Vice-Chancellor Update: Becoming a University of Sanctuary

Spring is always a special time on our campuses as our fantastic spaces come into their own, with blossom, flowers and bluebells seemingly everywhere you turn. We are lucky to have such a wonderful environment to work in and such fantastic assets to offer our students; my thanks to our Estates and Maintenance teams across Canterbury and Medway who do such a brilliant job at making us look our best. 

The Easter break also offers some welcome time for reflection after a busy term and I hope that many of you have been able to step away for a short while in recent weeks. A lot has happened already this year, from the return of in-person graduations to a further period of industrial action; I never lose sight of how much work goes into managing the ups and downs of each term and am hugely appreciative of your continued focus on delivering the best for our students throughout.  

A lot has also been happening outside the University too, as like so many others we have watched with horror at the ongoing fallout from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. This, combined with the Government announcements on refugees seeking sanctuary now being ‘processed’ in Rwanda, have kept wider humanitarian issues around safety, dignity and compassion firmly in our minds. Those of us who live in the county will be aware of how closely felt this can be given our region’s deep current and historical links to the movement of people – it’s also an area where I’m keen we use our unique position to have meaningful impact as a University. 

The activity across our community to support those affected by the war in Ukraine is a source of real pride and showcases the ways we work together across areas to benefit others. We are also developing wider recognition for our research expertise in this area through our signature theme of Migration and Movement, with events this year such as the visit of Amal, Abdulrazak Gurnah’s return to campus and workshops with Kent Refugee Action Network adding further depth to our work. 

Bringing all of this together is our ambition to become a University of Sanctuary, with work ongoing on how we can develop a ‘whole university’ approach to opening our doors to those in need across the world. Our campuses are special places and the feeling of connection is real to many of us here; widening that sense of a place of sanctuary to those fleeing war and persecution wherever they are will deepen that further, while also being a compelling example of what a civic University like ourselves should offer. 

I look forward to updating you all further on this important work as it develops and in the meantime which you all the very best for the remainder of the academic year.