Welcome back for the Summer Term

I hope that many of you were able to take a few days off over Easter and spend time with family and friends. I was delighted to return to see the Canterbury campus looking so fantastic. A huge thank you to the Grounds team; everywhere looks great!

So we progress into our Summer Term. Although the threat of a no-deal Brexit has receded a little and the publication of the Augar review into post 18-education finance has again been delayed, ensuring our financial sustainability remains our top priority. The Kent Voluntary Severance Scheme has now been launched, work continues on diversifying our income, increasing our research and innovation income and on securing student numbers. On this point, getting our portfolio of courses at undergraduate and postgraduate level right is critical. Mary Hughes’ guest blog set out the extra effort we are putting into recruitment. Focus and activity in this area will continue and clearing will this year be more important than ever. I know many of you – especially in Schools and in Academic Division – are already concentrating on how to get the best outcome.

On other actions, the consultation on the Organising for Success project has now concluded and I want to thank the many hundreds of you who have taken part for the serious, helpful and considered inputs you have provided. These have all been fed into the project team and we will be giving feedback on your comments. Firm proposals will be discussed at Senate before presentation to Council at the end of term so that we will have a clear direction of travel for implementation over the next year.

We are also pressing on with other parts of the agenda as part of building our long-term sustainability. As some of you know, we advertised externally earlier in the spring for a founding Director of our Institute of Cultural and Creative Industries, but decided not to appoint after interviews. We have subsequently decided to create the role of a Co-Director (Academic), working with Liz Moran, our Director of Arts and Culture. The job posting is now live and we are looking for internal candidates  This term sees the launch of the new Academic Career Map (ACM), which is a framework to set out relevant expectations, support development and recognise achievements at each academic career stage. We are making progress in identifying our new signature areas for research excellence.

One of the things we can always do more of is celebrating the really interesting work that we do. Four areas that have caught my eye recently are:

  • Professor Tracy Kivell has just finished her ERC Starting Grant, on the evolution of the human hand. Research from this five-year project has highlighted the differences (and similarities) in how humans and African apes, our closest living relatives, use and load their hands during locomotion and tool use, and how these different behaviours are reflected in the internal structure of our bones. This work has included analyses on some of our most interesting human ancestors, including Neanderthals, Homo naledi from South Africa and Homo floresiensis or “the Hobbit” from Indonesia.
  • Professor Yvonne Sherwood has arranged a fascinating series of lectures, from internationally renowned experts, based around Canterbury Cathedral’s stained glass windows.
  • Professor Ulf Schmidt has brought together representatives and international experts from diplomacy, academia and government for a workshop to explore under Chatham House rules how to tackle some of the pressing issues around Chemical and Biological weapons.
  • Professor Claire Peppiatt-Wildman has been given the Björn Folkow Award in recognition of important original research on the pathogenesis of hypertension.

Congratulations to all four. But please keep feeding your own stories into me!

Finally, as many of you will have noticed, the UK will unexpectedly be taking part in the European elections on 23 May. I hope that there will be opportunities for the University to host debates before this date.