Our Vice-Chancellor Professor Anthony Forster to retire in 2024

  • Date

    Fri 4 Aug 23

Professor Anthony Forster

After 11 remarkable and transformational years in our university history, our Vice-Chancellor, Professor Anthony Forster, has announced that he is to retire in July 2024.

Speaking about his decision, Anthony said: “First and foremost I want to say a very big thank you to our staff, students and our alumni community: it has been a pleasure and a privilege to work with everyone at Essex.

“We rightly celebrate the truly ground-breaking vision and values on which the University was founded 60 years ago, but we are also a community of staff and students relentlessly focused on shaping the world we live in now. Above all we are a community committed to making the world a better place. Long may this continue. I’m looking forward to a new academic year in which we celebrate the 60th anniversary of the founding of this amazing university and I am absolutely determined to ensure this year is the best ever.”

Throughout his time at Essex, Anthony has championed an equal commitment to education and research, with a strong focus on Essex offering an outstanding student experience. His leadership has helped us to achieve several notable milestones, including:

  • Student numbers increasing from just over 10,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) students in 2011-12 to 16,255 FTE students, based across three campuses in Colchester, Southend and Loughton.
  • Our research community more than doubling in size with 700 academics submitted to the UK Government’s Research Excellence Framework 2021 and eight departments in the UK top 20 for research power (THE 2022).
  • Our turnover increasing to over £300m with its economic impact reaching £619.5m.
  • Three new departments launching: the Edge Hotel School; the School of Sports, Rehabilitation and Exercise Sciences; and the Department of Psychosocial and Psychoanalytic Studies.
  • Two new flagship institutes opening: the Institute for Analytics and Data Science and the Institute for Public Health and Wellbeing.
  • The transformation of academic and student facilities across the three campuses, including extensive new student accommodation, the refurbishment of The Towers, and opening The Forum in Southend and the Essex Sports Arena.
  • Launching of the Essex Rebels basketball and volleyball teams and a dedicated Athletes’ Village to support the development of sporting culture, boost engagement with the Essex Blades sports teams and encourage support through an award-winning matchday experience.
  • Rapid growth of the 34-acre Knowledge Gateway research and technology park, which is a government sponsored University Enterprise Zone and home to numerous successful businesses. Essex is also ranked first for working with businesses through the UK government’s flagship Knowledge Transfer Partnership programme.

Judith Judd, our former Chair of Council, said: "Our University is almost unrecognisable from the one I joined as a Council member more than a decade ago and much of that transformation is the result of Anthony's fantastic leadership. He has never let us forget that universities aren't just about great research but about giving students a first-class experience. He has dealt brilliantly and speedily with the many unexpected challenges facing the university and has also worked tirelessly to improve every aspect of life at Essex. It was a delight and privilege to work with such a remarkable leader."

Anthony’s leadership has also helped us achieve several prestigious awards, including:

  • The Queen’s Anniversary Prize for the Institute for Social and Economic Research, the Regius Professorship for Political Science and being named the Times Higher Education ‘University of the Year’ in 2018,
  • Ranking of 56th in the global Times Higher Education Impact Rankings for Essex’s commitment to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

At an international level, Essex has played a key role in the Young Universities for the Future of Europe alliance – making it one of just three UK universities to be part of the first wave of the European University initiative.

Anthony has always championed the Essex Spirit and maintained a genuine passion for improving the student experience and fostering a feeling of belonging among students. He has been a tireless advocate for our student body.

Kieran Phillips, Essex Students’ Union President, said: “Anthony has been a key supporter and ally of the Students’ Union for the past 11 years championing our causes both internally and to the world. In his time as Vice-Chancellor he has nourished our special relationship and through his support we have grown to be 7th best SU in the country, widely recognised for challenging convention and rethinking traditional ways of working.

“Anthony has been committed to supporting students wherever he can, whether that was meeting all our society and club presidents to celebrate their hard work, leading our ‘One World Essex’ flag parade to celebrate our multiculturalism, or being the most high-profile supporter of our Essex Blades sports teams. He has been passionate about putting students at the heart of the university’s thinking and we will forever be grateful for his support.”

Anthony has held leadership roles across five universities and is a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences, a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, and a Fellow of the Leadership Foundation in Higher Education. He served as a board member of the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education, the Higher Education Academy, the Equality Challenge Unit and the Joint Information Systems Committee.

Jane Hamilton, Chair of Council, said: “It has been an honour and a privilege to work with Anthony. He has been an outstanding Vice-Chancellor leading the university through a period of growth and ensuring that we emerged from the pandemic stronger than ever.

“He is a brilliant leader of people, forming a highly effective leadership team that will benefit the university for many years to come. He has forged strong and effective relationships with the university Council and most importantly puts students at the heart of everything he does.

“What I will miss most about Anthony is his sheer dedication and passion for making the University of Essex the best place for students to learn and grow. We will miss him greatly.”

You can read Anthony’s blog reflecting on the past 11 years on our website.

We will soon begin a comprehensive search for a successor to continue the legacy of exceptional leadership that Professor Forster has embodied. The recruitment process will prioritise candidates who demonstrate the same passion for academic excellence, rigorous research, and putting students at the heart of the university.