked in the top 20 UK universities. 30% of our research was rated as world leading, 78% as internationally excellent and 98% as internationally recognised. Nine departments are ranked in the top 25: Politics ranked 1st, Economics 5th, Art History 10th, Sociology 12th, Sport 13th, Philosophy 14th, Law 17th, History 21st, Essex Business School 24th.

We’ve not sustained our 2014 success by resting on our laurels and are well prepared for REF 2021, having pursued a strategy of 100% submission of all staff with a research component to their responsibilities since 2013. Professor Christine Raines our current PVC Research is personally leading the preparation for our REF 2021 submission and we expect to submit all eligible staff and to double the number of staff (675). We want to further improve on our 2014 performance and therefore aim for each Unit of Assessment to be in the top 20% of their subject. The focus of the work of the PVC Research (Designate) between 1 July 2020 and 31 July 2021 will be to lead on key aspects of our research and enterprise agenda prior to succeeding Christine Raines on 1 August 2021. 

World leader in the social sciences

  • The University has ESRC-funded centres based in our Institute of Social and Economic Research (ISER): the Research Centre on Micro-Social Change and the UK Longitudinal Studies Centre. ISER hosts Understanding Society, the UK longitudinal study of 40,000 households, which is the largest household panel survey in the world. The ESRC Business and Local Government Data Research Centre is based in Essex Business School. In addition the UK Data Archive is funded by the ESRC and is the UK's largest collection of digital research data in the social sciences and humanities, providing a unified point of access to data from ESDS, the Census Programme and Secure Data Service. The University also co-hosts the National Administrative Data Research Network. In addition the University hosts the ESRC-funded ‘Human Rights, Big Data and Technology’ £5 million project. 
  • The University is ranked first for receipt of funding from the ESRC. Reflecting our strengths in social science, Essex is the lead for the SeNSS ESRC Doctoral Training Centre and a partner in the Soc-B Social Biological Centre for Doctoral Training with UCL and Manchester. In addition the University is a Q-Step Affiliate supported by the Nuffield Foundation, the ESRC and HEFCE. The programme is designed to promote a step-change in quantitative undergraduate social science in the UK. In 2013 Her Majesty the Queen awarded the University of Essex a Regius Professorship in Political Science - one of only two universities to hold a Regius Professorship in the Social Sciences and one of the youngest universities to receive this honour. Through our Institute of Analytics and Data Science the University of Essex is at the cutting edge of advances in big data and holds the only UNESCO Chair in Analytics and Data Science in the World and has recently secured £22 million in research funding in this area.

Interdisciplinary research and grand challenges 

Our peaks of research excellence mean that Essex is helping to answer real world questions at the intersection of traditional disciplines. We currently have three flagship research institutes: the Institute of Social and Economic Research (ISER); the Institute of Analytics and Data Science (IADS) and our Human Rights Centre. As a growing university, we are expanding our research base at a fast rate, enhancing our capacity to address the next set of new problems, building our critical mass of expertise, and enabling our research to have even greater impact. Work is underway to identify where we can identify peaks of excellence that can be world leading and to make step change investments to enable this to happen. 

Knowledge exchange and business engagement

We have recognised that respecting historic distinctions between academic and applied research, between research and knowledge exchange will simply slow us down.

Knowledge Gateway

At Essex, impact and knowledge exchange are integral aspects of our research mission. We’ve invested over £50 million in ensuring our 43-acre science and research park, the Knowledge Gateway, is not at arm’s-length from the University, but an integral part of the University of Essex Colchester campus. 

  • Parkside Office Village. It comprises 33,000 square feet of office space. Parkside Office Village is home to 24 companies who are not just tenants but University partners providing internships and research collaborations notably Knowledge Transfer Partnerships. The next stage of our plan is to create a 51,355 square feet facility for a major anchor tenant and we have secured funding from the LEP and County Council to proceed with this in 2019/20. 
  • Innovation Centre. This new £12 million business centre is designed to bolster the region’s emerging science, technology and digital creative industries. These very exciting facilities provide flexible workspace and support for up to 50 enterprises and student start-up companies and we hope this will have a significant impact on student employability. We have also created a media rich space called Studio X, a digital creative collaborative workspace providing a focal point for university students, researchers and graduates to collaborate with digital creative start-ups, freelancers and social entrepreneurs. The Innovation Centre project is backed by University funding and by £2 million of funding from Essex County Council and £2 million from the South East Local Enterprise Partnership’s Local Growth Fund. You can find some more information about the Innovation Centre opening here.
  • Access to research. Our Institute of Analytics and Data Science and ESRC Business and Local Government Centre are based at Parkside to maximize links with businesses based at Knowledge Gateway. We are the only UK university to appoint a Chief Scientific Advisor to a local authority, Dr Alex Quiros Flores who is based at County Hall, with responsibility for building partnerships with our local authority and linking our researchers to policy makers in our local authorities. We are also partners in the Essex Centre for Data Analytics with Essex Police and Essex County Council. The team comprises 12 people with a data sharing platform, research and development platform and analytical hub. 
  • Future Plans. Research England has recognised the importance of Knowledge Gateway through its designation as a University Enterprise Zone (UEZ), with funding being allocated from HM Treasury and the Research England Development Fund. The funds will enable us to enhance the impact of Studio X, introduce work anywhere Wi-Fi to the Knowledge Gateway and facilitate the development of a business angels network, supported by an online crowd-funding platform. See our news story for further information.

Knowledge Transfer Partnerships

We have focused on Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTPs) as a key means to engage with businesses. KTPs are Innovate UK’s flagship programme to connect businesses and researchers and with 30 KTPs we are now ranked in the top 5 in the UK for this form of business engagement – having tripled the number of business partnerships in two and half years.

Strategic Research Partnerships 

Young European Research Universities (YERUN). We are a founding member of YERUN, created in 2015 to build research links between 18 young research intensive universities. We are collaborating successfully across the network in joint research and teaching initiatives and in maximising mobility, research capabilities and employability if our graduates. More information can be found about YERUN here.

Eastern Academic Research Consortium (Eastern ARC). This is a research collaboration between Essex, Kent and UEA. Together we bid for doctoral training awards/doctoral training partnerships and have used the consortium to deepen a range of bilateral and trilateral  research relationships, with a focus on bidding for external funding. Over the first five years of Eastern ARC’s history, we have had targeted our collaboration in the areas of quantitative social science, digital humanities and synthetic biology, supported by investments in post doc posts and PhD studentship awards. To further deepen our partnership and to develop plan for the next five years, we have just appointed Phil Ward as the full time Director of Eastern ARC. More information can be found here.

The Future 

To support our Strategic Plan which covers the period 2019 to 2025, a new Research Strategy is under development with a focus on challenging ourselves to do even better: to build on our research excellence; to increase our research intensity and research power; to enhance the impact of our work on the lives of individuals and societies; to broaden the range of organisations with which we work in the private, public and not-for-profit sectors; and to extend the reach and reputation of our research on a global scale, through international research partnerships. We are eager to see these ambitions fully realised. 

Wivenhoe Park aerial view image
Ready for the challenge?

Apply today for the chance to join the University of Essex and become Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research).

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