Our university has signed up to the ‘City of Sanctuary’ project, a movement committed to building a culture of hospitality and welcome, especially for refugees seeking sanctuary from war and persecution. This is just one part of our One World, One Spirit, One Essex campaign which we are extending beyond our campuses into work with local partners. The whole project is being led by our Chief of Staff, Monica Illsley, who tells us more about the work she is doing to encourage a global community outlook across Essex.

OneEssex campaign logo

Our One Essex inclusivity campaign logo.

At Essex we pride ourselves on being a global university community; it’s one of the reasons that we as staff choose to work here and why many of our students want to study here. In March we launched a new initiative in response to concerns and anxiety amongst our community about what a post Brexit world might bring. In the wake of the referendum, we saw examples of unwelcoming and racist behaviours, comments and incidents which prompted us to want to do something to re-affirm our University campuses as inclusive and safe places and spaces.

Given that our staff and students live out in the community, we also wanted to extend beyond our campuses and work with local partners to reach out into our local communities, championing inclusivity and the benefits of membership of a global community. The One World, One Spirit, One Essex campaign is about showing that we’re proud of our global community, proud of our diversity, our people and our inclusive spirit. It’s very much a joint University and Students’ Union initiative and we’re working with a number of local partners including: Colchester Borough Council, the Police, the Safer Colchester Partnership, Essex Community Foundation, Firstsite, and local volunteering and community organisations. We’re partnering on initiatives and promoting each other’s efforts to promote inclusivity and diversity so that together we can achieve maximum impact.

Knocking down the hate wall

The campaign was launched with a very successful Students’ Union-led event that involved building a Hate Wall at the Colchester campus and inviting our community to write their views and experiences of racist behaviour on the wall. Emotions ran high as the wall was covered with examples of hateful behaviour until, at the end of the day, our community (joined by our then Chancellor Shami Chakrabarti and the Mayor of Colchester at the time Julie Young) came together to physically knock the wall down to symbolise us standing firm together in relation to our values. The response was fantastic and captured and shared via social media. It was followed up with a contrasting Love Wall event on our Colchester Campus and with the Hate Wall being taken out into the community as part of the John Ball Day event at Firstsite on 15 July.

Our University values

The University’s inclusivity values seem to sit well with those of the people of Colchester, one of the most active towns in welcoming and supporting Syrian refugees. There are a number of growing local movements that really resonate with what we’re doing. As a large and influential organisation with over 2,000 staff and more than 15,000 students, many living in our local communities, it makes sense for us to be part of these initiatives.

Our SU ran their Hate Wall event at Firstsite as part of John Ball day.

Our SU ran their Hate Wall event at Firstsite as part of John Ball day.

We have already committed to the University being an active partner in the growing Citizens UK movement in Colchester, and have recently agreed to support the Colchester as a Borough of Sanctuary initiative. Part of a national ‘City of Sanctuary’ project, the aim is to build welcoming communities for vulnerable groups, especially for refugees seeking sanctuary from war and persecution. By signing up, we have committed the University to stand ready to contribute in whatever way it can.

Get involved

Over the coming year, there will be many opportunities for students and staff to get involved in the One Essex campaign as it gathers momentum and reaches out to our other campuses. So look out for events and activities taking place on our campuses and in our local towns and get in touch with the One Essex working group if you have any ideas for what more we can do to celebrate and champion inclusivity. Email Benita Ganeva with your ideas on bdgane@essex.ac.uk.



At Essex we’re proud of our diversity, our people and our inclusive spirit.

We’re proud of our global community and we’re celebrating these values with One Essex.


Essex is home to people from all over the world.

We’ll respect and support each other, no matter who we are or where we come from.

Join us in making sure that we are a welcoming and supportive community and a place that feels safe and inclusive.