Category Archives: Kent Opportunity Fund

£90,000 for Kent Opportunity Fund

This is Laura Thomas-Walters. She is investigating how behavioural research can be better utilised for illegal wildlife trade demand reduction strategies. Her PhD is funded by the Kent Opportunity Fund.

Over four weeks this autumn, a team of dedicated student callers spoke to over 1,000 alumni across the UK.  The team raised the record breaking total of just over £90,000 to support postgraduate research, student projects and hardship bursaries, as part of the Kent Opportunity Fund.

We are overwhelmed by the generosity of our alumni, who gave us 259 gifts, ranging from £5 to £2,000.

In 2016, for the first time, we also called our alumni in the United States and spoke to 221 US alumni, based across 30 states; from New York to Albuquerque to Lake Oswego, and raised almost $7,000 from 53 individual gifts. These funds will go towards the UKA-Fulbright Scholarships.

Our alumni community is a huge asset to the University, and many of the student callers commented on the positive and inspiring conversations that they had enjoyed.  The alumni also enjoyed hearing the latest news from Kent.

Graduates Giving Back – the story of Keith Donkor

Keith Donkor (Keynes 2012) is a Mathematics and Accounting & Finance graduate.  Keith worked as a student caller on several Telephone Campaigns and has recently committed to a regular donation to the Kent Opportunity Fund.  We caught up with him to ask why he chose to donate back:


‘I was always going to give back to the Kent Opportunity Fund, given my experiences working on three telephone campaigns. The two main reasons behind my donation though.

‘Firstly, the cause itself is something I really believe in. I’ve been lucky enough to speak with PhD scholars who have been given the opportunity to carry out work they’re passionate about. It’s special because it gives these students an opportunity that wouldn’t have been available to them but for the KOF. It’s helps so many people so everybody should really help.

‘Secondly, being involved in the campaigns has had an indirect positive effect on me and my career. It has opened doors for me and allowing me to become a Business Development Manager for a recruitment company. I’m eternally grateful to the telephone campaigns.’

You can read a little more about Keith on his profile.


After finishing her thesis, 2011 Alumni Postgraduate Scholar Katy Upton got in touch to let us know where she is now – and what life after Kent has meant for her so far.

Having recently had my PhD thesis bound I have had some time to reflect on everything which has gone into creating a 200 page book! This is one of the greatest achievements of my life and I am very proud of the work and effort which has gone into my research, as well as eternally grateful of all the support I have received throughout. I submitted my thesis back in July and I can hardly remember those last few weeks of writing and traveling down to Canterbury to submit my final copy!

Shortly afterwards I applied for a job at Chester Zoo as a Curatorial Assistant working alongside the Curator of Lower Vertebrates and Invertebrates. I was successful in my application and started working at the Zoo in August. I jumped straight into my role spending my first few weeks working on the Mountain Chicken studbook and have been involved in the preparation of the long term management plan for this species.

This has been very interesting work, getting to see how the captive population of these species are managed including pairing individuals based on the best genetic matches to help sustain the population in the future. In November I was lucky enough to travel to Prague where I was involved in the same process but for the Komodo Dragons.

I have been doing this job for seven months now and am thoroughly enjoying it. I regularly get to spend time working behind the scenes with the reptiles, amphibians, invertebrates and fish and even had a brief cameo in the TV programme The Secret Life of the Zoo. After successfully defending my thesis at my viva in September I had three months in which to complete my corrections.

This was a difficult process whilst working full time and enjoying my new found freedom no longer having to work long into the evenings running statistical analysis on my data. However I pushed through and had my corrections accepted in January, submitting my final thesis shortly afterwards. My next plan will be to write up my chapters as publications to share my work with other researchers.

I am currently really enjoying my time at Chester Zoo and hope it will continue long into the future. I still have loads to learn about the roles Zoos play in species conservation however from what I have seen at Chester I believe we can achieve great things.

You can see this article in the summer edition of KENT magazine.



In 2014, a report published by the Campaign for Science and Engineering (CASE), entitled Improving Diversity in STEM, demonstrated hard and depressing evidence that women, those with disabilities and those from ethnic-minorities or socially-disadvantaged groups are consistently underrepresented at senior levels in STEM.  An unfamiliar HE environment can be stressful, particularly for those who already have an underlying illness/disability.

Engineering and Digital Arts (EDA) applied for a Student Projects Grant to encourage diversity, participation and confidence in minority groups around STEM and to promote and develop a series of activities to enhance the wellbeing of its students.

The plan focused on matters of equality and addressing barriers to access and progression through a series of targeted events, including Engineering a Winning Workforce by Creating an Inclusive Engineering Industry’, an event taking place on 16 November, delivered by Dr Mark McBide-Wright.

The other arm of the project aimed to lessen the stigma surrounding mental health by offering support mechanisms such as a series of events on managing student life, increased deployment of wellbeing information, and promoting simple measures such as a healthy lunchtime walk!

The project has enabled students to develop the knowledge, understanding, skills, capabilities and attributes needed for mental, emotional, social and physical wellbeing now, and in the future and educated staff both in EDA and at Kent as a whole.

Help the Homeless Week!



In spring 2016, the Canterbury Homeless Outreach Society received funding to run a Help the Homeless Week – events raising awareness and funds for homelessness, including quiz nights, art exhibitions and a sponsored sleep-out! This project encouraged students to take action in the local community and engage with different lifestyles to bring about change.

The funding for this project came from the Student Projects Grant Scheme, and it embodies the values for which his scheme was established; to create opportunities for students at Kent to improve their employability, reach out to the community and increase the quality of their university experience.

President Luke Bridle said “Well done guys HHW is over and we all survived the sub-zero temperatures on the sleep out!”

A Wonderful Week of Words


As part of the 2016 Student Project Grants scheme, the UKC Hogwarts Society and Kent Union applied for funding to support J.K Rowling’s charity, Lumos.   Lumos works with underprivileged families abroad and in the UK to help them get back on their feet and build solid foundations for a better future. The goal was to raise monehogwartsy but also make an impact in the community.

Local primary schools with a high percentage of underprivileged children, were targetted and invited to a day at the university to listen to a children’s author and participate in workshops designed to inspire and boost their confidence, and encourage a love of reading.

Three days of children’s authors and workshops took place, and ticketed events with authors to raise money for Lumos. Other Kent Union Societies also got involved and ran music, poetry and other workshops run by to help raise money, and so the whole university involved.

 Rebecca Chidgey of St Stephen’s School said “all the children that attended the workshops during World Book Week at the UKC thoroughly enjoyed it and found it all very interesting and informative. I would like to thank you for inviting us, it was a real privilege.”

A Year 4 student from St John’s School commented; “My favourite part was when we went to the drama room.”

Applications for the 2017 Student Project Grants Scheme are open until 16 December 2016! Apply now!