Monthly Archives: April 2020

Kent Union Launch De-Stress Platform

Kent Union have launched the De-Stress platform to support students during COVID-19 and the exam period. They have created a website that acts as a hub for the advice, support and activities that are available over the next few weeks.

From simple revision tips to giant games, they are here to help you get through this time so you can fulfil your potential. If you need to talk to someone about your exams, you can contact the Advice Centre who will provide free, confidential and impartial advice.

There are also resources from the Student Learning Advisory Service and Student Support and Learning. The platform is not just work and no play, there are lots of activities for you to get involved with such as quizzes and you can learn a new skill such as knitting and cooking.

Woman doing exercise with her arms in the air

Enjoy your favourite Les Mills workouts at home for free!

To keep yourselves fit and healthy while at home Kent Sport are giving you an exclusive and free 60 day trial of Les Mills on demand. This gives you access to over 800 of the world’s best workouts, ranging from 15 to 55 minutes long and proven to get results. Workouts include strength, cardio HIIT, dance, flexibility and more. Kick start your routine or try something new by signing up to your 60 day free trial. Please watch this YouTube video for more information on Les Mills.

We know staying fit and active is our best way to build a strong immune system and stay healthy. Not only that, regular physical activity is proven to combat stress and provide mental health benefits.

To help you stay active while it’s not possible to visit Kent Sport, we’ve teamed up with Les Mills to give you online workouts as part of your membership. You can now enjoy access to LES MILLS™ On Demand for 60 days. Simply follow these link to get started.

When you sign up you’ll be asked to enter your payment details, but you won’t be charged for the 60-day trial. If you want to continue beyond that, you’ll automatically become a paying subscriber at the special rate we’ve negotiated with Les Mills. Please note this trial is valid for new subscribers only.

LES MILLS On Demand offers over 800 of your favourite workouts across 13 categories. You can work out with classic programs such as BODYPUMP™ and BODYCOMBAT™, do mindfulness exercises and even get the kids active with BORN TO MOVE™. There are options for all fitness levels.

We hope you enjoy working out at home and we’re looking forward to seeing you at Kent Sport when things have returned to normal. For more updates, Like our Facebook and follow us on Instagram or Twitter @UniKentSports to get tips, stories and videos to keep us motivated during this time.

Cancellation of library fines, new due date and how to return your items

To give you certainty and reassurance in the current circumstances, we’ve made some changes to make it easier for you to manage your library loans.

Fines and charges 

We have cancelled all outstanding fines for late return of Templeman and Drill Hall Library items for Kent students, staff and external borrowersWeve either removed these from your library account or will do so in the next few days – so please don’t pay them. 

Other types of charges, for example to cover the cost of lost itemswill remain on your library account until you clear them.  

Books now due end of July 

We have further extended the due date of all library items you have on loan. You won’t have to return your items until at least 31 July 

This also means you won’t be able to reserve items for now. We’ll review thisso you may have to return books in August/September if someone else reserves them. 

Returning library items 

In line with government and NHS guidance we ask you not to make non-essential journeys to return your library items. 

If you’re coming back to Kent next academic year, we recommend holding onto your books until you return, though you may need to return them after 31 July if someone else reserves them. 

If you’re a final year student or want to return your books for any other reason, you can still do so.  

  • If you live on the Canterbury campus, use the external book drop at the Library Road Entrance. 
  • Otherwise post them to us at: Templeman Library, University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent, CT2 7NU. 

We understand that posting books can be difficultespecially if you have multiple or heavy items on loan or have gone abroad. We are exploring ways of making returns easier for you and will share advice as soon as we can. 

If you have left books in your campus accommodation and are not planning to return, please let us know. 

Contact us

Thank you for bearing with us. We are still working out some of our processes and advice, as these are unprecedented times for all of us.  

If you have any problems or concerns about borrowing, returns or fines, please get in touch and we’ll do our best to help: 

SSA and red molecules

SPS academic recognised as a future research and innovation leader

Dr Jennifer Hiscock, Reader in Supramolecular Chemistry in the School of Physical Sciences, has been awarded a Future Leaders Fellowship as part of UK Research and Innovation’s flagship scheme – which invests in outstanding individuals across the UK.

This funding will support Dr Hiscock to develop her career while tackling two global health threats simultaneously. Her exciting and ground-breaking research focuses on the development of novel molecular weapons for deployment in the fight against antimicrobial resistant bacterial infections and cancer, and the grant will enable her to continue to address these challenges.

Dr Hiscock says ‘It is my hope that I can use this fellowship opportunity to not only fulfill my research aims, but also to inspire the next generation of interdisciplinary scientists to accomplish their aspirations. I would like to thank UKRI for supporting this work and all of my mentors that have enabled me to get this far.’

The Scheme and the fellowships have long been used to support up-and-coming researchers in universities. Sir Mark Walport, Chief Executive of UK Research and Innovation, explains: “The Future Leaders Fellowships are UKRI’s flagship talent programme, designed to foster and nurture the research and innovation leaders of the future. We are delighted to support these outstanding researchers and innovators across universities, research organisations and businesses.”

Dr Hiscock is one of 90 UKRI Future Leaders Fellows in a milestone year for the scheme as it will now extend to fellows based directly in businesses. Helping to foster new research and innovation career paths will increase the movement of ideas and people between the business and academic sectors; breaking down barriers and developing new ways of working.

Kirsty Grainger, Director of the UKRI Future Leaders Fellowships, said: ‘The Future Leaders Fellows represent some of the most brilliant people working in the country. We’re supporting researchers from every background – from the arts to medicine, and the social sciences to engineering – helping them become the research and innovation leaders of the future.’

UKRI’s initiative aims to support the creation of a new cohort of research and innovation leaders who will have links across different sectors and disciplines. Awardees will each receive between £400,000 and £1.5 million over an initial four years. The grant supports challenging and novel projects, and the development of the individual, and can pay for team members’ wages, equipment and other needs.

For more information about the scheme see the UKRI website.


man-reading-touchscreen blog with a cup of coffee next to him

New online training for learning technologies

The E-learning team are excited to announce the launch of a suite of online training resources focusing on key learning technologies including Moodle, Turnitin, KentPlayer and Ombea!

These resources are based on the ‘Essentials’ training sessions and guidance that the team has previously delivered via both online pdf guides and bi-monthly training sessions held on campus. As such they cover basic functionality and are targeted at new colleagues and existing academic and professional services staff seeking a refresher.

Colleagues can self-enrol and, as the resources are self-paced, they can dip in and out as other commitments permit. Upon completion of all required activities, participants receive a notification that they have earned an electronic badge that they can download and a certificate to evidence their completion of the training.

Given the continued uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic (when we can return to campus), the e-learning team hope that these training resources will provide an increased level of support to colleagues who are working remotely and starting to turn a tentative eye to the production of modules for the 2020-21 academic year.

Please visit our Information for Staff webpage for more information and for links to the newly-launched online training resources. Interested colleagues can self-enrol however bulk enrolment of both academic and professional services staff can be done on a per request basis by contacting your Faculty Learning Technologist.

Multicoloured pencils joined to make a circle

Discover and learn online with new Study Plus courses

Study Plus courses are running online during the summer term.

You can pick up some really useful employability and life skills, or just learn for pleasure with our summer term courses:

Career Toolkit (KE198): learn how to use LinkedIn effectively, and improve your phone and video interview skills

Communicate with Confidence (KE095): learn how to communicate clearly and confidently even when faced with challenging situations 

Digital Photography (KE122): suitable for beginners and those with some experience who want to learn about manual camera settings and improve their photography skills (you will need your own digital SLR or bridge camera)

Genetic Engineering in Dystopian Literature (KE205): this course looks at the way writers have responded to anxieties arising from the discovery of the structure of DNA and cloning.

Introduction to Chinese Taoist Philosophy (KE145): learn about Taoist philosophy from its early roots in Chinese Shamanism, through to the modern day

Meditation for Study, Work and Life (KE097): learn about different ways to meditate, including Mindfulness and Taoist practices.

All Study Plus courses are free of charge and available to all registered University of Kent students.

To read more about the courses before signing up, go to the Study Plus website.

To sign up, go to Workshops in the Student Data System (SDS):

Shortly before each course starts we will email all students who have signed up, with details of how to join the course online.

Tracey Davis (Access Control Adviser)

Staff Profile: Tracey Davies (Access Control Adviser)

What’s your role at the University?

I work as an Access Control Adviser, mainly responsible for administering the University’s online security management systems (Pegasys and SALTO). I also design and project manage new installations of automatic and access-controlled doors.

How has your role changed as a result of Covid-19?

Normally, my working day involves adding new access control panels and doors but, because of Covid-19, I have spent many hours manually re-programming doors, ID cards and access fobs for students living on campus.

What specific additional tasks have you been asked to do?

So far, I have been asked to:

  • Change the operation of all 50 access-controlled buildings on the Canterbury and Medway campuses so they can only be accessed using KentOne ID cards during lockdown.
  • Prevent around 25,000 staff and student ID cards from working on doors/ buildings to which they would normally unlock.
  • Remove access from 1300 accommodation fobs, which were taken off-campus by students who moved out of their halls.
  • Provide all resident students with access to Rutherford College so they can use the catering facilities.
  • Re-program ID cards for circa 700 staff, who appear on the approved list of key staff and are permitted access to work on campus; for example, Security, Maintenance, Estates Support Services, Kent Hospitality etc.

How have you been finding your “new” role?

Although these tasks have given me a huge amount of extra work, I’ve really enjoyed doing my bit.  I’ve been asked to carry out some very important tasks, allowing me to use my expertise in re-designing how we use our access systems. It shows my senior managers have real trust in my work – which is great!

Have there been any major hurdles along the way?

When I found out that no-one was going to be allowed to work on campus unless they had been authorised, this meant the work involved was going to be a lot more than I initially thought – I would need to find a way of preventing just some staff and students ID cards from working on the readers.

I tested a number of different software configurations before I identified the ones, which would not only enable the campus to operate when required, but would be easy enough to revert back once the campus returns to normal.

What’s been the feedback so far from colleagues?

My senior colleagues have been very appreciative of my work and how fast I’ve done it. Colleagues in Estates, including Security, Maintenance & Support Services, have been extremely helpful and carried out a number of tasks I would have done if I’d been working on campus. I’d like to say a big thank you to them!

Colleagues I’ve worked with outside of Estates and who’ve requested my help, have also been extremely helpful, friendly and very understanding of the work involved.

Woman typing on a laptop resting on her lap

A chance to learn Erlang for free

Many people are using the Covid-19 lockdown as an opportunity to learn new skills. If learning more about the Erlang programming language has been on your to-do list, then you are in luck.

A MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) Functional Programming in Erlang will be available from 4 May 2020 on the FutureLearn platform. The course is free and designed for anyone with prior programming experience, whether self-taught or professional.

This University of Kent designed course will teach theory and practice, through practical exercises and suggested projects and includes:

  • Getting started programming in Erlang
  • Programs and functions in Erlang
  • Data structures using lists
  • Tools for Erlang programming
  • Functions as data, and higher-order functions
  • Case studies

You’ll learn with Professor Simon Thompson co-author of one of the standard introductions to Erlang, O’Reilly Media’s Erlang Programming.

green bucket with garden gloves, a small spade and white flowers next to it, sit on a bed of soil

Top 10 gardening tips

Love a spot of gardening? Ahead of National Gardening Week (from 27 April – 3 May 2020) and while many of us are at home more, we’ve got just the thing for green-fingered colleagues.

From perfect timings to pest control, here are our ten top tips for how to make the most of your outdoor oasis:

1. Sunflowers and marigolds are just some of the pretty annuals perfect for planting in spring. Easy to grow, these flowers almost guarantee an amazing colour show come summertime.

2. Avoid watering your plants during the hottest part of the day and aim for mornings or dusk instead.

3. Plants in a terracotta pot will dry out quicker than ones in a ceramic or plastic container. So, if you’re using a terracotta pot, line it with plastic or an empty compost bag with holes punched in the bottom before planting, to keep the soil moist for longer.

4. Be careful not to over mow your grass and never cut shorter than two inches, as this can weaken the grass and make it more susceptible to weeds.

5. Edge your flowerbeds with rocks to discourage grass and weeds from taking over.

6. Add a tiny bit of fertiliser to water for new plants to help improve health, growth, and productivity.

7. For planting fruit and veg – save space by sowing two different crops in a single row. Mix a slow growing crop such as parsnips or carrots with something faster like lettuces or radishes.

8. Holes for bulbs should be two to three times as deep as the bulb itself as they need room to grow.

9. Slugs hate caffeine – so spread a line of used coffee grounds around emerging seedlings and new plants to keep the slugs away.

10. Run your fingernails across a bar of soap as this will seal off dirt from accumulating under your nails.

Can you think of any more gardening top tips for us to share? Send your ideas to


Computer Science student helps pharmacists with national COVID-19 response

Shao Yong is currently on her Year in Industry at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society which is playing a critical role in the coronavirus response. Shao is an undergraduate Computer Science student helping to develop web pages providing new content on the specialised care required for COVID-19 patients which will be available to all NHS workers nationally, with extra information for those who may have come out of retirement.

Like many of the students currently on placement as part of their degree, Shao has had to adapt quickly to new ways of working during the pandemic. She said ‘Working from home has its challenges but it’s motivating to know that the project I am contributing to has direct relevance to pharmacists and COVID-19 patients at this time of crisis’.

Katie Van Sanden, Industrial Placement Co-ordinator said ‘We’ve always said that computer science can take you anywhere, and we’re very proud that one of our students is involved in such a key part of the response process. We’d love to hear from any other students whose placements have been adapted to help in the fight against the pandemic.’

Shao’s manager Jonathan Stott, Technical Architect and a Kent Computing Alumnus said: ‘The RPS is playing a critical role in the coronavirus response by advocating for things like PPE for pharmacists and access to NHS shopping time in supermarkets (lots of pharmacists are independent and don’t work for the NHS). We’re also putting out some extra reference material to help pharmacists who may have come out of retirement or haven’t worked on the front-line for a while. Shao is helping with this response, which is great.’

The School of Computing supports over 100 of its students to go on an industrial placement every year. All taught students have the option to add a placement to their degree.