Vice-Chancellor’s Monthly Update – September 2019

A warm welcome back to all colleagues at the start of new academic year. I hope many of you enjoyed a good break and are looking forward to the opportunity a new term brings. This is the first of a regular monthly update from me, designed to provide an update on the strategic direction of the University and the latest updates relating to our Kent 2025 activity.

This has been a particularly busy summer, with a number of colleagues leaving us through the Kent Voluntary Severance Scheme. I would like to record my gratitude to all those colleagues for their hard work over the years; we send our best wishes to them for the future. I would also like to say a very big ‘thank you’ to all of you for your hard work and patience during what is a significant period of uncertainty for higher education and our university. I know this has been a difficult time for many as changes are underway across the organisation but we are making progress. Introducing new ways of working across the University remains crucial to ensure we are sustainable and successful.

Clearing was particularly critical this year and is likely to continue to be so. While we made good progress in meeting our targets for this year, it must be recognised that they reflect a reduction in our student intake compared to three-four years ago and we still remain in a very challenging financial position. As I have previously outlined, the external environment for many UK universities remains tough, with greater competition for fewer prospective students and a backdrop of great political uncertainty. Marketing and associated recruitment activity will therefore continue to remain a high priority.

You may have also seen that universities and employees have been in negotiations over the USS pension scheme, with both employers and employees facing an increase in contributions. Our options to influence this are extremely limited, but we are putting as much pressure as possible on the pensions regulator as we seek an outcome that balances the concerns of all parties. We are also working on a salary sacrifice scheme that should help colleagues with the cost of their pension contributions.

Throughout the summer, we have begun to bring about some of the initial changes associated with Organising for Success. This is an important project for the University, involving changes at all levels to allow us to respond to sector challenges more easily. Recruitment of our new Directors of Division and divisional Directors of Operations is well underway, as is recruitment of the interim Deputy Vice-Chancellors (Education and Student Experience and Academic Strategy, Planning and Performance). The adverts for the substantive appointments to these roles went live last week. I would also like to welcome Simone Davies, who joined us recently as our interim Director of Marketing. A new website will launch later this month with more details on implementation plans.

Finally, I would like to touch on some of the wider activity driving our Kent 2025 strategy. Earlier this month, Medway announced its bid for City of Culture 2025 in Parliament, with Kent set to play a lead role in its development and delivery through our focus on the Cultural and Creative Industries. The Kent and Medway Medical School is also now busily recruiting its founding students for the 2020 entry. There is much to be excited about as we move into the new term, and I look forward to updating more in the coming months as we build on our strengths and look to the future.

Professor Karen Cox | Vice-Chancellor and President