The University of Essex is a British public research university whose original and largest campus is near the town of Colchester, England. It was established in 1963 and received its Royal Charter in 1965. The university's main campus is located within Wivenhoe Park in the English county of Essex, less than a mile (1.6 km) from the town of Wivenhoe & 2 miles (3.2 km) from the town of Colchester. Apart from the Wivenhoe Park campus, there is a rapidly developing campus in South end-on-Sea (Essex's largest town), and the East 15 Acting School is based in Loughton. The University's motto, Thought the harder, heart the keener, is adapted from the Anglo-Saxon poem The Battle of Malden.

In July 1959, Essex County Council accepted a proposal from Alderman Leather land that a university be established in the county. A University Promotion Committee was formed chaired by Lord Lieutenant of Essex, Sir John Ruggles-Brise, which submitted a formal application to the University Grants Committee requesting that a University of Essex should be established. Initial reports suggested that the Promotion Committee had recommended Hylands Park in Chelmsford as the site for the new University, however in May 1961, the foundation of the university was announced in the House of Commons with Wivenhoe as the preferred location and in December of the same year, Wivenhoe Park was acquired for the new university. In October 1964, the first 122 students arrived with 28 teaching staff in three schools: Comparative Studies, Physical Sciences and Social Studies. Departments of Chemistry, Physics, Government, Sociology, Literature, Mathematics and Economics open along with the Language Centre (later the Department of Language and Linguistics) and the Computing Centre (later the Department of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering).

The university is organized into four faculties, comprising 18 schools and departments, spanning the Humanities, Law and Management, Social Sciences and Science and Engineering.

Faculty of Humanities and Comparative Studies

  • Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies in the Humanities (CISH)
  • Department of History
  • Department of Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies
  • East 15 Acting School
  • International Academy
  • School of Philosophy and Art History

Faculty of Law and Management

  • Essex Business School
  • School of Law
  • Human Rights Centre
  • Institute for Democracy and Conflict Resolution
  • Professional Development Studies

Faculty of Science and Engineering

  • School of Biological Sciences
  • Department of Mathematical Sciences
  • Department of Psychology
  • School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering
  • School of Health and Human Sciences

Faculty of Social Sciences

  • Centre for Psychoanalytic Studies
  • Department of Economics
  • Department of Government
  • Department of Language and Linguistics
  • Department of Sociology
  • Institute for Social and Economic Research

The university has a very large population of international students, with over 4,235 international students in 2011. Nearly 50% of postgraduates, and 40% undergraduates are students whose country of origin is outside of the UK (including EU). The university boasts a large proportion of local students from state schools, and a third of its undergraduates are from working-class homes.