Summer term ended last Friday marking the end of what has been a challenging year for everyone. I know many of you have been particularly busy over the past few weeks with the exam season. We can, however, now look forward to what is, in many respects, the highlight of the academic year, our graduation celebrations. I am conscious, though that the cycle will then start over again – with clearing and confirmation and, of course, all the many preparations for the next academic year.
I was delighted last week to attend a ceremony at the House of Lords to mark Kent Business School’s achievement of the Small Business Charter; in recognition of the support it provides to small businesses in the region and the work it does across the University to support student entrepreneurship. Congratulations to all those colleagues involved in that work. This underlined for me the vitality of the University in the wider community. We work best when we understand the needs of others. Reaching out can enrich our own research, create new opportunities for innovation and help us to understand better the future needs of students and employers. Also last weekend, I hosted around 200 supporters, volunteers and donors on campus. This was an opportunity to say a big ‘thank you’ to them for all their support and fundraising. It was also a time for them to meet some of our scholarship students. It was a wonderful and upbeat afternoon. We are now focusing on a refreshed fundraising campaign that will align with our strategy, seeking funds and support for the Kent and Medway Medical School, Student Experience enhancements and Research via the Signature Themes as these mature. We will share more of this work as it develops.
I also attended two important internal University meetings last week. The Finance and Resources Committee (FRC) on 14 June considered the draft University budget. We are projecting a deficit for the next academic year, resulting from a combination of factors: the continued decline in our income (Home/EU fees); a significant increase in pension contributions (USS); and, above all, reduced student recruitment in 2018/19 and 2019/20 as against previously forecast projections. FRC has taken note of the steps we are taking to bring the University back into a sustainable position but will, understandably, be monitoring progress closely.
Senate on 12 June included an extensive discussion about the ‘Organising for Success’ proposals. There was a very thoughtful discussion, enabling a wide range of views across the University to be aired. There was agreement to progress with the proposals as a blueprint for organising ourselves in the future, subject to further reflection on a number of points. The Senate discussion will be reflected in our report to Council at the end of the month. We will then engage further with all staff across the University as we take work forward to its next stages.
The next academic year will continue to be challenging, but I believe we have much to look forward to and be optimistic about. Yes, the sector continues to face uncertainty and, yes, we will have to continue to adjust to all that and the impact on us, but I believe our collective will, talents and ambition will help us through this period. We can already see the fruits of our recovery programme coming through. I look forward next year to developments in a number of exciting areas: new programmes in Human Geography, Planning and Mechanical Engineering, our Signature Research Themes being worked up – creating exciting opportunities for innovation, interdisciplinary work and an opportunity to showcase the very best of what Kent has to offer – as well as the launch of our Institute for Cultural and Creative Industries and the beginning of recruitment into the Kent and Medway Medical School.
So thank you all for your contributions to our University over the past year. I hope that you will be able to take at least some time off over the summer period and can re-charge batteries ready for the year ahead.
Professor Karen Cox, Vice-Chancellor and President