Vice-Chancellor’s Monthly Update – November 2019

I said in my last update that the external environment remains difficult and, in particular, the squeeze on our finances continues. We face ongoing challenges with reducing income associated with under recruitment, especially in relation to overseas and PGT students. Council will shortly need to sign off our accounts, showing a deficit for 2018/19. We forecast a further deficit this year (19/20) as rising costs and the recruitment shortfalls of 18/19 and 19/20 continue to have impact.

Against this backdrop, we have been targeting ways to grow our income. At our recent Senior Leadership Forum, Kent Law School outlined the benefits of introducing a January start for some PGT courses. We also had updates on progress with our online offer, the potential from Higher and Degree Apprenticeships and new enterprise opportunities through the Institute for Cultural and Creative Industries.

On top of this all areas are working to meet their 15% budget improvement plans and adjust their costs in relation to recruitment outcomes this year. We continue to have a focus on marketing and recruitment activity to protect and increase income going forward.

Our financial situation makes clear we must also press ahead with changing the way we work. Through Organising for Success, we are introducing a new structure with greater freedom to meet the needs of our students and deliver on our ambitions as a University. I am pleased we have concluded the first tranche of recruitment for our new Directors of Division (announcements are due asap) and our five newly appointed divisional Directors of Operations met for the first time last week. I am keen that we proceed as quickly and prudently as we can to complete recruitment to these important roles and progress the changes we need.

This is an unsettling time and I recognise levels of frustration among some staff. As you will know, the University and College Union (UCU) has planned eight days of strike action on pay and conditions from 25 November. While pay is negotiated nationally, work has taken place locally to respond to a number of the concerns raised around key conditions. We want positive dialogue with our UCU colleagues and hope we can find a way forward that avoids significant disruption for our students and staff. More widely, I am also now in the process of setting up visits to schools and departments for the coming year and I look forward to further face to face discussions with as many as possible of you in the future.

We must also remember that our strategic aims are unchanged and we are making good progress with Kent 2025. More than 1,500 people applied for Kent & Medway Medical School’s first 100 places, while our Signature Research Themes will be agreed later this year. Further details will be announced soon. Finally, we recently won the Kent County Council and Medway Council tender to deliver the Social Worker Degree Apprenticeship programme. This builds on recent success with Enfield and Barnet Councils, and means this Degree Apprenticeship will impact in a positive way on our student numbers.

Our colleagues also continue to win awards and acknowledgements. Dr Emma Veale from the Medway School of Pharmacy won the WISE emerging technology award last week. WISE enables and energises people in business, industry and education to increase the participation and success of women in STEM. Dr Rocio von Jungenfeld, Lecturer in Digital Media in the School of Engineering and Digital Arts, has won the BCS AI Award at The Lumen Prize awards on 24 October. The Award is presented for excellence in the use of artificial intelligence to produce an outstanding piece of art.

Last, but by no means least, Taming the European Leviathan: The Legacy of Post-War Medicine and the Common Good, a project coordinated by Professor Ulf Schmidt of the School of History, has been awarded a European Research Council Synergy Grant worth €10m over six years. This is one of the largest grants ever awarded by a funding body in the Humanities. A significant achievement and one of which the School and the University are very proud.