Author Archives: Communications

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Update on student encampment

This update follows our previous statement of 15 May, where we committed to give an update on different areas of university activity that have been under discussion.

Like many around the world, we have watched with great alarm the lack of a peaceful resolution to the ongoing war in Gaza. The continued devastation, most recently through the bombardment of Rafah, remains very distressing with a profound emotional impact across our community here in Kent. We condemn violations of international law and any actions that target civilians and express our gravest concern for the loss of innocent lives that has affected so many. We also express our full support for the movement towards a ceasefire and the release of all hostages that is now on the table, which would lead to an immediate pause to military action and for urgent aid to reach Gaza as a priority.

There has been a devastating impact over the last year on universities in the region. International estimates suggest that 80% of universities in Gaza have been destroyed or damaged by the war, with large numbers of students and academics killed and 90,000 Palestinians denied access to education. Any loss of life is a tragedy, but the effect of war on universities not only deprives Palestinian people of their right to learn and share knowledge but also further destabilises a region in desperate need of peace and recovery. Education is a fundamental human right that should be respected and protected universally, and the global community must recognise and act upon the critical need to protect it wherever it is restricted.

Investments and Partnerships

All of our activities at the University of Kent, including investment decisions, are governed by ethical principles that make sure we contribute positively towards a sustainable and peaceful future. Our Socially Responsible Investment Policy guides how and where we invest our money, which to clarify includes not investing directly or indirectly in weapons companies. We are committed to our shared responsibility to support global peace and educational preservation in how we work, collaborate and invest.

These principles also apply to our international partnerships. Any proposed partnership at the University is scrutinised and approved by our International Partnerships Approval Panel, whose membership includes representation from Kent Union and the wider academic community. These are then approved by our Academic Strategy, Planning and Performance Board with authority from Senate. We firmly believe that a free exchange of ideas is critical to academic advancement. However, our existing policies ensure that, while we would support individual projects that pursue peaceful and humanitarian ends, we would not form formal links with any organisation that fell short of these ethical standards. Both this and our investment policy reflect long-standing commitments that apply equally across all countries and territories, and which we are determined to maintain.

Support for victims of war

We also stand in solidarity with all students and staff at the university who are affected by the war in Gaza. This includes taking tangible steps to support victims of war – through continuing our work with external organisations like CARA, who are guiding us on practical ways to provide support and in particular education support, and through our existing Sanctuary Scholarship Scheme. We are actively working towards setting up scholarships for Palestinian students at the earliest opportunity, with funding secured for one place in 2024/25 and alternative funding arrangements being actively pursued for additional places next year and the year after.

Alongside this, we recognise the emotional impact the war is having on our students, and especially those who have lost family or seen their homes destroyed. We pledge to work with them to further enhance training for staff, including in cultural awareness and understanding the emotional needs of victims of war, and to provide additional student support, including mitigation and mental health support.

Supporting the right to protest

The University of Kent respects and supports our students’ right to peaceful protest and freedom of speech within the law. This has been consistent throughout the current student encampment, which has been organised and managed in a safe and respectful way. Through dialogue and advocacy, we are determined to continue our support for both peaceful resolutions to war and for the universal right to education across the world.

Read our previous statements

We appreciate the strength of feeling generated in both staff and students across the university by recent events. At all times we strive to be an organisation where everyone feels welcome and supported and take a zero-tolerance approach to antisemitism, Islamophobia or any form of discrimination or harassments on campus. If you experience any discrimination, please use our Report + Support tool so that we can quickly take action and connect you with appropriate support within the University.

15 May 2024: Student encampment on campus

8 December 2023: Israel and Gaza: Supporting our community

10 November 2023: Israel and Gaza reflections

28 October 2023: Israel and Gaza

9 October 2023: Conflict in Israel and Gaza: Support for students