Getting down to business

We are now in November and I can’t quite believe I have been here over three months! My time has been filled with meeting colleagues, students, alumni and a range of other stakeholders from across Kent. I have enjoyed hearing what you have to say about the University, as well as celebrating with you milestones such as being promoted (congratulations to all our new Senior Lecturers, Readers and Professors, may your success continue) and completing twenty five years of service to the University. My sincere thanks for all you do on a daily basis for our University.

Discussion and much hard work continues on the development of a bid for the proposed Kent and Medway Medical School. We are working intensely with our colleagues at Canterbury Christ Church University supported by input from our parent Medical School, Brighton and Sussex, to submit a bid in a very short time-frame. We have the support of local health providers and commissioners as well as local political support but we are only at the beginning of this journey. However, I believe such an initiative is right for the County as well as for the University and is an opportunity for us to bring together all of our work in health from the ‘bench to the bedside’ to make a step change in our activity in this area.

October also saw the launch of the consultations on the regulation of Higher Education. Some of you may have heard the thud as the hundreds of pages of documents landed in our inboxes. Colleagues have already begun ploughing through the pages and my thanks to April McMahon and Anita Jackson for leading on this. We will continue to keep everyone updated as the work to respond unfolds.

I have had a few firsts over the last few weeks, my first Council meeting, where we discussed the Medical School proposal, my first Senate, a gentle start with routine committee business and my first Managers’ Forum. Managers’ Forum includes the Executive Group (myself, Senior DVCs, DVCs, Director of Finance), Faculty Deans, portfolio Deans, Heads of School and Directors of Professional Services, ensuring we have a spread of colleagues right across the University. We had a presentation on Prevent and the work being led by Kent County Council which has moved this agenda on to the role of organisations in safe-guarding those individuals deemed to be vulnerable by virtue of a range of circumstances. We then had an update on Education from April McMahon, with a focus on NSS action plans in Schools and on Research from Philippe De Wilde with a focus on research income, exploring ways of supporting successful grant applications. Our Finance Director, Jane Higham, then followed with an overview of University budgets. We have had a positive finish to 16/17 with a surplus above budget of approximately £16m. However, this is due to a number of ‘one offs’ which occurred in year and will not likely be repeated again. For 17/18 we are forecasting a surplus of only £2m which is tight against a back drop of flat-lining income and increasing costs.  This is challenging when we want to continue to invest in University staff and infrastructure. Discussion focussed on work to review the University strategy, plan and priorities, how we might identify new sources of income, manage costs and invest for future success, as well as how we might better communicate and engage across the whole of our University. On this last point please do share your ideas and thoughts with me on how we might all do this better.

Finally, my congratulations to the Centre for Child Protection who won a Collaborative Award for Teaching Excellence from the Higher Education Academy. This is fantastic news and just reward for the excellent work that is undertaken by colleagues in the centre.

Professor Karen Cox, Vice-Chancellor and President