First, I want to send my best wishes for the Easter break. I know it has been a busy term and that there has been a lot going on and I want to thank you for all that each of you are doing across the University for staff and students and the wider university community. Second, I wanted to set out a brief update as to where we are at with responding to the challenges I outlined in my previous blog.
Overall, while we are in challenging times I don’t want us to forget that we are building on strong foundations and do have a vision of where we are trying to get to over the next few years. Our refreshed strategy, building on the 2015 to 2020 plan sets out our vision for the University and our priorities in Education and the Student Experience, Research and Innovation and Engagement and the Civic Mission and we are now progressing a number of the actions that are set out under these strategic pillars. Our immediate challenges relating to recruitment, finances and our size and shape require us to respond quickly but our response also needs to reflect the direction of travel we have set out in Kent 2025.
In my last blog I noted what we were doing to address our recruitment challenges, our need for savings, our need to identify areas of growth in education and research and review our portfolio of courses. I set out updates in each of these areas below:
- All schools and professional service departments have now had their 15% budget improvement plans approved following discussion at EG – we need to enact these from 2019/2020.
- Discussion of a voluntary severance scheme has almost concluded and subject to final approval will be launched later in April 2019.
- We have reviewed the whole capital programme, prioritising the Kent and Medway Medical School, Jennison Workshop developments to support the development of Engineering programmes, and essential maintenance. We are phasing or deferring other planned capital projects to provide financial headroom. We are progressing the sale of some land and property, these are at contract review stage.
- Schools are undertaking a review of their portfolio of modules and programmes – (stopping areas that are not viable and identifying areas that can grow along with new programmes).
- In terms of new activity, the Kent and Medway Medical School has progressed through the next stage of General Medical Council approval, we are launching a fundraising campaign to support capital costs, widening participation bursaries and clinical academic appointments. The first open day takes place on the 6th of April and over 500 people have signed up. We are in the process of appointing to the Director role of the Institute for Creative and Cultural Industries. The next phase is to draw together expertise in these areas from across the University and look at new programmes we can offer in collaboration with the creative industries sector.
- We have invested in additional marketing and recruitment activity focussing on 2019 entry and the Recruitment Oversight Committee are looking at developing a new approach to 2020 and beyond.
- The brand strategy group have been exploring ways of better articulating who we are and what we do. This work will also help with marketing ourselves to prospective applicants.
- In relation to diversifying our modes of delivering our programmes, we are in the process of procuring a partner to work with us on on-line provision and we are in early explorative discussions with providers of International Pathways into higher education. We are expanding our Higher Degree Apprenticeships offer.
- Work continues on enhancing university performance in education and research, including academic workforce projects, TEF preparations and student success projects, REF preparations and on going work to identify our signature research themes.
- The Organising for Success project continues. We are in the first phase of that piece of work, setting out the high level design and now discussing and testing this out with staff. This includes, Executive Group portfolios, School groupings and Professional Service configurations. A series of discussion and engagement events are now underway. Your feedback is welcome. All this work is led by Denise Everitt and David Nightingale along with a project board and they are in the process of reviewing and pulling together all this feedback. This will ultimately lead to a set of proposals that will be brought together as a ‘case for change’ to be discussed at Senate and Council.
- Finally, as we undertake the work on how we are organised this is highlighting areas where we need to streamline our key processes and decision making, this work will be taken forward over the summer months.
I look forward to welcoming staff and students back to our campuses after the break. Over the next few weeks and months we will continue to update and engage with colleagues and provide more details on all these initiatives and how people can get involved.
With all good wishes to you and your families.