THE former Speaker of the House of Commons has said the University of Essex will always have “a special place in my heard” after stepping down as its Chancellor.

John Bercow announced his decision to step down having served more than four years in the role which he had held since 2017.

He said: “It has been a pleasure and an honour to be able to support the University of Essex in my role as Chancellor over the past four years.

“Essex has remained part of my life since I graduated in 1985 and being Chancellor has been a source of immense pride.

“It has been an absolute delight to preside over graduation ceremonies at the university, host the meeting of university court, bringing our friends and supporters together each year, spending time with current and former students, as well as having the opportunity to help to promote Essex around the world.

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“Since stepping down as Speaker of the House of Commons and leaving Parliament I have embarked on a new phase of my career and feel the time is now right to step down and for the university to commence the process of appointing my successor.

“Though I am stepping down as Chancellor, I have a special place in my heart for the university and I will continue to support Essex in whatever way I am able to in the future.”

The former Conservative MP, who became the scourge of Brexiteers as Commons speaker and switched allegiances to join the Labour Party earlier this summer, was praised by the university’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Anthony Forster, for bringing “joy” in his role.

“John has been a wonderful Chancellor, bringing enthusiasm and passion to the position,” said Mr Forster.

“As an alumnus, John has been able to connect with and inspire staff and students alike.

“John has keenly supported our fundraising initiatives, as well as sharing his love for Essex with current students and our alumni community. We are truly grateful to him for supporting the university over the past four years.

“Throughout his time as Chancellor, John has always enjoyed supporting our community, and his presiding over graduation has brought joy and excitement to our ceremonies.

“Over the past year, his focus has been on supporting our student community.

“As the country has emerged from lockdown, John has focused his efforts on supporting and inspiring current students in planning for their futures through a series of events focused on professional development.”

The university will now begin the process of appointing a replacement and said it expects to have a new Chancellor by autumn 2022.