A message from the Vice-Chancellor

We have reached the end of yet another week during which we have had to further adapt to the challenges of new ways of working and living for both students and staff.

I realise this is a frightening and challenging time for all of us as we adapt and adjust to the reality of the impact of COVID-19 on our day-to-day lives. I know we have asked a lot of all of you in a short space of time.

I also realise the personal impact this situation is having as we all have to adjust our lives, and I know many of you are juggling working from home with caring responsibilities and that this is not easy or always straightforward. Our new University Pay Policy related to COVID-19 sets out temporary deviations from standard policies in recognition of the difficulties staff may face in this regard.

In addition, we are reviewing how we can provide effective mental health support for colleagues at this time. I have been witness to acts of kindness, compassion, resilience and ingenuity over the past days as colleagues have worked their way through a range of issues in order to best support our students and each other. Our University community has responded with courage and conviction that we can and will get through this. For all this, I offer my thanks and gratitude for the way everyone has responded and all that you have done.

Next steps

Going into next week I can confirm that Professor Christina Hughes will continue as the lead co-ordinator for our response to the COVID-19 situation, reporting directly to me. I am sure you will want to join me in thanking her for the incredible work she is doing, as well as thanking all those engaged on the various Covid-19 work-streams and their key contacts covering: Online Learning (Louise Naylor and Dan Clark); Examinations (Mary Hughes), Infrastructure (Helen Ellis, Kevin Stuckey; John Sotillo, Martin Atkinson), HR and Staff Wellbeing (Alison Ross-Green), Health and Safety (Bernard Angus and Jim Bloor), Student Support and Wellbeing (Lucy Foley); Recruitment (Georgina Randsley de Moura); Communications (Posie Bogan and Miles Banbery). Supporting this activity has been David Powell, Jess Sutherland and Liz Flaxman. I also want to thank Kent Union and the amazing team of sabbatical officers (Sasha Langaveldt, Vicky Saward-Read, Omolade Adedapo, Laura Carlin, Emily Window) for all their engagement on student voice in this work.

For our students we have been working hard to protect their educational outcomes and minimise the impact of the changes we are having to make as we move teaching, learning and examinations online.

We also have made changes to the charges for campus accommodation and, for those who need to remain on campus, we are providing appropriate access to takeaway food and the Co-op shop remains open at Canterbury. Health and welfare support services for all students continue to be provided by the Student Support and Wellbeing team with the appropriate safety measures in place. Further updates on all this activity is on the Coronavirus web pages.

Looking ahead

We are now working on the financial impact of all of this. As you know we were already embarked on a programme of change looking at how we are organised, savings we need to make and income we need to generate. While over the past days my focus has been on the immediate period of re-orienting all of us to a new reality, I am now turning my attention to the next few months. We will also need to undertake a review of projects that are currently underway and establish what is appropriate to pause and review, to be able to take into account a drastically changed context. Today, the University Council meets to review the overall University position. I will ensure you are updated, aware and involved in next steps as all this unfolds.

On other news, I am pleased to announce that Professor David Wilkinson has been appointed as Director of the Division of Human and Social Sciences and I would like to thank Dr Bill Collier for covering this area while we were making this appointment. Professor Richard Reece will be joining us next Monday as Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Education and Student Experience). Like the rest of us, Richard will be working remotely but is being connected with relevant colleagues to enable induction and handover. Professor Christina Hughes will take over as interim Director of Student Services.

I will continue with regular updates for all staff and students in the days and weeks ahead. In the rest of this week’s newsletter you will find further updates as to how the University community is stepping up to help the wider effort to combat Coronavirus. Please keep us updated as to news stories that we can share on all this great community activity. We will also follow up with our regular e-newsletter which next week will include a marketing update from Simone Davies, our interim Marketing Director as we turn our attention to our new cohort of students for 2020/21.

Once again, my greatest thanks to you all for the work you are all continuing to do, and with my very best wishes to you and your families.