I have known since January I would be joining the University this summer and so have had some time to get used to the fact I would be saying goodbye to my colleagues at the University of Nottingham, moving home with all of the upheaval that brings and starting a new job. However, it was still a bit of a shock as to how quickly the Summer arrived, my round of ‘leaving dos’ unfolded and I had to pack up my office and say goodbye to a place and people with whom I have spent 23 very happy years! So it was with a mixture of excitement and apprehension that I walked on to the campus at Canterbury and into my new office on the 1st of August. I find myself now in week 7 and I wanted to do two things. First to say thank you for the very warm welcome I have received from everyone here at the University, it is really wonderful to be here. Second, I thought it might be helpful to share some of my first impressions before we get in to the beginning of term.
Over the last few weeks I have been meeting with as many University staff and students as I can, as well as getting to know the campuses at Canterbury and Medway. It has been a great opportunity to hear what people value about the University as well as what they feel are some of the issues that our University, and the sector more widely, is currently grappling with.
From my meetings with staff it is clear that they feel valued and enjoy working at Kent. Staff value the autonomy and potential that working here gives them, our wonderful campuses and European identity. Large organisations, however, don’t come without their issues. Speed of decision making, the planning process, internal communications and complexity have all been mentioned as things to address.
There is much to build on and some areas to work on and I am looking forward to doing that collectively and collaboratively with colleagues and students across our university. My areas of priority include:
- Addressing student expectations in relation to the education experience. Feedback and assessment, student voice, putting students at the core of what we do.
- Acknowledging and rewarding excellent teaching and education innovation and leadership.
- Reviewing our portfolio of programmes and determining the future size and shape of the University.
- Supporting the delivery of high quality research and identifying ‘signature’ areas that we invest in and all benefit from.
- Raising the University profile locally, regionally, nationally and internationally.
I want to explore these issues with staff and students across the university, as part of a review and refresh of the University strategic plan. This has to be done in a wider context of an environment in which Higher Education is highly politicised, fees have changed the way students think about and experience their education and the role of Universities in wider society is being questioned.
It is a really exciting and challenging time ahead and I look forward to working with you all to continue to build a great University that draws on the strengths of our past achievements to help shape and develop our future.
Professor Karen Cox, Vice-Chancellor and President