Students Staff

03 March 2015

Innovative projects shortlisted for awards

Members of the LGBT Alliance

Members of the LGBT Alliance celebrate being shortlisted

Two inspirational projects which have significantly improved the experience of students and staff at the University of Essex have been shortlisted in the Guardian university awards.

The unique academic and public building, The Forum Southend-on-Sea, which has become the heart of the University’s growing Southend Campus is shortlisted in the Buildings that Inspire category.

The innovative lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Alliance, established by the University in partnership with other Essex-based employers to further LGBT equality, is shortlisted for the Advancing Staff Equality award. The Guardian university awards showcase best practice, achievement and innovation.

The Forum Southend on Sea opened on the first day of the academic year in September 2013, providing a vibrant home for studying and learning for the University’s Southend-based students. It has also been commended in the 2015 Civic Trust Awards, and shortlisted for four awards in the RICS East of England Awards, which recocnise the region's most impressive building projects.

Student numbers at Southend have grown by 10% this year to more than 1,000. The Forum provides them with spacious library facilities, 24-hour access to the Learning Hub, IT facilities and creative group study rooms.

The building is the fruition of a unique partnership between the University, Southend-on-Sea Borough Council and South Essex College, and has acted as a beacon for regeneration in the town. It attracted more than one million visitors in its first year. It also provides a shared outdoor screen where the partners can showcase public events and their achievements.

Southend Campus Manager Zoe Manning said: “Our students and staff love The Forum, which is the beating heart of our Southend Campus. Not only do students have the best possible library and independent study facilities, they also have great spaces for group working and practising presentations. The building is full of life and activity and creates a real buzz.”

Southend-on-Sea Borough Council’s Executive Councillor for Enterprise, Tourism and Economic Development, Councillor Graham Longley, said: “The University of Essex is now an integral part of Southend. Its active contribution to the life of the borough is even more evident since it joined with the Council and South Essex College to build the unique partnership development of The Forum Southend-on-Sea.

“This joint public and academic library and learning hub serves the whole community – residents of all ages, visitors and students. Together they are all able to gain the benefits of all the enhanced and additional facilities yielded by the combined resources of the three institutions.

“We are delighted that this ground-breaking project has been recognised so significantly that it has reached the shortlist of these prestigious awards, and we are very proud to stand alongside the University and College in this achievement.”

The University is also shortlisted for its initiative to further LGBT equality for staff by setting up a collaborative and supportive LGBT network for people living and working across Essex.

The Alliance was launched by Vice-Chancellor Professor Anthony Forster in March 2014, and now has members from 18 organisations across the county including the police and fire services and the Essex County Football Association.

It aims to raise issues relevant to LGBT people for comment, discussion and recommendation; to promote sexual orientation and gender identity equality; and to involve member institutions and the wider community in the promotion of equality and avoidance of discrimination.

Since the Alliance was established, there has been a 28 per cent increase in staff disclosure of their sexual orientation at the University; Essex has become one of just six UK universities to meet all ten criteria in Stonewall’s Gay by Degree 2015, and the University has been ranked in the top 50% of organisations in its first entry into Stonewall’s Workplace Equality Index.

Karen Bush, Head of Equality and Diversity at the University, said: “I am delighted that this innovative partnership has been recognised, and we look forward to continuing to work together with our Alliance partners to raise awareness of issues relating to sexual orientation and gender identity within the workplace, and to share best practice across the county.”

The winners will be announced on 18 March.

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