Vice-Chancellor’s Update: This Year’s Budget

Dear Colleagues,

Later this week, industrial action will be taking place at universities right across the country as part of the University & College Union’s national dispute. Given we can expect widespread discussion around this both in the media and elsewhere, I wanted to give an update on our approach to this. There are also a few other developments to bring to your attention by way of a follow-up to my last update on 3 November.

Industrial Action

Pay, pensions and working conditions are important topics and we all want a sector where staff are well rewarded for their hard work. While decisions are taken nationally, we have made good progress at Kent in a number of related areas through working together. We remain committed to engaging fully in national discussions and debates about these issues, striving to achieve a balance between ensuring appropriate reward for the great work delivered by all staff and sustainability for institutions. I am now on the board of UUK and UCEA and will play my part in seeking to achieve that balance.

As a University our focus is on working with our staff and mitigating the impact on our students as far as we can. We have set out our principles in responding to industrial action, including that any money saved through withheld salaries of striking staff will be reinvested in the student experience. HR have also put together guidance for those looking to take strike action.

Our 2022/23 budget

We are currently in the process of signing off our 2021/22 accounts, which achieved the planned deficit of £10.6m we set out as part of our return to sustainability, while investing in areas that support us in the future. Many university accounts this year will also include the finalisation of the USS pension valuation from 2020, adding a significant extra ‘deficit’ – to be clear, this is an accounting measure and does not affect us in terms of the underlying position.

For 2022/23 we had set a broadly break-even budget. This is now being looked at again given the emerging issues I updated on recently in relation to returning students. While we won’t have the final picture until early December, this has impacted us significantly and we are taking action now to address the in-year financial gap it creates. This includes tighter controls on staff recruitment, pulling back on capital spend and reducing our non-pay spend.

Our improved underlying position means that, while difficult, we are better able to manage a bump in the road like this. However, we have never seen attrition to this extent before and it is crucial we address it. I have asked Richard Reece to lead a group focusing on continuation and retention to ensure we understand and minimise this issue in future. We will also gather input through our senior leaders group on what else we should be doing.

Looking ahead

In relation to recruitment, while we have broadly met our income targets for new starts, this was assisted by international postgraduates who are with us for just one year. However we have not recruited as many home undergraduate students as we wanted, which unfortunately has a three-year adverse financial impact. Combined with the increasing numbers of non-returners this year, our overall student population is shrinking which impacts our income negatively.

My focus remains on turning this around to ensure we get back to steady growth and a good mix across home, international, undergraduate and postgraduate students. We also need to build our apprenticeship programmes, develop and continue to improve our overall course offer, and target a strong NSS this year to help improve our league table position. These will all help to generate resources to invest in our future.

The excellent REF 21 result, ensuring the right balance of programmes and having appropriate cost controls all help here. I am acutely aware as well of workload and system issues, plus the uncertainty out in the wider world right now. I am committed to working systematically to address these issues, as well as trying to reduce uncertainty by protecting the jobs of those who are already with us. I am also focussed on keeping you informed – last week we had our first Community Catch-Up of the term on measures to help with the Cost of Living, and there will be more in the new year.

I hope this helps in terms of an update on our current position and why we are taking the actions we are taking. Finally, on a personal note I will not be around on campus for a couple of weeks as I am having some hospital treatment. I hope to be back on campus mid December, and during this period EG members will covering for me as needed.

Yours sincerely

Karen

Industrial action

Reminder: Industrial Action 24-25 and 30 November

Some members of the University and College Union (UCU) will be going on strike this week on Thursday and Friday (24 and 25 November), as well as Wednesday next week (30 November). This is happening at all universities across the UK and is part of a national dispute – as such our influence over this is limited.

We’re sorry for the disruption this is likely to cause to your week. We are here to help and will do all we can to minimise the impact on your studies – we’ve put together some key links and info below.

What to expect on strike days

  • Some of your classes may be cancelled; union members don’t have to tell us if they are taking strike action so we won’t always know in advance.
  • You might see UCU members picketing on campus; these are peaceful protests which will be stewarded by the union
  • Other services may be affected but we’ll work to make sure all essential support services are running as usual. Our libraries and catering outlets will also be open as usual.

How to prepare for strike days

The impact of industrial action can be hard to predict and is likely to be different in different areas. It’s best to plan ahead as far as you can and get in touch if you’re not sure about anything:

  • Talk to your lecturer – to find out if they are taking part in strike days. Not all staff will be on strike and many classes will go ahead as scheduled so it is best to ask in advance so you can plan around it.
  • Keep receipts – if you arrive at a lecture or seminar to find it has been cancelled, keep a record of the direct costs you incurred so we can reimburse you.
  • Still submit work – if you have a deadline on a strike day. You still need to submit work unless advised differently by your Division or lecturer.
  • Meet with your lecturer after strikes – for support and advice on how to catch up with missed work.
  • Ask for help if you need itsee our support webpage for who to contact if you have questions or concerns about industrial action.

Academic Experience Reporting Tool

Use Kent Union’s Academic Experience Reporting Tool to record any missed teaching and to let us know if you have incurred any direct costs as a result of this, so we can reimburse you.

In Memory of Fr Tom Herbst

It’s with great sadness that we announce the death of Fr Tom, who has been Catholic Chaplain at the University of Kent since September 2018. Retiring due to ill health at the beginning of this academic year, he was best known to Kent students who are in their second years and beyond.

Fr Tom was a kind and characterful priest and a member of the Order of Friars Minor. He was interested in various fields of Franciscan Studies, especially Franciscan Christology and the writings of Francis and Clare.

As well as being Catholic Chaplain for the University of Kent he had priestly duties in one or two other places in East Kent and had – until its closure in the summer of 2021 – been one of the tutors at Wonersh Seminary in Surrey. As well as caring for the Catholic community on campus, he enjoyed taking part in wider Chaplaincy activities including interfaith events and the Aylesford Priory weekend. Fr Tom died peacefully, surrounded by friends, on Tuesday  November.

May he rest in peace, and rise in glory!

Revd Dr Stephen Laird, Anglican Chaplain

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Fr Tom’s funeral arrangements will be publicised later, and a Requiem Mass well also be held on campus.

If anyone would like to share their memories of Fr Tom, or is feeling upset, please contact Sister Anouska Robinson Biggin (regional Catholic Chaplaincy Coordinator)

Tel: 020 7960 2505 Mobile: 07846 417 989
Email: anouskarobinsonbiggin@rcaos.org.uk

Or Revd Dr Stephen Laird, Anglican Chaplain s.c.e.laird@kent.ac.uk

The process of finding a replacement Catholic Chaplain began last month, after Fr Tom announced his retirement.

Introducing Perks at Work

Perks at Work is an exclusive platform for our staff that helps you save money with discounts, earn WOWpoints and access free online classes.

Using Perks at Work gives you access to 30,000+ employee discounts across 20 categories, ranging from food and groceries, to travel, fitness and more.

Sign up now

Get the most out of Perks at Work

Perks at Work run regular sessions on how to get the most out of Perks at Work. They go through the platform and give you tips and tricks on how to use it. See past videos or sign up to the next live session.

What are WOWpoints how do I earn them?

WOWpoints are an online currency that you earn when doing your shopping through Perks at Work. They never expire, are as good as cash and can be earned and redeemed across the platform.

Online currency £1 = 100 Wow loyalty points to earn and redeem through the site. 

To make sure you earn WOWPoints, make sure that you:

  • Always click through to ‘Shop Now’ directly before making your purchase
  • Do not click through other promotional links or aplly outside discounts
  • Allow 7-10 business days to see your WOWpoints appear

To activate your account use your @kent.ac.uk email address. KMMS staff will need to use their Kent email address, not their KMMS email address. If you have not recevied a confirmation email, add cs@perksatwork.com to your safe senders list and this should resolve the issue.

Digitally Enhanced Education Webinars

The E-Learning Team are pleased to announce that the next event in our series of ‘Digitally Enhanced Education webinars’ will take place on Wednesday 14 December from 14.00 – 16.30 (GMT), with the theme ‘What role does Learning Design play in student retention, progress and success?’

Agenda:

  • 14:00 – 14:05 – Dr Phil Anthony (University of Kent): Introduction
  • 14:05 – 14:20 – Professor Susan Orr (Pro Vice Chancellor: Education, De Montfort University): A Review of Blended Learning in Higher Education
  • 14:20 – 14:35 – Molly Edwards & Yuvin Kim (Students at UCL): Students’ perspectives on the impact of learning design on progress and success
  • 14:35 – 14:50 – Dr Martin Compton (UCL): Digitally accessible learning design
  • 14:50 – 15:05 – Catriona Matthews & Paul Astles (Open University): The role of Learning Design at The Open University in supporting student retention and success
  • 15:05 – 15:15 – Break
  • 15:15 – 15:30 –  Mary Jacob (Aberystwyth University): Designing Active Cognitive Tasks to promote learning
  • 15:30 – 15:45 – Alison Webb (University of Kent): What role does Learning Design play in student retention, progress and success?
  • 15:45 – 16:00 – Rob Clarke, Pete Sparkes and Yasi Tehrani (UAL): Student retention in short courses in the arts
  • 16:00 – 16:15 – Assistant Professor Selma Yildrim (University of Chicago) Three-point perspective and designing a course

Please share

Colleagues from outside the University of Kent are very welcome to join this community and so feel free to circulate. Please ask anyone wishing to join to complete the Digitally Enhanced Education registration form if they haven’t already. We add them to the mailing list linked to the series, and they will receive the joining link via email on 18 October.

If you would like to present at a future event, please submit a short synopsis and Phil Anthony will be in touch.

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KentVision Latest Features and Functionality

Since last month’s update we are pleased to confirm the release of new features and functionality which are now live and available to staff and student users of KentVision.

The release has introduced standardised and streamlined processes across the student lifecycle that will improve the experience for both staff and students.

Some examples of this include:

  • Functionality to enable finance colleagues to create and approve manual scholarship awards for the previous academic year.
  • Enhanced congregations’ functionality to enable colleagues to sort through to review and update transcripts more efficiently and effectively – reducing the administration burden on staff.
  • Introduced functionality to export intermitted student data – enabling improved data analysis.
  • Various amendments to approximately 20 system screens (e.g., student support, Individual Learning Plans, PGR Management, Advisors) to ensure a student’s legal name is updated to display their preferred name – improving student wellbeing.
  • Introduced functionality to display extended assignment due dates to academic colleagues when approved via Extenuating Circumstances. In addition, the self-certification period for extenuating circumstances has been updated and amended to seven days.
  • Automated processes and communications for intermission and withdrawals via email text updates.
  • Successfully implemented the data integration processes between KentVision and the CRM.

This release is the culmination of hard work, and we commend everyone involved for their work – including the KentVision Project Team, IS colleagues, and the users of the system dedicating time to ensure improvements are realised.

Next Steps

  • Technology and process improvements to continue such as Change of Circumstances and Core Record functionality to enable bulk updates to records (e.g., bulk course changes).
  • Work continues to integrate the student attendance data from Moodle into KentVision – ensuring reporting of student attendance is fit for purpose and meets our compliance requirements.
  • Business readiness activities, including transition plans and training and communications.
  • We are pleased to announce the first of our scheduled KentVision Drop-In Sessions (6 Dec 2022 – 10.00-12.00 – Rutherford N4.N1). Come along and bring any KentVision related questions to our friendly training team in-person. It is a good opportunity to address your queries and demonstrate functionality side by side. Tea, coffee, and snacks will be provided!

What’s on for Disability History Month

As Disability History Month continues, check out what’s on this week for DHM for staff to participate in:

  • Wednesday 23 November 13:00 – 14:00 DHM: Thinking about accessibility: ideas for inclusion. An interactive workshop to learn more about accessible practices that you can use in your work or study through a fun game of Cards for Inclusion and some crowdsourced tips and ideas. Book your place online via Eventbrite
  • Friday 25 November 11:00 – 12:00Asking for Reasonable Adjustments in the Workplace. This online one hour workshop from 11-12 will look at what reasonable adjustments you can expect and how to ask for these if you have a disability or health condition. The online booking via TARGETconnect may require a student ID, but the session is open to staff, follow event guidelines to book on.
  • Next week, but limited places, book now!
    Thursday 1 December 09:30 – 12:30: Deaf Awareness Session for all staff, to be booked via Staff Connect. This session will look at hearing loss, basic sign language and how you can better support our deaf community.

If you have any queries, please email WellbeingEvents@kent.ac.uk.

Our staff tell their stories for Disability History Month

Check out these video shorts on lived experience of disability, where Kent staff Anna, Maisie and Hannah share their experiences and what they wish people understood about various chronic conditions, dyslexia and ADHD.

Read the Autumn Update from Assurance and Data Protection

Having joined the University as the new Head of the Data Protection/Data Protection Office (DPO) in May 2022, this is the first of my termly data protection newsletters. I hope you find the updates and news stories useful!

Sharing personal data in an emergency – a guide for universities and colleges

On the 22 September, during our Welcome Week, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) published a timely reminder of how we can legitimately use personal data to support our students in an emergency situation:

“The new academic year in HE and FE is approaching, which is a good opportunity to remind everyone in universities and colleges that they should not hesitate to share students’ personal data to prevent serious harm to the physical or mental wellbeing of a student in an emergency situation, or protect a life. Data protection law allows this, and you won’t get into trouble if you share information with someone who is in a position to help a student at risk.” Blog: Sharing personal data in an emergency – a guide for universities and colleges | ICO

Updated Data Protection Policies

The University’s data protection, data breach and data subject rights policies have been updated to reflect current data protection requirements and safeguards.

Please read the policies so that you are confident that you are using data lawfully in your role.

These policies help you do the right thing when you are:

  • using personal data
  • responding to requests for personal data
  • reporting a data breach or data security incident
  • contracting with other organisations who use personal data on the University’s behalf
  • handling particularly sensitive data such as allegations or reports of criminal activities.

Mandatory Data Protection Training

All staff are required to complete mandatory training modules including one that covers data protection, freedom of information and records management during their induction.

To ensure that knowledge of data protection is maintained, all staff are required to retake this module every two years. This will provide you with the confidence that you are processing personal data in a secure and legally compliant way; and allows the University to demonstrate that it is complying with its legal requirement to only have trained staff processing personal data.

If you haven’t revisited this module in the past two years, please do log on as soon as possible and complete it.

New Communication Channels

Finally, we are excited to announce the launch of our new Assurance and Data Protection webpages and SharePoint site. This should be your first port of call for anything data protection, freedom of information or records management related. Do check them out and let us know what you think!

If you have any questions not answered on the Assurance and Data Protection sites, or if you need further support and guidance please do get in touch with the team by emailing dataprotection@kent.ac.uk.

Laura Pullin
Head of Data Protection / Data Protection Officer (DPO)

Buttermarket, Canterbury

Job opportunity: Safer Streets Canterbury project

The Canterbury Community Safety Partnership is looking to hire Student Partners to support the project deliver of Safer Streets 4. This is a paid role.

The partnership has been awarded funding from the Home Office to identify ways to tackle Violence Against Women and Girls and conduct research on how we can make Canterbury safer for its residents, including students. This funding is supporting the development of research, training, safety resources, a central website and safety packs for patrons of Night Time Economy (pubs, clubs and bars) in the city, alongside other exciting projects.

This role is an opportunity for you to be an active participant in change for Canterbury, making it a safer place to live and study. As a member of the project team , you will be required to (but not limited to):

  • Conduct research, including research design, data collection and analysis.
  • Organise and facilitate focus groups/semi-structured interviews.
  • Liaise with key partners, including attending meetings.
  • Provide advice and gather information in a coordinated manner from students and the wider Canterbury community that will aid the project’s progression and provide
  • important strategic insights.
  • Contribute to developing and delivering training packages that focus on awareness
  • Contribute to the development of key resources and the production of safety packs.

Interested in applying? Find out more and apply for the role.

Find out more about the Safer Streets Canterbury project.

KentVision Drop-in Sessions – 6 December

We are pleased to announce the first of our scheduled KentVision Drop-In Sessions, will be taking place on Tuesday 6 December from 10.00 – 12.00 at Rutherford N4.N1.

Come along and bring any KentVision related questions to our friendly training team in-person. It is a good opportunity to address your queries and demonstrate functionality side by side.

Tea, coffee, and snacks will be provided!

As Rutherford is notoriously difficult to navigate, an envoy will be waiting to take you up to N4.N1 in the main entrance just before 10.00.