Monthly Archives: May 2020

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Financial Sustainability: Credit cards and travel

We are currently introducing a number of changes to how we procure goods and services as part of wider work to reduce our non-staff costs. This is being coordinated by a task force led by Procurement with members from JSNCC and both central and divisional finance, building on the good work already underway in a number of areas to reduce budget spend.

To support this, the Cash & Capital Approvals Committee has approved plans to place restrictions on both credit card and travel use with immediate effect. This will be an essential part of improving our finances, ensuring as much resource as possible can be put towards core University work.

Credit cards 

Credit card use will be restricted to a small number of nominated areas, with all other cards given a £0 limit. Cards with active subscriptions to services such as Facebook, Twitter or Mailchimp will remain open so that these payments can continue, but with all other categories apart from subscriptions blocked. Any other payment card spend will have to be requested via the Procurement Team, who will be in touch with cardholders directly to confirm local arrangements.


From today, the Travel Booking Portal will be switched off to prevent any travel booking until the Covid-19 travel restrictions are lifted. Log-ins to Key Travel will be suspended until further notice, with any requests for travel made directly via the Procurement Team until further notice.

Expenditure that would ordinarily be incurred using payment cards or through the Key Travel system should not be made using personal payment methods and reclaimed through staff expenses. Please refer to the Staff Expenses and Benefits Policy for full details of eligible expenditure that can be reclaimed in this way.

Please contact the Procurement Team if you have any questions.

Professor Karen Cox

Vice-Chancellor’s update – 20 May 2020

As I mentioned in my last update, we now have a programme of work underway to support a phased return of our activities over the coming months.

Our aim is to ensure that student recruitment and progression, teaching, research and knowledge exchange can be delivered from the start of the next academic year. We are looking at a mix of online delivery alongside socially distanced approaches to any face-to-face delivery.

Colleagues across the University are being drawn on for this work and we will continue to extend this engagement as we develop this plan. We will also continue to work closely with the trade unions and staff representatives, as well as drawing on health and safety and national guidance, as we move through this transition period.

The wellbeing of our staff and students will be at the forefront of all our planning and we will need to make sure we have appropriate support mechanisms in place for those who will need it. As we move forward with this work, we will need to balance the needs of all staff. There is no doubt that, while I am conscious there are many of you who are keen get back on to campus, there are as many who are understandably highly concerned about the next steps.

How we return from lockdown will be a key area of focus at next week’s Senior Leadership Forum and I will update you on those discussions in the next newsletter.

I know many of you are continuing to have to work in difficult circumstances. Please do keep in touch with line managers at this time and seek support and advice. We are keen to help. Please be assured that everyone’s efforts right across the whole University, from Medway and Canterbury to our European centres, are appreciated at this difficult and unprecedented time.

My very best wishes to you and your families,


Professor Karen Cox | Vice-Chancellor and President


Organising for Success: Project update

Organising for Success brings together various strands of activity to help the University deliver its Kent 2025 strategy and ensure a future we can be proud of. Our six new academic divisions will take full responsibility for their budgets from 1 August 2020while new teams will mainly be in place by September. Proposed team structures will be shared with affected staff towards the end of June, with more detail to follow on timings and how information will be shared shortly. 

Transition work 

Detailed work is continuing to coordinate activity to ensure a smooth transition to divisions as teams come together. Current priorities include ensuring everything is in place with Finance to support divisions as they take responsibility for budgets, and working with HR to prioritise key policies and procedures that need to be updated this summer to reflect the new structure. Work is also ongoing to update key accompanying systems ahead of autumn, with a pragmatic approach wherever possible to ensure continuity in our support of essential activity. 

While their important work will continue throughout transition, this week will also see the final Faculty committee meeting taking place ahead of governance transferring to divisions in the autumn term. We’d like to thank the various chairs and members of our Faculty boards and committees for all their work over a number of years. 

Managers’ engagement sessions 

Engagement sessions for managers in professional services start this week to help make sure they are updated on the project and can support their teams in the coming weeks. As with the last set of briefings, these are designed for those at Grade 7/8 upwards with significant line management responsibilities in areas affected by the current changes. While a number of managers have already signed up, please contact Learning & Organisational Development via if this applies to you and you would like to attend a session. 

For latest updates, see the Organising for Success staff webpages 

Screening of Alice in Wonderland on YouTube Live

There will be a broadcast of the full performance of Alice in Wonderland on Friday 22 May at 19:00 on YouTube Live and KMTV.

The performance is a historic stage adaption of Lewis Carroll’s classic tale, Alice in Wonderland.

The University of Kent’s adaption has been reconstructed from a vocal score by its Deputy Director of Music, Dan Harding.

The performance is the result of a collaboration between students and staff from across the University community, working together to bring the classic to life after nearly one hundred years.

You can watch the performance on our YouTube channel.

Seedlings in pots

Kent Community Oasis Garden online wellbeing sessions

The Kent Community Oasis Garden (KentCOG), is a collection of students, staff and community members working to create a sustainability and wellbeing hub centred around growing food.

Due to current circumstances the garden is closed, however, we recognise how important connecting with nature is especially for our mental health.

To fill the gap, KentCOG Coordinator Emily Hill is hosting weekly Grow Your Wellbeing online sessions via Zoom every Wednesday afternoon (14.00-15.00) with practical advice on trying Ecotherapy at home.

Sign up by visiting and complete a registration form online, or email

The session is part of a weekly digital timetable of workshops run by East Kent Mind who are partnering with The University of Kent to deliver the KentCOG project as a space to support good mental health and wellbeing.

To find out more please email Emily at or visit the KentCOG blog. You can also follow KentCOG on Instagram.

Brenda Brunsdon Occupational Health & Wellbeing Team Manager

Staff Profile: Brenda Brunsdon (Occupational Health and Wellbeing Team Manager)

What’s your background and when did you join the University?

I came to nursing via an unusual route! I had a summer job as a nursing auxiliary while doing my degree in History. I qualified as a teacher but decided I really wanted to nurse. I have worked in Occupational Health (OH) nursing since 1988. I am also a fully trained counsellor.

I moved to Kent from Wales in 1998 and joined the University in 2012. Among my initial aims were to increase counselling and mental health support services for staff. We were able to offer extra resource just a year later, and earlier this year, we were able to launch our long-planned Employee Assistance Programme*, a fantastic addition to staff wellbeing support.

What does your role at Kent involve?

I head up a team of five, responsible for delivering OH and wellbeing services to staff. Part of the Safety, Health and Environment (SHE) Unit, my team advises the University on the health needs of staff. This includes advice on ergonomics and computer workstation set-up, staff rehabilitation and disability needs, and adjustments needed under the Equality Act.

My own role involves individual case management, and writing policy and process documents on OH and wellbeing such as the Staff Health and Wellbeing Strategy Statement and Psychological Wellbeing Standard.

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

Like many others, I’m working from home and have had to speed-learn Teams and Zoom meetings. I’ve now settled into a routine and got to grips with virtual communication – which has underlined the importance of communicating regularly with your team, as a group and individually. It’s a different mindset from being able to pop into the office next door when you make a cup of tea!

What’s worked well and what’s proved more tricky?

The first few weeks were hard. Not only were we dealing with hardware and software challenges within our own team, but we had to ensure colleagues across the University had the best computer set-up while working at home. Careful planning meant that we were able to circulate a home-based Display Screen Assessment, just after the Easter break.

It was also crucial to ensure that all staff had easy access to mental health support as and when needed, and we worked alongside the Communications team to promote this.

Tell us more about the health and wellbeing support that’s currently available to University staff?

There’s a wealth of health and wellbeing support available for staff through Covid-19 and beyond, including:

  • Our chosen Employee Assistance Programme (EAP)* provider Sodexho/Care first offers advice on all types of problems or wellbeing issues – including webinars, free access to expert help, and counselling (currently available virtually).
  • Our Staff Health and Wellbeing website is a comprehensive guide to wellbeing support available at Kent, featuring common health topics and upcoming national health promotion.
  • The Learning and Organisational Development team have put together a series of wellbeing webinars to tie-in with its Belong and Grow Week and Mental Health Awareness Week (18-24 May 2020).

What’s been the response so far to the Employee Assistance Programme? 

There’s been great support from management and all affiliated trades unions on campus in spreading the word about the EAP. It’s early days, but it seems colleagues are engaging and using the resources when needed – especially over the early weeks of the Covid-19 crisis.

 What other health and wellbeing initiatives would you like to see at Kent?

I am heading up the University’s working party looking at implementing the Government’s ‘Thrive at Work’ initiative. The initiative recommends employers provide a structure for mental health support for all, especially for those struggling with mental ill health problems/disabilities.

Outside work, and out of lockdown, what do you enjoy doing?

Gym exercise, socialising with friends, good food and wine, playing cards and board games, music concerts and visiting relatives in Wales.

What will you look forward to most once we’re back on campus?

Going back to Rock Choir – I haven’t managed to make any of the virtual sessions so far! And going for lunch with my team

[*To access the EAP website, use the login: uokent and password: university]

London National-Gallery

Top 10 virtual tours around Kent and London

As the second May Bank Holiday approaches, you may have envisaged an enjoyable excursion over the three-day weekend. But, as we continue social distancing and many popular destinations remain closed, your plans are probably on hold for now.

But have no fear! We’ve put together a list of our 10 best virtual tours based in Kent and London, for you to enjoy a spot of culture and sightseeing from the comfort of your sofa.

1. Canterbury Cathedral

From the Crypt to the Trinity Chapel, this interactive virtual tour lets you explore what Canterbury Cathedral has to offer – including a fantastic view of Canterbury from the Bell Harry Tower!

2. Sissinghurst Castle gardens

With the added effect of birdsong, a tour around Sissinghurst Castle’s beautiful rose gardens, makes you feel like you’re really there. Check out the courtyard and library too.

3. National Gallery

Treating you to not one but three virtual tours, London’s National Gallery allows you to step inside and explore one of the greatest collections of paintings.

4. National Garden Scheme

Delve into a treasure trove of beautiful gardens across the UK and Wales, including the surroundings of Hever Castle, with the National Garden Scheme.

5. Houses of Parliament

Ever wondered what the inside of the Houses of Parliament looks like? Wonder no more with several virtual tours (including the House of Lords Chamber) on offer.

6. Dover Castle

A great one for history-buffs, English Heritage hosts a virtual tour exploring a building at Dover Castle, which played a vital role in WWI.

7. Tower of London

Take a tour around one of London’s most iconic attractions and learn all about its fascinating history with the audio feature.

8. Leeds Castle

Watch this YouTube video and enjoy a first-person walking tour all around lovely Leeds Castle – both inside and out.

9. British Museum 

As the world’s largest indoor space on Google Street View, and offering virtual visits to more than 60 galleries, the British Museum is perfect for a spot of home entertainment.

And finally, …

10. Our own Kent campuses!

Yet to see all the University has to offer? Visit the Hospitality webpage and explore both the Canterbury and Medway campuses with these fantastic virtual tours!

Share your top 10 feature ideas with us at

Three people talking in a learning environment

Postgraduate Virtual Open Event, 21 May

Thinking of further study? Book now for Kent’s Virtual Postgraduate Open Event on Thursday 21 May. Hear from specialist academics and attend live Q&A sessions to discover all about studying on one of Kent’s postgraduate programmes in the UK and Europe.

Kent has a wide range of subjects, most of which are available full or part-time and some by distance and blended learning. Programmes, many with professional accreditation, are informed by the latest research from world-leading academics so you can develop career-focused skills and knowledge relevant to today’s issues.

Join Kent at our Virtual Open Event to:

  • Learn about their multimillion-pound postgraduate scholarship fund
  • Hear from specialist academics
  • Attend live Q&A sessions with staff and current students
  • Discover Kent’s inspirational locations: Canterbury, Medway, Paris and Brussels
  • Take a look at Kent’s wonderful campuses and postgraduate centres
  • Hear a welcome from Prof Paul Allain, Dean of the Graduate School

Book now for Kent’s Virtual Postgraduate Open Event on Thursday 21 May to reserve your place and to keep updated on everything that will happen on the day.

neon sign of "and breathe" on leaf background

Activities to mark Mental Health Awareness Week

Kent is marking Mental Health Awareness Week (18 – 24 May 2020) in a variety of ways. Throughout the week and across the University there are a number of online events/activities that staff, and students can get involved in – virtually of course!

Activities include:

  • Our Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) is running an array of webinars for staff on mental health issues – especially timely during the coronavirus crisis and Mental Health Awareness Week. Check out the webinar schedule and find out more on the EAP website (login: uokent and password: university).
  • To tie-in with the theme of Kindness for this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week, Kent Union will be posting random acts of kindness on their website.
  • Across the University’s social media platforms, staff and students will find posts and stories, highlighting Mental Health Week. A session on our Instagram LIVE account, on Wednesday 20 May at 12.00, will feature a student giving out tips to others on how to manage stress and anxiety during the exam period.


mental health spelt out in scrabble style squares

Care First Mental Health Week Webinars

This week is Mental Health Awareness week and the theme for this week is ‘Kindness’. Every day Care First will be running webinars, each with a different theme.

Please see below for the webinar schedule:

Monday 18 May 2020 – ‘Mental Health Awareness Week’

A guide to understanding the importance of Mental Health Awareness Week.

Time: 11.00 – 11.45. To register please click on this Go to webinar link

Tuesday 19 May 2020 – ‘Understanding Anxiety & Tips to cope’

 Time: 12.00 – 12.30. To register please click on this Go to webinar link

Wednesday 20 May 2020 – ‘Kindness’

Time: 14.00 – 14.30. To register please click on this Go to webinar link

Thursday 21 May 2020 – ‘Stress, Resilience & Mental Health’

Time: 14.00 – 14.30. To register please click on this Go to webinar link

Friday 22 May 2020 – ‘5 Ways to Wellbeing’ 

Time: 10.00 – 10.30. To register please click on this Go to webinar link