Author Archives: Karen Cox

Professor Karen Cox

Vice-Chancellor’s update – 20 May 2020

As I mentioned in my last update, we now have a programme of work underway to support a phased return of our activities over the coming months.

Our aim is to ensure that student recruitment and progression, teaching, research and knowledge exchange can be delivered from the start of the next academic year. We are looking at a mix of online delivery alongside socially distanced approaches to any face-to-face delivery.

Colleagues across the University are being drawn on for this work and we will continue to extend this engagement as we develop this plan. We will also continue to work closely with the trade unions and staff representatives, as well as drawing on health and safety and national guidance, as we move through this transition period.

The wellbeing of our staff and students will be at the forefront of all our planning and we will need to make sure we have appropriate support mechanisms in place for those who will need it. As we move forward with this work, we will need to balance the needs of all staff. There is no doubt that, while I am conscious there are many of you who are keen get back on to campus, there are as many who are understandably highly concerned about the next steps.

How we return from lockdown will be a key area of focus at next week’s Senior Leadership Forum and I will update you on those discussions in the next newsletter.

I know many of you are continuing to have to work in difficult circumstances. Please do keep in touch with line managers at this time and seek support and advice. We are keen to help. Please be assured that everyone’s efforts right across the whole University, from Medway and Canterbury to our European centres, are appreciated at this difficult and unprecedented time.

My very best wishes to you and your families,

Karen

Professor Karen Cox | Vice-Chancellor and President

 

Vice-Chancellor’s update – 13 May 2020

The Government has now published its recovery strategy in support of a lifting of the restrictions brought in to manage the coronavirus. Like others in the sector, we are working towards a phased return of our activities and will need time to prepare and adapt our ways of working as well as our physical spaces and buildings before they can be re-opened.

While the Government’s strategy does not refer directly to universities, it does confirm that scientific research laboratories can now begin to re-open. This is welcome news, but it is essential that the appropriate health and safety measures are in place before we resume lab-based research. We have already started work on how we can do this and will draw on best practice from the sector as well as following government advice on ensuring a safe working environment. We will continue to update you on our progress in this area.

Over the coming months, we will gradually begin to recommence our activities on campus in a measured and considered way. The health and wellbeing of our staff and students remain at the forefront of all our planning and the appropriate measures will need to be in place before we begin to transition back to more face-to-face ways of working.

In the meantime, you should continue with your current working arrangements as agreed with your line manager.

My very best wishes to you and your families,

Karen

Professor Karen Cox | Vice-Chancellor and President

Professor Karen Cox

Message from the Vice-Chancellor (30 April 2020)

Next Monday sees the first day of term and, for most students, it marks the start of exams. The last few weeks have been particularly intense for those involved in the development of an adapted approach to the delivery and assessment of exams and I would like to thank all of those who have been involved in what has been an outstanding – and complex – piece of work.

We recognise that the COVID-19 pandemic will continue to have an impact and it is likely that we will have to continue to adapt how we deliver our education, and the wider student experience. As I mentioned last week, Professor Richard Reece, Deputy Vice-Chancellor Education and Student Experience, is working with colleagues to prepare for the next academic year when we will be welcoming new and returning students to the University. We will continue to update you on this.

At a time when we are all having to deal with additional pressures, it was particularly heartening to learn that the One Hour Degree, created by the Student Success project, has been shortlisted in the Guardian University Awards 2020 in the Digital Innovation category. Congratulations to all those involved.

Work also continues across the University in support of the fight against COVID-19. I think we have all been touched by the response we have had from healthcare professionals, students, members of the community and others in response to the work of colleagues.

In the next few days, I will provide a fuller on some of the actions we have been taking over the last few weeks including how we are preparing for the new academic year, and an update on the financial impact of the current situation.

My very best wishes to you and your families.

Karen

Karen Cox | Vice-Chancellor and President

Professor Karen Cox, Vice-Chancellor

Message from the Vice-Chancellor (23 April 2020)

I hope you managed to get something of a break over the Easter period.

Just a brief update from me before the start of term to let you know that Executive Group met on Monday and had an update from COVID-19 response group lead Professor Christina Hughes.

The update covered the work of colleagues associated with examinations and assessment, as well as updates on our infrastructure response and support for staff and student welfare. We are now moving from the immediate/crisis response mode to look at the next few months in terms of delivering examinations, exam boards, supporting completing students and enabling ongoing work related to the COVID-19 response and planning ahead for the autumn and the start of the 20/21 academic year.

In order to prepare for the autumn term, I have asked Professor Richard Reece, our new Deputy Vice-Chancellor Education and Student Experience, to work with colleagues across the University to bring together a team to begin to map out how we would do this.

We remain operational as a University and, while we are uncertain as to the exact conditions we will be working in over the next few months, we want to be clear with current, returning and prospective students, our partners and stakeholders that we remain ‘open’ and are planning our autumn activity. We will always of course keep health and safety issues front and centre and so we will need to prepare for a range of scenarios. Further updates and ways to get involved will be shared over the next few weeks. Division Directors will also be working with their Schools to progress this work with Richard.

In the meantime, thank you all for all that you are doing. I hope you, your families and friends are all well.

Karen

Karen Cox | Vice-Chancellor and President

Professor Karen Cox

Vice-Chancellor’s Easter Message

As we head into the Easter Bank Holiday, I have been reflecting on the extraordinary events of the last few weeks. You will have seen from my update earlier this week the vast amount of work that has been carried out in such a short space of time, I thank everyone for the part they have played in enabling all these things to happen.

One of things I am immensely proud of is how staff and students are responding to the impact of COVID-19 on our local community and beyond. The link to the webpages shows some of the activity that is going on across all our schools, departments and professional services. A number of you are supporting the work of the Canterbury Foodbank and more than 30 academics, postdoctoral researchers and PhD students in Biosciences have volunteered to help perform testing at hospitals across the county. Kent Hospitality has donated surplus stock to Dover Foodbank and we are working directly with the NHS across Kent and Medway to see how we can provide essential infrastructure support.

We are now all working in an adapted and dispersed way. In such an environment, it’s important to get our communications right and I am aware that, in recent weeks, I have been sending out a lot of emails to you all as well as communicating with TEAMS, Zoom and good old fashioned telephone! As we come back from the Easter break I want to ensure you have the right kind of opportunity to engage directly with me and colleagues across the senior team. We are currently looking at the best way to do this and will come back with further details.

I wish you and your families all the best for the Easter break, and look forward to working with you over the coming months as we all navigate our way through this unprecedented time.

Karen

Karen Cox | Vice-Chancellor and President

Coronavirus

VC’s student update – 27 March 2020

We have reached the end of yet another week during which you have had to further adapt to the challenges of new ways of learning and living. I realise this is a challenging time for all of you as you adapt and adjust to the reality of the impact of COVID-19 on your day-to day-life.

I know many of you have had to return home earlier than you had planned or hoped, leaving behind the many friends you have made here in Canterbury and Medway.

For those of you who remain on our campuses or in your houses and flats locally, you are also adjusting to the new rules of staying home and following the rules of social distancing.

I know that we have asked a lot of all of you in a short space of time during which we have moved to online learning. At the same time, we have had to close buildings because of government requirements and most of our staff are now working from home.

I also know you have a lot of concerns about your final assessments and examinations. Please be assured that we have been working hard to protect your educational outcomes and minimise the impact of the changes we are having to make as we move teaching, learning and examinations, where needed, online.

We have made changes to accommodation charges and for those who need to remain on campus we are providing appropriate support. Health and welfare support services continue to be available to all and can be contacted at wellbeing@kent.ac.uk.

Yet, despite being in such difficult times, I have been witness to acts of kindness, compassion, resilience and ingenuity over the past days as you have supported each other and put in place new ways of keeping your relationships close whilst spending time apart.

Kent Union has been working closely with us to ensure that your needs are fully considered. The sabbatical officer team has been fully involved in our decision-making and the Union has kept services open on campus to support all those students who continue to live on campus. For all this, I offer my thanks and gratitude.

I will continue with regular updates for all students in the days and weeks ahead. For further updates as to how the University community, including Kent Union, is stepping up to help the wider effort to combat Coronavirus, please keep checking our Student News and the Coronavirus – information for students pages. Please keep us updated as to news stories that we can share on all this great community activity.

With my very best wishes to you and your families.

Yours sincerely

Karen

Professor Karen Cox | Vice-Chancellor and President

Kent logo

Monday’s VC staff update – 23 March 2020

I’m writing to provide an update of actions and decisions that we are putting in place post the Government announcements this evening at 8.30pm (Monday 23 March 2020) and I apologise for the lateness of the email.

As you are aware, we have been working to ensure we align our activities with government advice. The government has now made it clear that everyone in the UK should stop non-essential contact and stay at home, and comply with social distancing requirements.

As a result, we have accelerated the planned phased closure of buildings on the Canterbury and Medway campuses.

From 5pm on Tuesday 24 March 2020, buildings will be fully closed on the Canterbury and Medway campuses with staff working from home. While the majority of students have returned home and will remain at home until campus returns to normal operations, student residences remain open for those that need to stay with us.

This closure also applies to the Templeman Library building and the Drill Hall Library. However, the comprehensive digital library service will continue to be provided to all staff and students and additional collaboration technology has now been deployed to the whole university to ensure that meetings and student collaboration can continue for the remainder of the academic year. IT and Library support services continue to be available.

Please follow the updated advice and do not come onto campus. We are working with Estates and Commercial services colleagues to also put this action in place and managers in these areas will be in touch as appropriate to advise colleagues on actions they need to take. Estates Heads of Section will contact those essential staff this evening that are required to attend tomorrow.

Please contact your line manager for further information. Further updates will be given tomorrow.

In the meantime my good wishes to you and your families.

Karen

Professor Karen Cox | Vice-Chancellor and President

Kent Logo

Monday’s VC student update – 23 March 2020

I hope you had a good weekend, and managed to find some time for rest and peace.

I wanted to confirm that, by now, all taught students will have been emailed with information relating to the Summer Term scheduled timed written exams and to let you know that further information has now been published on the student webpages.

We also have an update for all students in on-campus accommodation. You can find out more here and the Accommodation Office will be following up directly with all those this applies to.

We know this situation continues to be challenging and our promise to you remains that we will ensure you are not academically disadvantaged by the current circumstances. Please continue to engage with your studies and we will continue to keep you updated.

With my very best wishes to you and your families.

Yours sincerely,

Karen

Professor Karen Cox | Vice-Chancellor and President

Professor Karen Cox, Vice-Chancellor

Industrial action update from Professor Karen Cox

Dear Students,

Thank you for your letters, emails and face-to-face conversations over the last few days. I have heard from staff and students from across the University. I have been ‘out and about’ and talking with staff and students as well and I am very concerned about how things have unfolded here at Kent in relation to the dispute over pensions. I want to assure you I am actively seeking to resolve these internally. It is not the way I want things to be and my aim is to get back to positive campus relations between us all, our staff and students. To that end, I have indicated that we will not be deducting any pay for action short of a strike (ASOS) for this period of action. In addition, we have been talking with Kent Union and the Universities and Colleges Union (UCU) about our Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTAs) and hourly paid lecturers (HPLs) position to ensure there is no long-term detrimental impact if they choose to take strike action.

I appreciate that this action will impact on your experience here at Kent. My colleagues across the University are working hard to mitigate the impact of any action on you our students and this will continue.

I will personally continue with my support for the need for decent pensions and I know many of you support that position. I will also continue with my public calls for continued and constructive discussions between UCU and UUK to resolve this. I made a public call to UUK in a letter dated 21 February on this which was reported in The Times and have continued to lobby UUK to this effect. I was very pleased when discussions resumed between UUK and UCU facilitated by the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS). I will continue to publicly support constructive discussions. We have also been lobbying USS on this issue as well with regard to the assumptions which underlie the valuation and which are driving the deficit. We have invited them to the University to discuss this and had face-to-face conversations to raise our concerns. We have also lobbied them via UUK. We will continue to exert this pressure.

I am in regular discussions with Kent Union and I have a meeting scheduled next week to hear from Student Representatives across the University about their concerns on this issue. Please feel free to get in touch with your course, school or faculty rep about any concerns you would like them to raise when they meet with me. I have had the good fortune to meet many of our students already but hope I will get to meet more of you at one of the open forums I will be running later in the year.

Yours sincerely,

Karen

Professor Karen Cox | Vice-Chancellor and President