“The world in one place” is how the University of Essex’s vibrant campuses are often described.
As it celebrates its 60th anniversary, Essex’s appetite to engage internationally continues to grow and this commitment is underlined by the fact Essex has risen to 15th for international outlook in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2024.
This makes Essex the highest-ranking English university for international outlook outside London and Oxbridge – in fact Essex is level with the University of Cambridge on this measure.
This is unsurprising as Essex has built an incredible international network of partners, alumni and research collaborators over the past six decade. This all supports the key factors influencing Times Higher’s international outlook which reflects a university’s ability to attract undergraduates, postgraduates and faculty from all over the planet while also reflecting the level of collaboration with academics across the world..
Arriving at Essex – as a student or a member staff – places you at the heart of a community drawn from more than 140 countries from around the world.
Nilisha Subasinghe loves travel and now through studying at Essex she has a global network of friends.
Originally from Sri Lanka, Nilisha completed her undergraduate studies in Japan and then chose Essex to undertake a Masters in Criminology.
She said she was “embraced” by the incredible international community at Essex and threw herself into a startling range of activities at Essex including the University of Essex Choir, getting paid work experience as a frontrunner for research centres in the Faculty of Social Sciences, volunteering through the Students’ Union’s vTeam programme and working as a content creator for the University’s Communications team.
“I've loved it,” she said. “There are so many opportunities, from volunteering to working as a frontrunner. Every day on the university calendar, there is something that you can engage with. I was very comfortable getting involved in things because of how the University embraces people from around the world.”
As a frontrunner she worked as an events assistant to support the Centre for Research in Economic Sociology and Innovation and worked with the academic team launching the new Centre for Global South Studies at Essex. “Being from the Global South, it was a really big opportunity for me,” she said.
Another highlight for Nilisha was joining the University choir and performing at Snape Maltings in Aldeburgh, one of the most famous concert halls in the UK. “I'm really happy that I got the chance to perform there,” she said.
Naomi Gumede is from a completely different part of the world but loved the global atmosphere on our campuses too. She is a freelance film maker from South Africa who came to Essex after winning a Chevening scholarship to complete a Masters in Film Studies.
“It was nice to discover the different people, the different vibe Essex has,” she said. “The campus is a really great international space for students.”
Her degree and experiences working on films for various parts of the University have built her confidence and she is full of praise for her supervisor Nic Blower, who is an expert on documentary making, but also linked her up with other specialists in the Department of Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies. “He was always there for me and referred me to other people for other questions I had.” she said.
Now she is looking to the future: “Back in South Africa, I’ll be doing more film work and trying to get my own projects off the ground and telling my own stories – well the stories I'd like to tell with other people!”
Attracting global sporting talent
Essex’s increasing sporting profile is attracting rising sports stars to our teaching programmes. One of these is Canadian Zack Kuzyk, 24, who just arrived to study for a Masters in Physiotherapy after completing his undergraduate degree at Simon Fraser University in Greater Vancouver.
“I chose Essex because of its excellent academic programmes in addition to having the opportunity to meet other students from around the world,” Zack said. “And I experienced that right away - we have five people in my flat from five different countries, and it's been really cool meeting people from so many different places.
“Despite just arriving from Canada, I have felt incredibly welcomed by peers, roommates, and University staff. This speaks to the University’s inclusivity. I am looking forward to taking advantage of everything Essex has to offer.”
Part of that offer is continuing his athletics career: “I'll have the opportunity to be on the athletics team here for training, and maybe a little bit of coaching as well, and hopefully I'll be competing in the jumping events for the University at major sporting events.
“The big aim would be to hopefully compete on an international stage or at some level of international competition. But, moving forward, I'm hoping to use this career path to stay connected to athletics throughout my career, whether that means being medical staff, or through coaching and training performance. I think being well established in the sport over the last 10 years of my life, and then also getting this degree and having coaching certifications should mean I will be able to stay connected with this sport for a long time.”
“I chose Essex because of its excellent academic programmes in addition to having the opportunity to meet other students from around the world,” Zack said. “Despite just arriving from Canada, I have felt incredibly welcomed by peers, roommates, and University staff. This speaks to the University’s inclusivity. I am looking forward to taking advantage of everything Essex has to offer.”
We will be hearing more about Essex’s blossoming sports programme in future Sixty Stories.
From the start, the University had an international outlook. The Reith Lectures delivered on BBC radio by the University’s founding Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir Albert Sloman back in 1963 outlined a new kind of university which embraced the world. This included attracting academics from outside the UK, but also extending the focus of study to countries and regions not normally studied in depth at British universities at the time – Russia, North America and Latin America. “The frame will not be England, nor even Western Europe, but the whole world,” Sloman told listeners.
An international focus led to Essex developing a global character and in 1986, just over 20 years afters its establishment, it was recognised as having the highest percentage of overseas students in the UK at 23%. That internationalism has continued. Now close to 40% of students are from outside the UK drawn from more than 140 countries. The top 10 countries represented in the Essex community at the moment are China, France, India, Ireland, Italy, Nigeria, Pakistan, Poland, Romania and the United States.