It hardly seems a moment since the beginning of term but here we are with Christmas fast approaching! It has been a full and busy few months and I hope that you and your families and friends are able to have some time together and re-charge batteries over the Christmas and New Year break.
As many of you will be aware, we have had some challenges this year with lower than planned recruitment and an associated squeeze on our finances. I know colleagues have been working hard on responding to this through savings plans, adjusting the capital plan, identifying areas to grow, enhancing our marketing and recruitment activity and further diversifying our income. This is against the backdrop of a volatile external environment, increasingly aggressive recruitment within the sector, unknowns relating to the review of post-18 education funding and, of course, Brexit. All this combined means it is likely recruitment and funding will continue to be a challenge for the foreseeable future.
The work on our refreshed strategy, building on our previous strategic plan, helps here by setting out our priorities in relation to Research and Innovation, Education and the Student Experience, and Engagement and Impact. The actions associated with these priority areas will enable us to respond positively to changing student expectations, focus on raising the profile and reputation of our research and enhancing our research environment, and clarifying our role as a university that contributes to the local community as well as across the region, Europe and internationally. We will all need to work together to ensure our success and sustainability, and I look forward to working with you on these agendas over the coming months.
We must remember as well that Kent is doing a great deal that is excellent. In relation to research, impact and engagement, we continue to receive widespread media coverage. During the Autumn Term our most popular stories included research on how women who give birth to boys are more likely to have postnatal depression, how narcissists are less likely to support democracy, and the role and rise of populism in Western democracies. Research on how virtual reality can improve performance during exercise and the ways in which our research into autism continues to benefit autistic children, and those who support them, also made the headlines as did the Gateways to the First World War project and our work on the impact of cyber-attacks on individuals, businesses and nations. I am also delighted that a recent breakthrough here at Kent on how the vitamin B12 content of some plants can be improved to make vegetarian and vegan diets more complete was chosen by Universities UK as one of the UK’s 100 Best Breakthroughs for its significant impact on people’s everyday lives.
In relation to education and the student experience we continue to offer great support for our students, culminating this year with the award for Outstanding Support for Students at the Times Higher Education (THE) Awards three weeks ago (for the second year running). In addition, the high standard and quality of our commercial services was recognised earlier this year when we received the national Commercial University of the Year award. Many congratulations to all those involved – across all our schools and professional services – for their outstanding achievements.
We have also continued to evolve our portfolio of courses and look forward to new programmes starting; for example, Human Geography in 2019. Work continues on the Medical School – to be set up ready for our first intake in September 2020 – and we will be delivering the degree apprenticeship programme for the Government Economic Service through our School of Economics in 2019.
Whatever our role we are all part of ensuring our continued success in the way we deliver education, undertake research and engage with our local communities and I thank you for all this work and the contributions you make every day. I wish you and your families a happy and peaceful Christmas and New Year.
Professor Karen Cox, Vice-Chancellor and President