ESSEX University has been crowned as University of the Year.

The Times Higher Education awards, labelled the Oscars of the higher education, praised the institution for its radical past and its work in ridding the gender pay gap. Judges said: “This is a university that is putting people first.

“The gender pay gap exists everywhere, but this university said what no-one else dared to say: ‘There is an easy way to get rid of the pay gap – spend the money necessary to get rid of it’.” Judges also touched on the uni’s “bold” initiatives, citing its strategy to recruit students on the basis of potential rather than just achievement.

Vice-Chancellor Prof Anthony Forster said: “This award recognises the impact of our amazing staff and students, the quality of our relationship with our Students’ Union and the strength of our national, regional and global partnerships.

“Founded as a progressive university, at Essex we are prepared to stand out from the crowd - and challenging convention is in our DNA. We are a community of talented, committed people, a university that is putting our staff and students first, and home to those who want to make the world a better place.“I am delighted the award of University of the Year recognises these values and the achievements of our community of members.”

Students’ Union President Tancrede Chartier: “This award highlights the incredible qualities and achievements of Essex students, past and present, and the way our unique partnership with the University puts students at the heart of everything that happens at Essex.