House of Commons debate to celebrate our successes

  • Date

    Fri 3 Nov 17

Essex students meet MPs in the House of Commons

A Government Minister said "Essex is, without doubt, an example to other universities" during a debate in the House of Commons.

The Minister for Apprenticeships and Skills Anne Milton MP made her comments in an adjournment debate requested by Harwich and North Essex MP Bernard Jenkin which focused on our many successes regarding student satisfaction, research and our work with business. Mr Jenkin also took the opportunity to ask for reassurances from the Government around continuing support for the higher education sector.

Other MPs joining the debate to praise the contribution of the University of Essex included Colchester MP Will Quince, Rayleigh and Wickford MP Mark Francois and Clacton MP Giles Watling. A group of our students also travelled down to watch the debate from the public gallery.

Ms Milton said: "Universities such as Essex, which has been shortlisted for university of the year in The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide, are critical to the success of our higher education system. The university was awarded a gold rating in the teaching excellence and student outcomes framework and was in the top 15 for student satisfaction.

"We should particularly celebrate the approaches the University has introduced to achieve those outstanding student satisfaction results. It is important to mention, in particular, its fostering of a culture that uses student feedback to develop rigorous and stretching teaching that is tailored to suit student needs, and its effective retention strategies, including a peer mentoring scheme for all new students, with targeted support for disabled students, supported by the student engagement team."

Beacon for gender equality

Ms Milton, who is also Minister for Women, picked out our work on closing the gender pay gap for particular praise. She said: "As Minister for Women, I was hugely impressed with the work on the gender pay gap, and I will never miss an opportunity to say in this House that all companies with more than 250 employees have until next April to report on their gender pay gap. And there we have it: the University of Essex is a beacon on this subject. This work is really important, because if we do not get it right, we will miss out on the talent and skills of women who can contribute and make sure this excellence continues."

Adjournment debates are an opportunity for a backbench MP to raise an issue and receive a response from the relevant Minister. Debates are allocated by ballot on all days except Thursday when the Speaker of the House of Commons chooses the topic. The debate was presided over by Essex alumnus and Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow MP – who became our Chancellor this autumn.<

You can watch again on the official Parliament TV website and you can read the debate in Hansard Online – the official record of all parliamentary business.

Our staff and students meet MPs after the debate including Bernard Jenkin (centre))
Our staff and students meet MPs after the debate including Bernard Jenkin (centre)

Essex goes "from strength to strength"

During his speech Mr Jenkin told the House of Commons: "Since I was first elected for Colchester, North in 1992, I have had the privilege of representing the University of Essex in Parliament. We have a close relationship, and I am a member of the court of the university. Over the years, I have witnessed how much the University of Essex has contributed to academia, the local economy and the wider community. It continues from strength to strength.

"I make no apology for using this opportunity to set out the university’s progress and achievements. In June, Essex was awarded “gold” in the teaching excellence framework. Essex was also ranked in the top 15 in England for student satisfaction for the fifth year running in the national student survey, and 22nd in The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide 2018. Furthermore, Essex was ranked in the UK’s top 20 universities for research excellence in the last research excellence framework.

"Very few universities excel in both education and research, while also performing strongly in measures of overall student experience, graduate prospects and quality of facilities. Essex is one of a very small group of universities that genuinely achieves that. As a result, Essex students benefit from a research-led education that not only equips them to succeed on their courses, but provides them with the skills to succeed in their chosen careers after graduation. I look forward to continuing to work with the university in the years ahead, as it builds on these achievements."

Praise for our work with business

Mr Jenkin also told MPs about our extensive work with business he said: "University of Essex research has impact through partnerships with businesses of all sizes. That work was recognised when the University was ranked in the top 10 in the UK for engagement with business through knowledge transfer partnerships, supported through the programme run by Innovate UK, to help businesses improve their competitiveness through better use of UK knowledge, technology and skills.

"Knowledge transfer partnerships are one of the main ways in which the University ensures its research feeds into business activity, and the range and scope of those partnerships is extensive.

"Essex is continuing to expand its business engagement and the University of Essex Innovation Centre is now being built on the Colchester campus. This is a joint initiative with Essex County Council and the south-east local enterprise partnership, which, when completed, will provide space and support for up to 50 start-ups and smaller high-tech businesses in the Knowledge Gateway research and technology park.

"The University’s research impact also supports public institutions in tackling challenging social and economic issues. In conjunction with Essex County Council, the university has appointed the UK’s first local authority chief scientific adviser, Slava Mikhaylov, professor of public policy and data science, who supports Essex County Council to develop policy rooted in scientific analysis and evidence.

"Essex was one of the very first universities to start offering degree apprenticeships in higher education, which provide students with the skills that industry needs and allow them to combine studying for a full degree with gaining practical skills in work."

Ms Milton said Mr Jenkin was right to highlight "the University’s outstanding research output, and particularly its work with business. As Minister for Apprenticeships and Skills, I particularly welcome that work, which is critical as we look ahead. I am also very impressed by the work with the county council."