Author Archives: Karen Cox

Professor Karen Cox

Vice-Chancellor’s update – 28 July 2020

We have reached the time of year when most of us normally have the chance to draw breath. However, this has been an extraordinary time for the University and I wanted to acknowledge that I am aware of the impact that all the change we are going through is having on you as individuals. I cannot thank you enough for everything you have done this year, particularly in recent months as we navigate our way back to some form of normality as lockdown eases. Your support in this, and in the measures we have taken to mitigate against the financial impact of Covid-19, has been invaluable.

Now that the consultation process has begun in areas going through changes under Organising for Success this summer, I also wanted to acknowledge the impact that this will be having on many colleagues both centrally and across our new academic divisions. There is no doubt that this is a challenging time and, more than ever, we need to support each other and work together through this period.

I end with my very best wishes for the summer, I do hope that you manage to have something of a break with family and friends and are able to re-charge your batteries for the new year.

Karen

Professor Karen Cox | Vice-Chancellor and President

Professor Karen Cox

Vice-Chancellor’s update – 21 July 2020

This week, schools and departments across the University are hosting a week of virtual celebrations for our graduates.

Our students have shown a tremendous strength and resilience in completing their examinations and studies during such a challenging time. I am sure I speak for all of us when I say we are all incredibly proud of their achievements, especially in these extraordinary circumstances.

I know that for many of you this will be a bitter-sweet moment, and that you will miss taking part in our usual ceremonies and celebrations. Seeing our graduates celebrate with their families and friends is undoubtedly one of the highlights of our University Calendar.

I would encourage you to have a look at some of the events taking place throughout the week. Tomorrow, I will confer our finalists’ degrees in absentia in Eliot College, the University’s founding college and location of the first graduation ceremony. And on Friday at 14.00, there will be a joint virtual ceremony with the University of Greenwich for our Medway School of Pharmacy graduates. Graduating students will be invited to join celebration ceremonies in Canterbury and Rochester cathedrals at a later date as and when we are able and safe to do so.

On Monday, we held the Kent Student Awards and, as always, the entrants were simply awe-inspiring. Congratulations to all of those who were shortlisted and, in particular, to Paul-Georg Ender who won the Student of the Year award, and to Kent Islamic Society, winners of the Group of the Year award.

I also want to thank you, our staff, for all your hard work in supporting our students. Thanks to you they have gone on to complete their studies, despite the challenges they have faced as a result of Covid-19. It is through your efforts that our finalists will graduate with a degree they can be proud of and enter into the next phase of their lives with a great university experience to build on.

With all good wishes,

Karen

Professor Karen Cox | Vice-Chancellor and President

Professor Karen Cox

Vice-Chancellor’s update – 14 July 2020

It continues to be an incredibly busy time across the University, and I hope that as many of you as possible were able to find a bit of space with the recent rest days last week. I remain appreciative and respectful of the work of colleagues and also recognise the pressure we are all under, in particular those in Professional Services affected by the current consultations that are taking place as part of the Organising for Success changes. Elsewhere, work continues to support a safe, phased return to campus. This will take time, but it is encouraging to see some further facilities open this week, including additional Library services for those studying for August exams and assessments.

I am very aware that the last four months have been a time of great uncertainty and want to draw attention to the policy statement that has been put together, recognising the exceptional circumstances that have arisen as a result of Covid-19 and how this may have had a substantial impact on the ability of staff to perform their job roles as they would wish. We remain committed to ensuring that nobody suffers detriment as a result of the circumstances in which we are now living and working. This will only become more important as we adapt to a ‘hybrid’ approach to on and off-campus work and continue our preparations for next year.

Following on from Alison’s update yesterday, I also wanted to thank you all personally for the careful consideration so many have given to current pay proposals. The proposed pay freeze is something that none of us would have wanted, and I know we are having to ask a lot of everybody in what truly has been a collective response to the impact of Covid-19. I have also written to senior staff this morning with details of a voluntary pay cut scheme which further supports the need for savings. Across the University, I continue to be humbled by the many different ways staff are pulling together at such a challenging time and once again I extend my sincere thanks for all that you are doing.

With all good wishes,

Karen

Professor Karen Cox | Vice-Chancellor and President

Vice-Chancellor Update: Pay Freeze Staff Poll

I know there has been a lot to take in recently and staff have been under a lot of pressure, both adapting to new ways of working because of Covid-19 and as we make changes within our professional services as part of Organising for Success. Thank you all for your continued hard work for the University – ­I want to assure you that this is hugely appreciated. I am inspired, humbled and proud of the way staff and students have responded.

I am writing to you separately from my usual weekly update this week because I wanted to reiterate the severe challenges we face as a result of the financial impact of Covid-19. We have experienced millions of pounds in one-off losses to income already. We now face huge uncertainty about international student recruitment, along with uncertainty about UK and EU student choices this coming autumn, combined with reductions in income from our other activities such as accommodation and catering. Our financial situation is therefore extremely challenging and we are taking every step available to us to reduce expenditure and commitments as we move into the next academic year, thinking hard about what we can do to protect jobs.

It is in this context that we have proposed a one-year pay freeze for all staff, on top of the reduction in salary a number of senior staff have agreed to take. I know this is a huge ask for every one of you. I know all of you are working incredibly hard at the moment and often in difficult circumstances. However, put bluntly we will simply run out of money if we don’t take drastic steps by making savings – like this. We are already planning to fully utilise our remaining cash reserves but, after the income losses already seen, these are limited and will not stretch far enough; these savings are therefore essential and if we all cannot get behind this proposal, we will have to look to compulsory redundancies, which is something none of us wants to see.

We would not be asking this if our situation wasn’t serious. However, Covid-19 has had a huge impact and these truly are unprecedented times. As I’m sure you will have seen, across the sector universities are facing incredibly difficult challenges and choices as they try to weather this storm and we are not immune from this. I therefore urge you all to complete our staff poll on the pay freeze proposal, which closes at 17.00 tomorrow.

Thank you again for everything you are all doing at the moment, and I hope everybody is able to get a much-needed break with our additional University Covid-19 rest days on Thursday and Friday this week.

Yours sincerely,

Karen

Professor Karen Cox | Vice-Chancellor and President

Professor Karen Cox

Vice-Chancellor’s update – 29 June 2020

With the end of term, exam board activity, work underway to bring the campuses back to life through the re-opening of buildings and laboratories and continued work on the Organising for Success project, I am conscious there is a lot going on. I am glad to say however, that following the closure of the UCAS deadline for home undergraduate applications, our applications, offers and firm acceptances are looking positive. While we still have a long way to go, this is very good news. Work is still underway to increase the number of home and international postgraduate taught applications and preparations continue for confirmation and clearing activity in August. Thank you to all those colleagues who are working tirelessly in this area, particularly under such difficult circumstances.

Following a visit in June the General Medical Council has confirmed that the Kent and Medway Medical School (KMMS) has met all necessary requirements to be able to welcome its first students in September. This is excellent news. I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate all those who have worked tirelessly, both within KMMS and across the University of Kent and Canterbury Christ Church University, to get us to this point.

Meanwhile, as a result of the University’s partnership with Santander Universities UK, we have now established 100 scholarships of £500 each to support students who find themselves unable to find work during the summer months because of the pandemic. We have also received an extra £25,000 of funding to support students suffering financial hardship. This will be added to the University’s own hardship fund. I am immensely grateful for this support.

The partnership has also led to a package of targeted grant support for Kent businesses under a scheme managed by Kent Business School (KBS). Grants have already been issued to a Kent-grown fresh produce home delivery service, a Thanet-based social enterprise working with the elderly, and a meal service for homeless people in Thanet and Canterbury. In addition, the partnership has also led to a financial boost for the work we have been doing in support of NHS and frontline care workers.

Finally, over the weekend, the Government made an announcement of a package of support for university research and innovation. This is most welcome and acknowledges the key contribution that university research will make to the economic and social recovery of the country from the effect of Covid-19. We are now working through the details to determine our eligibility for this support and I will update you once further details of the support packages are released.

Our situation continues to be fast-moving, and I realise this is a difficult time for all staff. As you will already know, we have granted two additional rest days to all staff on 9 and 10 July and, if you haven’t already, please talk with your line manager about taking this time to step away from work, the screen, Teams and Zoom.

With my thanks for all that you are doing.

Karen

Professor Karen Cox | Vice-Chancellor and President

 

Professor Karen Cox

Vice-Chancellor’s update – 18 June 2020

I know there has been a lot going on over the last week or so as we come to the end of exams, move into marking and then exam boards. Doing all of this remotely is not straightforward when people are working in a range of difficult circumstances. In addition, I am conscious that many colleagues are involved in work to re-open the campus and that is also challenging to ensure it is done appropriately and safely. This work does however remain on schedule.

As lockdown continues to ease, we are confident that, despite the inevitable restrictions, we will be able to offer our students a rounded, albeit different, student experience. However, we are conscious that the impact of Covid-19 has been particularly hard on our final-year students. The class of 2020 will inevitably face a very different world to the one they might have imagined entering into as a graduate at the start of the year. We have just launched a campaign highlighting the support and guidance available to all our graduates through the Careers and Employability Service, as well as highlighting a range of postgraduate opportunities. Given the pressure our students have been under, it was great to hear about our fourth-year Modern Language students conducting online tutoring sessions, engaging sixth-form students in language exercises and conversation in French, German, Italian and Spanish!

We have much to be proud of across the University, but as I noted last week we have issues to address as well in relation to creating a genuinely inclusive and welcoming campus for staff and students. This week I was invited to take part in an online student forum organised by Kent Union. Entitled ‘My Campus is Racist – In Conversations’, this was an opportunity to listen to our students about the challenges they face on a daily basis. We have work to do to address the concerns and challenges they raised and my thanks to those colleagues who are already working hard on this across the institution to enable us to do better.

I send my good wishes to you, your families and friends and look forward to the time when we can be back on our campuses once more.

Yours sincerely,

Karen

Professor Karen Cox | Vice-Chancellor and President

Coronavirus

Black Lives Matter – VC’s update

I didn’t want this week to go by without following up on last week’s joint statement on racism. I recognise we need to do more than simply make statements. The conversations and interactions I have had this week make it clear we are falling short and need to do more. We are identifying areas we must focus on and take further action.

Many staff and students are affected by these issues and working hard to raise awareness and address them and I am inspired and humbled by their work, experiences and commitment.

Combatting institutional racism is a serious challenge, but we must address it if we are to ensure that the University provides an environment in which everyone can thrive. I am committed to keeping this a high priority within the University.

Professor Karen Cox | Vice-Chancellor and President

Professor Karen Cox

Vice-Chancellor’s update – 12 June 2020

My continued thanks to everyone for all that you are doing across the University. As lockdown continues to ease, our plans for a phased return to campus are progressing well, thanks to the considerable efforts of all those involved. I recognise though that there remain many unknowns, concerns and uncertainties that we will need to continue to engage with and address over the coming weeks and months. I also know that Covid-19 is having many varied and serious impacts on the lives of our staff and students and that it can be incredibly difficult to manage the many demands you experience. Please continue to prioritise your health and wellbeing and please ask for support if you need it.

Covid-19 continues to have a major financial impact on Kent as it does across the sector. I will be writing to you about that with more information shortly. You will no doubt have seen a range of articles and opinion pieces in the media about the unprecedented financial harm it has caused universities across the sector and the risks it poses to longer term sustainability. While there has been some Government support – in the form of bringing forward Student Loan Company payments and Quality Research Funding – which will help support cash flow in the early part of 20/21, there has been no new money offered to the sector. Student Number Controls have been brought in as a way of ‘stabilising admissions’ for 20/21 but this brings with it challenges as competition for students (international and home) only intensify.

Together with other vice-chancellors, I have been engaging with Universities UK on a regular basis to feed into and lobby Government. This has enabled meetings with the Minister of State for Universities, where we have set out the case of need for financial support for universities to protect the teaching and research base, raised the need for Government to provide timely advice on opening up campuses, as well as asking Government to proactively promote UK HE internationally. In addition, we have been in touch with our local MPs across Kent and Medway updating them as to the challenges we face and asking them for their support as we engage with Government on these issues.

Universities have a crucial role to play in the economic and social recovery from the impact of Covid-19. This morning I will be presenting to other Board Members of the South East Local Enterprise Partnership, on the impact of Covid on the 9 universities within the SELEP region. I will be noting the economic and social impact of these universities, the significant role they have within our region and the part they will play in its recovery from the impact of COVID-19, a role we can only play if we are in a sustainable position ourselves. I will be asking for their support to advocate on our behalf for additional government support to enable us to play our part in regional and national recovery.

I will continue to do all I can to help navigate us through these challenging times and I thank you for your support.

Yours sincerely

Karen

Professor Karen Cox | Vice-Chancellor and President

Professor Karen Cox

Vice-Chancellor’s update – 5 June 2020

I want to start by acknowledging the recent events in America, events that have triggered waves of shock and anger both in the US and across the world, highlighting the terrible impact racism continues to have on peoples’ lives. As a University, we have a responsibility to tackle racism in our own community as well as in the wider society.

As you will know, we have agreed a joint statement with Kent Union on our commitment to improve efforts to address racism on our campuses, building on the work that has already taken place across the institution. This has now been shared with students as well as staff, and I know several schools have also written their own response which have been well received.

I want to stress that we will not allow this statement to be just empty rhetoric and, together with my colleagues on Executive Group, I will ensure we deliver on its commitment.  I would like to thank members of the BAME staff network, Kent Union and the Decolonise University of Kent movement for the work they are already doing with the University in this area.

On Covid-19 related matters, work progresses to implement our plans for opening up the campuses. I particularly want to say thank you to all those colleagues in Estates who are working to systematically re-open the buildings in Canterbury and Medway, to enable the phased return of staff and the creation of a safe working and studying environment. With more than eighty buildings to work through, the complexity cannot be underestimated. We will continue to work with the trade unions and staff representatives throughout this process and keep you updated with the progress of this huge task.

I send you my continued good wishes and thanks for all you are doing in these difficult times.

Yours sincerely

Karen

Professor Karen Cox | Vice-Chancellor and President

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