Monthly Archives: February 2021


Care first webinars – w/c 1 March 2021

Our official Employee Assistance Programme provider, Care first offers a numbers of services and provide useful advice and support, including weekly webinars.

This week’s (Monday 1 March – Friday 5 March) webinars are as follows:

Monday 1 March 2021 – ‘How Care first can support you’
Time: 12.00-12.30 – to register please click on this Go to webinar link.

Tuesday 2 March 2021 – ‘Understanding Vaccine Anxiety & Protocol’
Time: 12.00-12.30 – to register please click on this Go to webinar link

Wednesday 3 March 2021 – ‘Advice for getting support during the pandemic’
Time: 12.00-12.30 – to register please click on this Go to webinar link

Thursday 4 March 2021 – ‘Change, loss and Bereavement’
Time: 12.00-12.30 – to register please click on this Go to webinar link

Friday 5 March 2021 – ‘Maintaining routines for Back to School’
Time: 12.00-12.30 – to register please click on this Go to webinar link

Professor Karen Cox

Vice-Chancellor’s update – 25 February 2021

As those of you who attended this week’s staff webchat will know, a great deal of work is now underway to put plans in place to respond to the Government announcement earlier this week.

You will no doubt be aware that students on practical or practice-based courses can return to campus from 8 March. This means that the majority of students will continue to be taught online until the end of term. As a result, we will be reviewing our position on rent rebates and communicating this when we are able.

Although some staff will be coming back to campus to support the March return, staff who are already working at home as part of an agreed pattern of work should continue to do so until 21 June at the earliest in line with Government guidance. Meanwhile, any return to campus for staff will remain subject to health and safety procedures.

Following the next Government review of restrictions in mid-April, we are hoping to offer on-campus events for the summer term including a range of extra-curricular activities. It is unlikely that we will offer our ‘traditional’ graduation ceremonies at Canterbury and Rochester Cathedrals this summer but, together with Kent Union and GKSU, we are looking at how we can hold a series of small-scale celebratory events.

We would also like to hold an event – or a series of events – to thank staff for all their hard work over the past year and to mark the start of a return to a more normal way of working. We will update you on this as our thinking develops.

Work has also begun on plans for the next academic year. It is likely that we will retain a remote study option, as we believe that international students in particular may benefit from this due to travel restrictions. In addition, we will be prioritising first year students as they will have had several years of interrupted education and our aim will be to give them a clear and understandable offer which concentrates on the delivery of core modules.

As we continue to make our plans for the coming months, I would like to reassure you that the wellbeing and safety of staff and students will stay at heart of all our decision-making. We are keen to ensure that all staff are able to receive their Covid vaccinations as quickly as possible and have been working with line managers to ensure that staff are able to take time out in order to do this.

I know that many of us – staff and students alike – were hoping for more certainty for the university sector from the Prime Minister’s announcement on Covid. While I share this sense of frustration, the national roadmap does provide us with a strong direction of travel and will enable us to consolidate our plans for the summer and a return to some form of normality.

However, we now need to consider what the ‘new normal’ will look like for the University. Work is beginning on a review of our institutional strategy  to ensure we are well-positioned to respond to the requirements of a post-Covid world both for the University and the wider world.

Over the next few months, the Executive Group will work with colleagues across the University as we move through this process and we will continue to keep staff up to date.

With my very best wishes to you and your families,


Professor Karen Cox | Vice-Chancellor and President

Join our Inclusion Circles

All University of Kent Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) staff are invited to join our first Inclusion Circle session on 10 March 2021, focusing on BAME wellbeing, as part of our ‘Challenging Racism’ campaign.

The aim of the Inclusion Circles is to create a safe environment to listen to staff concerns, share experiences, discuss a variety of topics, and show solidarity. Facilitated by Inclusive Employers, the programme will take place over three 90-minute sessions. The first two sessions will focus on a different topic, with the third session culminating in an action plan based on feedback and shared experiences from earlier sessions.

Session 1 Inclusion Circle 1: Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) wellbeing (10 March, 10.00) 

    • A BAME* only discussion about current Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement and the disproportionate effect of Coronavirus on BAME people.
    • A place to feel comfortable, share experiences and to find out how to get support
    • This is a safe space to express concerns and show solidarity

Sign up now, spaces are limited!

Further information and a full list of additional dates corresponding to Inclusion Circle sessions, can be found on Staff Connect. [Logon to your to Staff Connect account, click on ‘My Training Details’, then click on ‘Training Request’, enter search term ‘Inclusion Circles’ and click on ‘Search’ button.]

*Please note: the acronym BAME does not represent a homogenous group but is used here in a similar manner to its use in higher education research and by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) for statistical purposes, to represent people who are racialised as belonging to a Black, Asian or minority ethnic background.

overhead view of laptop with person typing and plant on desk

Support and opportunities for your final year

In a year quite unlike any other…. we’re here to help you as you prepare for your final-year exams, assignments and dissertations, as well as helping you to choose the career path that’s right for you – whether you want to progress to postgraduate study or want to stand out in the jobs market.

If you are in your final year of study and need support with what to do next, don’t worry, help is at hand. We have professional teams of staff who are dedicated to helping you make the most of your time here at Kent and to help you reach your potential.

Information Services have teamed up with the Student Learning and Advisory Service and the Careers and Employability Service to offer a wide range of advice and support, from one-to-one appointments, skills development, careers events, presentations and workshops, digital resources, online guides and lots more.

More information

  • Careers and Employability Service
    • career planning, job hunting and applications, postgraduate study, volunteering, employability points
  • Information Services
    • subject support from our liaison librarians, library resource guides, research skills, digital library, software to help you study, exam help reading list, careers and employability reading list
  • Student Learning and Advisory Service
    • one to one academic advice appointments, maths and stats clinics, online study guides and video tutorials, bespoke embedded study skills sessions and academic peer mentoring (APM) training.

Check out our Finalist webpages for more information, events and support in your final year.

Kent logo

Update on student return to campus following Government announcement

From Professor Richard Reece | Deputy Vice-Chancellor Education and Student Experience 

As many of you will know, the Prime Minister made a statement to Parliament yesterday on the roadmap for easing lockdown restrictions in England.   

The roadmap, combined with follow up guidance from the Department for Education, confirms that students on practical or practice-based courses that require access to specialist equipment or facilities can return to campus from 8 March but only within certain safety parameters. Because of that, not all students on practical or practice-based courses will, or can be, prioritised to return from that date. 

No matter which taught course you are studying, you will be informed by your academic school/department by week beginning Monday 1 March whether the return to face-to-face on-campus teaching applies to you or not. Please allow staff the time to put those communications together and do not make any travel arrangements or plans to return until you receive this confirmation from your school. Until then, please continue to follow your current timetable. 

These changes apply to both undergraduate and postgraduate taught students. There is currently no change to the arrangements for research students. 

In deciding which practical courses will be allowing students to return to campus for face-to-face teaching or assessment from 8 March, we have had to consider a number of factors including: 

  • the need to prioritise those who require on campus facilities or assessment as an essential part of finishing their course or fulfilling the requirements of a professional, statutory or regulatory body
  • the Government request that universities should not ask students to return if their course can reasonably be continued online
  • Government requirements to restrict travel wherever possible and increased testing for Covid-19
  • more stringent social distancing requirements limiting the capacity in teaching spaces and laboratories. 

This will mean the majority of you will continue to be taught online until the end of term, though students who do meet the existing criteria for return to campus (for health, wellbeing or study space reasons) will continue to be supported. We are currently reviewing our position regarding rent for University accommodation and will continue to work with Kent Union and GKSU on rent issues for those of you in private accommodation. 

There will be a Government review in mid-April, and, whilst that will be too late for us to offer any additional face-to-face teaching this term, we are hopeful that the roadmap will allow us to offer greater access to on-campus facilities and more on-campus events for a much larger number of students from the beginning of May. 

For those of you who are returning to study on campus from 8 March, revised guidance on travel and testing will be made available to you soon following several changes to Government requirements for those travelling from both within the UK and from abroad. 

For those students who will not be returning for the time being, we will be looking at ways we can continue to reinforce our online student experience in response to your feedback and in conjunction with Kent Union, GKSU and your course representatives. 

We will be holding a Student Web Chat next week where staff from across the University will be presenting information and offering guidance related to the recent updates in Government regulations and their implications for study. Please do sign-up online where you can send in any questions you may have in advance. 

Support, information and events continue to be advertised on our Student Guide and social media and we will continue updating our coronavirus web pages as often as we can. Please do continue to email with any urgent enquiries and we will respond as soon as possible. 

Finally, please can I remind you not to make any plans to travel back to your term-time address until you hear from your academic school/department that you are invited to do so or unless you meet the existing criteria (for health, wellbeing or study space reasons). 

Best wishes 


Professor Richard Reece | Deputy Vice-Chancellor Education and Student Experience 

Becky Verlin in front of ATS, Canterbury campus

Kent People: Becky Verlin, Housekeeping Manager and ATS Manager

When did you join the University of Kent and what did you do before?

I arrived at Kent in May 2011 for a 12-week agency cover, which became a permanent appointment as Housekeeping Manager in January 2012.

I previously worked for the NHS as a Site Coordinator at Sheppey Community Hospital and Sittingbourne Memorial Hospital, responsible for Community Hospital buildings and Fire, Health & Safety, as well as smaller clinical service outlets. I managed reception and office staff as well as portering and domestic teams. I was also a bereavement officer and staff rep for the local units. I loved the diversity but, following a restructure, my role became more about buildings than people. I chose to leave but got bored after three months (!) so joined an agency.

What does your current role(s) involve?

That’s a good question! My main role, as Housekeeping Manager, involves managing a brilliant team of professional cleaners and handy persons who ensure that accommodation is ready for students and maintain it while they’re here. In the summer, we switch over to a hotel-style service. Currently, I am responsible for Park Wood with its 1,938 bedrooms and 355 kitchens. In total across campus, we have something like 4,858 bedrooms and 787 kitchens. I think people would be surprised to know that the team of domestics not only look after the accommodation but also academic buildings– they are a very proud bunch. I have been involved in many accommodation refurbishments, which I love as you can really engage with the students and find out what they want, as well as trying out new colour schemes and ideas.

I am also currently Site Manager for the Asymptomatic Testing Site (ATS) on Canterbury campus. It’s been amazing to help build a new and brilliant team which, in normal circumstances, might never work together. It’s been really good to know we are doing something worthwhile in supporting students and staff to maintain some kind of normality during what has been very trying times.

Last, but not least, is my role with the Joint Staff Negotiating and Consultation Committee (JSNCC). When that first meeting agenda and the volume of papers arrived in my inbox, I couldn’t help but think I was out of my depth! But everyone was so welcoming and taught me little tricks (that will remain secret!) on how to get through it all. The role is about supporting staff and change and being a voice for those who may not always be heard. It’s truly rewarding to know you are in some way making a difference for your colleagues.

Tell us more about who’s who within your team?

There are four Housekeeping Managers, Tracy Rogers, Karen Keen, Lynne Banks and myself, as well as assistant managers who help with day-to-day matters, and supervisors and charge-hands. It’s the domestic team who are very much on the frontline. They are from all over the world and, in better times, we have had some really good cultural days where staff would bring in food representing their culture and we would talk about ‘home’. I love these moments – it reminds me what we represent.

In the ATS, we have worked together as a team since November when we first opened the site. The frontline team are from departments/centres across the University, including Gulbenkian, Sport and Catering. They are now skilled in the testing process and can answer many questions on this. In the beginning, we had some long days, yet they still returned. They choose to be here, which makes them special.

What are your immediate plans/priorities?

Making sure students want to come back to campus when they can and. that when they do,  they enjoy it. If that means keeping the ATS going, and having staff available to do the testing, that’s my priority. If that means making sure their accommodation is ready, that becomes my priority. So really, it’s about making sure we are ready for whatever is needed. I work best when I have challenges as I am reactive and love to get stuck in.

Covid-19 permitting (!), what are your interests outside work?

That’s easy, family is the most important thing to me. I have five grandchildren with my two daughters and their partners and, of course, my wonderful husband who puts up with a lot. I just love spending time with them all – even on the bad days, you can always find a bit of fun.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?

My favourite, and one I’ve been known to use, is: “Don’t be telling everyone you’re unhappy, tell the person that can make a difference” A manager gave me that advice in my first volunteering role at the hospital and it has stuck with me ever since.

Christina Nguyen, United States

Find a way to take part in International Women’s Day

The first International Women’s Day (IWD) took place in 1911, with the aim of celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.

Run annually on March 8, the day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.

Each year IWD has a theme which continues all year to provide a meaningful framework to connect and amplify action. The 2021 campaign is #ChooseToChallenge and aims to inspire us all to call out gender bias and inequality

Below are some suggested areas that could be implemented to support the campaign during 2021 and beyond.

If you are running an event, large or small please write a blog and ‘Tag’ and add the ‘Category’ EDI and it will show in the new EDI webpage. ‘News and Events section’

Remember to use the #ChooseToChallenge to tweet and share your ideas and encourage others.

Some Ideas

Some event ideas include:
• A talk by an inspiring female speaker related to your field of work
• A presentation of some gender-related research related to your field
• A female senior leader from your area talking about their career and key events/support that helped them to advance
• A panel of women from your field talking about career challenges, important milestones/support, career tips, intersectional experiences, etc.
• An event to share ideas, good practice and promote change on a topic such as collective action to promote gender equality, male champions, allies, equal pay
• A presentation and discussion of a gender-related film
• A presentation and discussion from a gender-related book
• An event on a specific-gender related issue such as menopause, domestic violence, global women’s empowerment, pornography, body image
• A performance by a female artist

Below are some suggested TED Talks for IWD to start your discussions:

Why we have too few women leaders
Know your worth, and then ask for it
Women entrepreneurs, example not exception
How to make hard choices
Can we all ‘have it all’?

Below are some links to relevant reading lists:
Books about women who changed the world 
Like a Woman 

Books to read on International Women’s Day 

International Women’s Day – A vintage reading list

Books to read this International Women’s Day

Women authors – International Women’s Day

Actions for Individuals

• Pay attention to the dynamics in your workplace and ensure that people are not left on the fringes of conversations or interactions – build bridges so that they can move across
• Give credit where it is due – take steps to ensure female colleagues are visible and share their achievements
• Learn more about the impact of unconscious bias and how it can be minimised
• Question your assumptions and bias about women’s abilities, life choices and competence and challenge them in others by bringing the focus back to the facts
• Act as a visible ally and champion for gender equality engaging with colleagues who don’t value inclusion or are cynical
• Question and challenge all-male speaker panels

Attend an IWD event, see the listings here – International Women’s Day Events

Actions for Managers and Leaders

• Discuss what you can do to address gender inequality in your day to day role, as well as what you can do in your leadership capacity, to increase momentum around the agenda

• Support applications for flexible and agile working so that all colleagues can take on caring responsibilities whatever their gender
• Get to know your staff, their strengths and areas of interest and issues that impact on their lives outside of work
• Provide continuous development support which is caring and thoughtful and enables staff to evolve and grow to their strengths
• Develop robust approaches and metrics for measuring performance to avoid assumptions leaking into decision making and assessment

And don’t forget to sign up to the BAME Staff Network event marking International Women’s Day with keynote speaker the Right Reverend Dr Rose Hudson-Wilkin, Bishop of Dover, 

Increased Microsoft security – Multi-factor authentication is coming

The University will add an extra layer of online security to all Microsoft 365 (M365) services including email and Teams from 12 April (Easter vacation). Some staff will be contacted to set this up on their accounts earlier than this date.

All staff will be enrolled onto multi-factor authentication (MFA), which adds a level of increased security when using online tools and is especially important now as many staff are working from home (99.9% reduction in compromised accounts).

As the name suggests, MFA uses multiple methods to identify that you are who you say you are. You may be familiar with this type of security which is commonly used for online banking, shopping and PayPal.

What this means 

When MFA has been added to your M365 account there will be an extra authentication step for you to complete before gaining access to M365 services from off-campus. There will be a number of options available for you to authenticate yourself, details of which will be provided.

Next steps 

We will contact all staff with further details about enrolment onto MFA later this term. If you have any questions, please get in touch with IT Service Desk.

WISC logo

WISC-Women in Supramolecular Chemistry

We know that women in academia are disproportionately affected by funding structures, academic culture and caring responsibilities whatever their discipline. We know that there is a gender disparity in Science, Technology Engineering, and Maths disciplines. We do not know why women in the chemical sciences are further marginalised. Within the chemical sciences the lack of retention and progression for women and all those with protected Equality and Diversity characteristics is pronounced.

WISC (the international Women In Supramolecular Chemistry network) was founded by a small group of academics, including Dr Jennifer Hiscock and Dr Jennifer Leigh from Kent, in order to address equality and diversity in the field. Since its launch in late 2019, WISC has created a website and resource bank, conducted a survey of the supramolecular community, initiated small group mentoring and support clusters for parents, those with disabilities/chronic illnesses/neurodivergences, and 1st Gen chemists.

WISC aspires to be an agent of change. We want the work we are engaged in to bring about actions and inspire change from others. In 1979 Audre Lorde, a self-proclaimed Black feminist, poet, and warrior, said if we want to change things, we need to do them differently. WISC has taken a creative and reflective approach to ongoing research projects to humanise the reasons why equality work is so vital. Our aim is to develop a community and increase its diversity.

We want to intervene within a space that is unfair and marginalised, and change the experiences of those entering the field, drawing on feminist and creative research practices to make sure voices are heard, and show the STEM community that interventions like this are worthwhile and necessary.

WISC are about to publish a paper in Angewandte Chemie (DOI: 10.1002/anie.202015297) and an article in the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Chemistry World.

man sat at laptop drawing

What’s on: 22-28 February 2021

This week’s events include preparation for online job assessment centres, guided online meditation and the conclusion of the LGBTQ+ History Month celebration. There’s also a postgraduate open event for any undergrads wanting to know about further study opportunities.

Today we are also expecting a Government announcement regarding Covid-19 and the current national lockdown. Please keep an eye on your student emails later in the week for an update.

Events for you to try this week:

Browse all events

Have you read this?

Browse all student support

Keep an eye on:

Let us know what you think of these updates by emailing