My warmest wishes to all of you as we come to the end of another busy term and look ahead to Christmas and the New Year break. This is always a special time of year – this week alone has shown the breadth of what it means to people through our traditional carol service in Canterbury Cathedral, carols round the tree, our local rabbi lighting a pre-Hannukah candle on campus, and our archive growing with materials from the world’s first Muslim pantomime! My thanks also to everyone who has been out early in the mornings making our campuses safe through the recent icy conditions.
Lots to celebrate in 2022
Before we all head off for a well-deserved break, I wanted to pause and reflect on a year that has once again seen some real successes for Kent. The REF is an obvious place to start, with our excellent results standing us in good stead for the years ahead. We were also able to invest further in STEM through a £1m grant from the Office for Students, supporting key areas where we are looking to grow.
Community has been a major focus this year, with our first ever Kent Giving Week raising tens of thousands for the Parkinson’s Centre for Integrated Therapy, and our inaugural Youth Summit bringing schools together from across the county. We’ve also shown what a wider university community is all about through our twinning with Kherson State University in Ukraine. Our commitment to our role within wider society will develop further next year with our application to be a University of Sanctuary and the development of our Right to Food initiative.
The return of in-person graduations was another big highlight, with the smiles and hugs across multiple ceremonies a real boost for everyone. It’s also been great to see our new brand identity centred on ambition rolling out across our campuses and marketing material.
Looking ahead to 2023
So there is lots to build on as we look ahead to next year. As I have updated previously, we do have bumps in the road to negotiate, particularly linked to our in-year issue with student retention – on Wednesday we held a dedicated session with senior leaders to focus on this and the practical steps we can take to ensure we don’t face this issue again. Linked to this will be a concerted focus on the National Student Survey.
Our annual accounts have now been published, which set out some of the challenges ahead, including our continued need to think about our ways of working and how we can be more effective. Income is what we need to remain focussed on and we have an Executive Group strategy session next week and a Council strategy session in January, where we will be thinking about what else we can do to move the University forwards. I was also pleased to see the new Education Secretary Gilian Keegan row back on recent comments regarding international students; it goes without saying that our international community brings so much to our University and our region and is of huge value socially and culturally. We are proud to welcome so many people from around the world to Kent.
Making ambition count
While the sector is still facing challenges, we should remain proud of what we do and the impact we have for so many. Our University supports thousands of students each year to make their ambition count, finding their way in the world in a supportive environment through the huge talent and effort of every one of you. There are successes big and small every day and while I don’t underestimate how much work that takes, I want to thank all of you for your continued commitment to the University.
I hope all get some down time over the coming weeks and wish you all the very best as we head towards 2023.
With all good wishes for Christmas and the New Year.
All staff are invited to join the Vice-Chancellor for a Community Catch-Up on 17 January 2023 between 12.00-13,00, where Karen will be providing a mid-term review and a look ahead to the rest of the year. Sign up now and a calendar invite will be sent to all attendees beforehand with information on how to join.