Author Archives: Karen Cox

Kent sign on campus

Israel and Gaza: Supporting our community

Like many of you, I have been extremely concerned by the resumption of airstrikes and violence in Gaza following the moment of hope offered by the recent ceasefire. The impact on those living there is frankly unimaginable, and the pain and worry for those in our community with friends and family in the Middle East must be incredibly hard.  

In recent weeks I have continued to meet regularly with students and staff affected by events in Gaza. As well as being humbling, I am also grateful to those who have shared thoughts on what we could be doing better to support our community. Several actions are being put in place as a result of this, including work to provide spaces where people can come together for support and discussion, improved signposting of help at the University and clear academic mitigation for people affected by the ongoing crisis. I know students have been putting huge efforts into fundraising for the victims of the current conflict which we are also looking to support.  

More broadly, as we have said throughout, I continue to join calls for lasting peace in the region. Violence is never the answer and the continued impact on innocent civilians since the war began is horrifying; it is imperative that continued aid gets into Gaza and that the full release of remaining hostages is supported. I also share colleagues’ grave concern at the impact on universities in Gaza – any educational institution under attack is an attack on the furthering of knowledge, understanding and collaboration, which is what will light the path to peaceful and meaningful solutions.  

Alongside this, I want to add clarity to previous updates on how we navigate shared space for different views throughout this. Giving people the space to advocate and promote causes they care about or are expert in is what underlies us as an institution. While we all need to be aware of our impact on others, that does not mean preventing debate – academic freedom is critical to how we work, and being free to criticise the actions of any government, including Israel’s, is a vital part of democracy. What we have tried to do it to ensure everyone is aware of the legal boundaries around this so that we better facilitate discussion. While our commitment to academic freedom provides significant protection for colleagues in expressing their views, direct support for terrorist acts as defined by UK law rightly falls outside of this. This is ultimately a reflection of how anti-terrorism laws are policed in the UK and I have asked colleagues to put together some clearer guidance on this, supported by briefings from Universities UK. 

Similarly I have heard those who felt some previous statements came across as uncaring and didn’t reflect the values we try to be consistent in. We have tried hard to correct this subsequently and to reaffirm that, along with supporting our own community at Kent, we stand with all victims of war, wherever and whoever they are, while encouraging dialogue and peaceful solutions at all times. This approach extends to our investments, where we have a commitment that we don’t invest in arms businesses either directly or through pooled funds.   

I will continue to update on what the University is doing throughout this war and welcome further thoughts from colleagues on what you would like to see more of. Lots of you will need further opportunities to come together, with on-campus events being supported by the University Operations team and Campus Security. This will continue in the weeks ahead, while I know Kent Union are also determined to support students in both their fundraising and solidarity activity. I hope this provides some useful context and please do get in touch if you have thoughts on what else we should be doing. 

Kent sign on campus

Israel and Gaza reflections

Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Karen Cox

In recent weeks I have followed the escalating humanitarian crisis in Gaza with deepening horror and upset. Since the attacks on 7 October and ongoing war since, our thoughts first and foremost have been with our Israeli and Palestinian students and staff with family or direct ties to the area, along with all those affected by the escalating conflict and dealing with unimaginable terror and distress. They continue to be of great concern to all of us at the University.

I have also been listening to the testimonies of Palestinian and Jewish students and staff, as well as many others, and have been greatly moved and humbled by their experiences. The outrage, distress and anger is palpable. In listening to these, our first response has to be to affirm above all the humanity of all victims of violence, terrorism and war; in doing so, we uphold the sanctity of every life in the region and, like others, we call for the space for humanitarian aid and support and, more broadly, a fair and lasting peace.

In these conversations I have been greatly concerned that some students and staff are not feeling safe in the current climate. As part of a large and diverse learning community, we have so much that binds us together, including a commitment to peace, tolerance, freedom of expression within the law, the right to peaceful protest, democracy and of course our responsibilities towards one another. We want to be a place where people can talk openly about their experiences and about the things that matter to them, and be heard respectfully and attentively; these things lie at the heart of learning, scholarship and our lives together.

I am always aware that as a university we don’t have all the answers, but in listening we commit ourselves to learning, challenging ourselves, and to understanding and doing better. I hope this is a commitment we can all make at this time so that we can all have what we need and deserve – a sense of safety and security, the ability to speak out, to protest, to share experiences and demand change, combined with a sense of wellbeing and fulfilment – as we learn, teach and work in a difficult world and at a challenging time.

Finally, I want to underline that there is advice and support available to all staff and students and I would urge all those who feel they need help and support to reach out.

Advice and Support

If you are worried about the ongoing situation in the Middle East then please get in touch with our Student Welfare teams who will advise you on how we can support you at this difficult time. You can also check out our blogpost on coping with distressing events, which outlines support for Kent students, and some advice on ways to manage the intense feelings which can come with hearing about traumatic events.

Student Support and Wellbeing (SSW) are running support sessions every Monday from 13.00 – 14.00. These are drop-in sessions taking place upstairs in Locke Building near the Coop, staffed by a mental health adviser and counsellor from SSW. All students are welcome.

The UK Foreign Office also has advice on what to do if you have friends or family who are travelling to the region at the moment, along with guidance on who to contact if you need advice or support overseas.

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

Professor Karen Cox

Vice-Chancellor Start of Term Update

Happy New Year to all of you and I hope everyone felt the benefit of some time off over the winter break.  

Before the new term gets going in earnest I wanted to touch on a few of our priorities for the coming months – do also join our Community Catch-Up on Teams on Tuesday 17 January from 12.00 – 13.00 where I will expand on these further, highlight other positive initiatives on the way and answer any questions you may have.  

This year’s National Student Survey is an obvious place to start, with it launching at Kent on 23 January – my thanks to all of you who will be helping encourage final-year students to complete this, it is really important we get a good response early in the year. Student experience is a major focus at the moment and it’s been great to see Nexus, our new one-stop shop for student queries in the Templeman Library, getting off to a fantastic start last term with lots of student interest; we will be promoting this further this term to build on its success. 

Before Christmas we published our annual accounts, so do read the summary of these from the Finance team which give the context for our wider financial situation. As I’ve updated previously, alongside the work this year to reduce non-pay spend to cover reduced student retention, the accounts show how the challenges of both inflation and the flat tuition fee mean we have a continued need to look at our ways of working to see how we can be more effective. With that in mind there will be a number of discussions in the weeks ahead to reflect on how Divisions have bedded in, and their interface with professional services, and see how and where we can improve our operating model. 

Executive Group has also been looking at our upcoming Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) submission, which is the result of a great deal of work across teams. This has come together well and will be another important marker in terms of what we deliver at Kent, with more updates to follow on this in due course. Employability is another area where we increasing our efforts to ensure we are doing all we can to help our graduates meet local and national need. 

Over the months ahead there are also a number of other opportunities to get together with colleagues, with events and initiatives being planned for LGBTQ+ History Month, Time to Talk Day on 2 February, and Kent Giving Week which follows at the end of March. While I know it gets busy, do watch out for communications around these and find the time to take something in outside of the day-to-day if you can – I look forward to seeing as many of you as possible and wish you the very best for the term ahead.  

Yours sincerely


Vice-Chancellor’s December update

Dear Colleagues, 

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. 

Yours sincerely 


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.

Vice-Chancellor’s update – November 2022

Since my last update our political landscape has shifted once again with yet another Secretary of State for Education in Gillian Keegan – our fifth in just over a year. She is joined by another new lead, with Grant Shapps now heading up Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. Like many we hope for a bit more stability in both areas, and look forward to seeing what this means for universities and the Levelling Up agenda in particular. 

Student numbers and Academic Freedom 

At our more local level, Senate met this week where, along with regular updates from the key Boards and Committees that run across the University, there were focussed discussions on the NSS, Teaching Excellence Framework and Admissions. We also had updates on new entrants and continuation, which is looking challenging for the University as it seems that this year we have more students not progressing between years.  

Colleagues are actively following up with students to reduce this gap by ensuring everyone registers that can,  but it is looking like there will be consequences for budgets. We will look to manage this through contingency, holding back on capital and non-essential spend, re-prioritising any strategic investment and controls around staff recruitment. We will keep colleagues updated. 

Elsewhere, Senate considered an important paper on an updated policy on Academic Freedom, which is the result of diligent work from across our community and goes right to the heart of our purpose as a University – more updates on this will follow. 

Executive Group priorities 

At Executive Group, we are receiving regular updates on the external and internal work to resolve the performance issues with KentVision that were observed during the Boards of Examiners meetings in June and again at Clearing in August. Our own review has identified what seems to be the root cause of these issues and fixes have been applied. Georgina Randsley de Moura is also sponsoring a Timetabling Task Team to review and improve our approach to timetabling after recent issues for both students and staff – this will be supported by colleagues across central and divisional teams and will draw on a number of other related projects. 

At national level, many will have seen that the University and College Union has a renewed mandate for industrial action across all universities over pay, pensions and working conditions. We are not the only sector faced with these issues, with cost of living pressures felt across the country. While we await the outcome of UCU discussions this week for confirmation of plans, we will do all we can to support national negotiations in the interest of a settlement that works for all. We are also drawing up plans to mitigate the impact of any action on students as far as we can if it comes to it. 

Update on Arts and Humanities 

I also wanted to update you further on the work to review our Arts and Humanities offer. I don’t underestimate how worrying a time it is for colleagues whenever there is talk of reviews or changes. This is why I’m really pleased that by working together on a redundancy avoidance agreement, we’ve been able to make a commitment in this case that there will be no compulsory redundancies for colleagues affected by the current review in Arts and Humanities. This is an approach we want to embed whenever we consider major changes in the future, ensuring people can know there is a job for them here if they want to stay.  

Staff Recognition Awards 

While it is a difficult environment for the sector, the way our community comes together to welcome students each new academic year is always special. Next week sees our annual Staff Recognition Awards where we will hear inspirational stories from across the University.

Kent Sport’s Vice-Chancellor’s Cup also gets underway shortly for a bit of fun and healthy competition across teams, while our staff webchat series returns later this month with a session on the Cost of Living. Do try to catch up on these activities outside of day-to-day work where you can, and thank you to all you for everything you do for our students, staff and the wider community. 

Death of her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Dear students, 

It is with great sadness that we last night received official confirmation that Her Majesty the Queen had passed away peacefully at Balmoral, with her family by her side. The thoughts of all of us are with the Royal Family at this time as we unite in grief with the nation and all those around the world who have been touched by her dignity, devotion and unfailing sense of duty. 

This is an unprecedented and deeply sad moment for the country and I know that many of you will want to pay your respects personally. We will shortly have books of condolence available on our Canterbury and Medway campuses for students and staff who wish to leave a message and are also reviewing activity across the University to see what we will need to pause or adjust as a mark of respect over the coming days. 

I will provide a further update shortly as arrangements are confirmed for the national period of mourning.  


Professor Karen Cox | Vice-Chancellor and President 

Death of her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Dear colleagues, 

It is with great sadness that last night we received official confirmation that Her Majesty the Queen had passed away peacefully at Balmoral, with her family by her side. The thoughts of all of us are with the Royal Family at this time as we unite in grief with the nation and all those around the world who have been touched by her dignity, devotion and unfailing sense of duty. 

This is an unprecedented and deeply sad moment for the country and I know that many of you will want to pay your respects personally. We will shortly have books of condolence available on our Canterbury and Medway campuses for staff and students who wish to leave a message and are also reviewing activity across the University to see what we will need to pause or adjust as a mark of respect over the coming days. 

I will provide a further update shortly as arrangements are confirmed for the national period of mourning.  


Professor Karen Cox | Vice-Chancellor and President 

Reflections on the Lambeth Conference

Sunday 7 August was our last day hosting this year’s Lambeth Conference so I wanted to write to thank all of you for your patience and support throughout. We don’t host conferences of this scale and international profile very often and I appreciate the knock-on effect this will have had on many, from smaller things like the Gulbenkian being closed to the impact on some of your workspaces. I also want to thank all of those involved over the last fortnight – I know lots of colleagues have been in daily contact with the conference organisers, including across the weekends, to make sure we fulfilled our duties as hosts. The feedback from the organisers and delegates has been uniformly positive throughout the last two weeks so well done to all on a superb operation.

Our commitment to equality, inclusion and mutual respect

I am also very aware that many will have found our hosting of the Lambeth Conference difficult on a personal level. As Georgina updated ahead of the Conference, we are clear that the official Anglican stance on the place of LGBTQ+ people both within the Church and wider society does not fit with our own values as a University. This is especially true of our deeply held commitment to equality, inclusion and mutual respect. I’m sure that many will have seen the coverage of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s restatement of the Church’s 1998 position on Equal Marriage and we are unambiguous that we are in fundamental disagreement on this issue.

While we had no say over the content of the Conference, what we always aimed to do as hosts was to support positive voices seeking to move the debate forward within the Church. This included providing support where we could for those promoting positive change on LGBTQ+ equality and extending our welcome directly to the same-sex spouses of LGBT bishops in attendance. Our University is welcoming and inclusive to all and we were in regular contact with the same-sex spouses throughout to ensure that they felt as welcome on our campus as any guest to our University has a right to expect.

Progression within the Anglican Church

Meeting them and hearing their stories was moving and humbling, both the pain they felt at their exclusion from the Conference programme but also their determination to be present, visible and proud and, through their presence, to help bring about the change that they and we very much want to see. It made me reflect that progress can be difficult, uncomfortable and too slow for our liking but that it happens through small acts of personal courage, resilience and determination just as much as through the bigger public and media debates and discussions that we also saw during the conference.

The Lambeth Conference has been hosted at Kent since the 1970s and we are aware the Church has evolved its thinking in a number of areas over that time. However, the pace of progress, in a world that is rapidly changing and increasingly challenged, appears frustratingly slow and, while it is clear from liberal voices within the Church that many felt significant steps forward had been made in the past fortnight, we hope that the Church’s thinking and actions in this area will now evolve more rapidly.

Evolving our EDI Strategy

Lastly, I wanted to touch on both the Lambeth Walk and Rainbows in Religion symposium organised by the University’s LGBTQ+ Staff Network, which saw different voices coming together to discuss the intersection of faith and sexuality and to celebrate our diversity. I know how challenging the last two weeks have been for our LGBTQ+ colleagues in particular and I know too how important it was for everyone to have the opportunity to show their support for our community. I hope the Network events were a help with this and I know that the large and positive show of support for LGBTQ+ people on campus was also hugely appreciated by many Conference delegates.

Events like Lambeth bring together different voices from diverse backgrounds. That said, it’s very important we learn what we can from this experience, particularly around the impact on our community. Coming out of this, I know we have work to do to listen and evolve our EDI strategy in particular and to build on vital work underway in that area. Kent is a special community which all of us are part of and I am determined that we celebrate and champion the breadth of its diversity in all that we do.

With all good wishes for the rest of the summer,


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. 

A Graduation Moment Like No Other

Later today at Rochester Cathedral it will be our huge pleasure to welcome our first cohort of returning students for their in-person graduation ceremonies. Graduations are always momentous occasions, marking not just our students’ success but a significant juncture in their lives. However, this first set of ceremonies has a particular poignancy as we mark a year group that faced challenges like no other. I wanted to take this moment to reflect on what they – and we – have all gone through together over the past two years. 

It’s easy to forget that university life for the ‘Class of 2020’ began like any other – the buzz around campus of new friendships being formed; bustling bars filled with excitement; the clatter and chatter of a packed lecture theatre settling down to class. What a contrast to how jarring that first lockdown was, as silence fell across our estate. The resilience, courage and commitment of those students to complete their studies while the whole world changed around them was truly humbling – as was the deeply moving way colleagues across the University pulled together in support. It was the best of our community, as so many adapted to huge personal challenges to ensure our students had the best possible experience we could provide. 

This didn’t come without its difficulties, with having to cancel in-person graduation ceremonies a particular low. For that year group to then graduate online and move into a new world of work, often behind a digital desk, shows just how remarkable they are. Kent graduates are special and throughout this first set of ceremonies we will be celebrating both them and the amazing things they have gone on to – showcasing how employability runs through our work, and how graduates who are ‘Made in Kent’ leave us ready to shape tomorrow’s world. 

Their success is also testament to all of you. Everyone at Kent can look at graduations and feel pride at their contribution. Maybe you sparked someone’s imagination in your tutorials or brought inspiration through your research. You may have been the first smile they saw when they came to collect their keys; a supportive word when they were in need of help; or serving them the food that reminded them of home when they really needed it. Everyone has a part to play, from when a prospective student picks up a prospectus to when they open their first Alumni Newsletter – and I hope you can all take a moment to reflect on your part in this as these wonderful ceremonies return. 

I know many will be volunteering this week and next or taking part through your more ceremonial role. Wherever you are, do look out across our campuses and social media for the smiles, hugs and special family moments as they return once again and know that they are yours to share in too.  

With my thanks to all of you for everything you do. 


Professor Karen Cox | Vice-Chancellor and President