Author Archives: Tim Davies

Wooden map of the world with pins

Turing global mobility scheme launched

The Turing Scheme is the UK government’s scheme to provide funding for international opportunities in education and training across the world. It supports Global Britain by providing an opportunity for UK organisations from the higher education, further education, vocational education and training and schools sectors to offer their students, learners and pupils life-changing experiences to study or work abroad.

Launched earlier this year, following the UK’s departure from the EU, the Turing scheme is a replacement for the UK’s participation in the EU Erasmus Programme, which will cease as current Erasmus projects reach an end, by May 2023.

The Turing Scheme will provide grants for students from UK institutions to study or work abroad for periods of four weeks to 12 months, starting in September 2021. There is a focus on widening access with additional funding for less advantaged students.

Applications from UK institutions to the Turing Scheme are now open and International Partnerships is leading Kent’s submission, in consultation with Divisions and other relevant parties across the University.

Subject to the outcome of our application and the levels of funding available, Kent students due to carry out an international study or work placement in 2021-22, who are not already covered by the Erasmus funding we have secured until 31 May 2023, will be supported by the Turing Scheme.

In addition, we hope to provide funding to encourage other Kent students to participate in shorter-term international placements (eg summer schools).

We will be working closely with colleagues in academic schools to provide more information about the opportunities available to students and further details of how the scheme will be implemented.

For more details, please contact internationalpartnerships@kent.ac.uk

Or visit the Turing website

How We Work: Process Improvement

With our new Divisions and team structures now largely in place, our ongoing focus in the months ahead will be on how we work together across the University so that each team has the tools they need to thrive. 

Alongside major projects like KentVision and the continued rollout of Microsoft 365 online collaboration tools, we want to hear from you on what we could be doing differently to simplify and improve the way we work. With help from staff across the University, the Project Management Office is working to map our processes and see if there are new or simpler ways we could be doing things so we all have more time to focus on the best of what we do. 

Everybody at Kent can have a part to play in this work, and we want to gather your thoughts, big or small, on what changes we need to make our day-to-day jobs more straightforward. If you’ve got an idea, let us know via the form on the How We Work staff webpages. 

The Project Management Office will collate these suggestions before updating on what we will prioritise in the weeks and months ahead. We will shortly also be launching an online tool which will highlight all of the suggestions that have come in from staff, along with what is being done about them – whether it is a quick fix, part of a longer-term project or something we can tackle another way. 

We will also provide regular updates over the coming months and hold ongoing engagement events so that all teams across Kent have the chance to feed in their thoughts. 

Ray Short, Head of the Project Management Office, said: “Nobody knows better than all of you what the little headaches are that stop us all working as well as we can. With our new structures in place this is the perfect time to focus on what we could be doing better – whether they are improvements, changes, or even whole new processes that could benefit you, your colleagues, your students or the wider University as a whole. Let us know your thoughts and we look forward to working with you on the things we need to fix!’. 

Submit your suggestion for how we could do things differently 

Find out more about our focus on How We Work 

Time to Talk

Time to Talk Day: Thursday 4 February

Next week on 4 February it is Time to Talk day, with this year’s theme being the Power of Small’. 

Time to Talk is an initiative run by mental health charity Time to Change. The national awareness-raising day aims to show how small conversations about mental health have the power to make a big difference. 

Although it may be a little different this year, times like this that open conversations about mental health are more important than ever, and there are a number of ways you can get involved at Kent. 

Get involved with Time to Talk 

  • Time to Change are holding a virtual festival 3-4 Feb, a day of online activities that anyone can join – there are also have links to many other things that you can do to help stay in contact with others and support your mental health 
  • On the 4 and 12 February, Talent and Organisational Development have organised sessions on Mental Health for Managers, which are bookable via staff connect   
  • A new online module on Mental Health Awareness will be released to all staff on 4 February via staff training Moodle 

Coming soon 

We want everybody to feel they have the support they need at Kent to feel heathy and well at work, as part of an open culture that recognises and respects the impact work can have on our wellbeing.  

Our Occupational Health team has a number of ways they can help staff with looking after their mental health, with out new ‘One Stop Shop’ bringing together all of our mental health awareness resources in one place so they are easier for staff to access. This includes our Employee Assistance Programme, which offers free, confidential advice to staff whenever they need it 

A project team including staff from across the University are also currently working on putting in place the recommendations from the Stevenson / Farmer Thriving at Work review, which focuses on mental health in the workplace standards. Over the coming months, the team will be raising awareness of resources already in place to support staff across the University, along with establishing networks, training and support so that we create environments where staff feel healthy, safe and supported. 

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Student travel window and vacation update

From Professor Richard Reece, Deputy Vice-Chancellor Education & Student Experience:

Following my previous email to you on 11 November 2020, I would like to provide you with further information regarding the end of the Autumn Term and to let you know that we have published a new set of FAQs helping to explain the arrangements for travel home, the end of term and the winter vacation period. We are also running a  WebChat on 20 November 2020 to discuss any questions you may have.

The Department for Education has set out guidance outlining plans to bring students safely home for Christmas. This allocates a ‘Student Travel Window’ between 3-9 December 2020 and the Government is requesting that all students travel from their term-time address to their permanent home during this time.

We are currently developing plans to support all students that wish to travel home during the Student Travel Window to do so safely.

Although the Government have specified 3-9 December 2020 as the Student Travel Window, we appreciate that some of you may have alternative travel arrangements or may not be able to travel then for other reasons. Some of you may also intend to remain at University after 9 December 2020 or over the winter vacation period. I want to reassure you that we will support you whatever your plans and personal circumstances. The University and our accommodation will remain open for any students who wish to stay with us.

The Government have requested that we co-ordinate staggered travel dates for you in conjunction with local transport companies and other universities in the region. To enable this, we intend to stop all face-to-face teaching by 4 December 2020 and all teaching will continue online until the end of this term (18 December 2020). 

All students will be provided with a recommended travel period between 3-9 December 2020 and if you do wish to travel home, we ask that you please do so during this period if possible. By staggering the departure dates for students leaving on-campus accommodation, we can ensure similar numbers leave each day of the Student Travel Window. This will make it easier for you to adhere to social distancing guidelines and should make your travel plans run more smoothly. For those of you living off-campus, please also try to travel within your recommended travel period if you can do so.

I would like to remind you that if you do wish to return to your home for Christmas but choose to remain at University after 9 December 2020, you may have to self-isolate for up to 14 days if you contract coronavirus or if you are identified as coming into close contact with someone who has tested positive. This may impact on your plans and could prevent you from travelling home for the winter vacation at a later stage. Please do consider this when deciding when to return to your permanent home and when making your personal travel arrangements.

As well as our new Student FAQs concerning end of term travel arrangements, more information can be found in our dedicated webpages.

If you need any support, please email CovidSupport@kent.ac.uk or call 01227 823158 (Canterbury) or 01634 888969 (Medway).

With my best wishes,

Richard

Professor Richard Reece | Deputy Vice-Chancellor Education and Student Experience

KentVision: Project Update

KentVision is a major project underway at the University to bring together a number of different administrative processes and simplify how we support the student journey. 

With the key features of the new software system now built and testing in full swing, the focus will turn to ongoing training for staff ahead of the new system launching across the University in January 2021. This will also form part of our wider focus on improving how we work together as new structures and teams take shape. 

KentVision aims 

KentVision is designed to introduce simpler and more consistent ways to input, manage and process student data across the University. As well as replacing the expiring Student Data System (SDS), key outputs include a seamless admin journey for students and applicants; united academic administration across Divisions and Central Services; and integrated mobile-enabled services for students and staff.  

Training and support 

A full package of training and support is currently being developed to help staff who will be using the system when it launches in January. This will take place over late November and December, using a blended approach with both online ‘face to face’ training sessions and a series of bitesize videos to explain how the new system works. A full timeline for this, including the detailing plan for closing SDS and launching KentVision, will be shared by mid-November, with a dedicated trainer then working with staff throughout the initial rollout and into next year as staff adapt to the new system. 

Project sponsor update 

“Introducing a large-scale software system to bring together our student admin processes is an enormous undertaking, but I know from having used similar in other institutions that the effort and challenges involved will be worth it. I hope that as staff begin to explore KentVision more they will quickly get a sense of its benefits, both with more straightforward processes for staff and – crucially – a better user experience for applicants and students throughout their time at Kent.” 

Richard Reece, DVC Education & Student Experience 

Find out more about KentVision  

Organising for Success: Project Update

Organising for Success brings together work to ensure we are equipped to deliver our Kent 2025 strategy, driven by our six new academic Divisions which will launch on 1 November 2020.

Following the recent consultation on proposed professional services structures across the University, recruitment and appointment to roles is ongoing, with a full organisational structure due to be shared later in the month. We will also share a series of guides to the new university structure alongside this, ahead of ongoing work throughout the year to introduce new teams and focus on how we work together as the new Divisions take shape. 

Divisional Leadership Roles 

Appointments continue to be made to academic leadership roles within Divisions, with latest list available on the Organising for Success staff webpages. New mailing lists have also been set up to bring together role holders in the different portfolio areas, including: 

Heads of Profession 

Work is ongoing to finalise the full list of Heads of Profession, who will be matched with the new structure to ensure all professional service staff in Divisions have a clear alignment with their wider professional service area. New role holders include Paul Sinnock, following his recent appointment as Head of Technical Services.  

Heads of Profession will play a key role in ensuring that each professional community is supported and empowered to work to the same high standard across the University. A further update including the final list of Heads of Profession will follow later in the month. 

GovernanceProcesses and Communications 

Alongside new appointments, work is continuing to support the transition to the new structures and refine the processes that underpin them wherever possible. As part of this, a new online-only Finance authorisation process will launch later in the month, while a number of the updates to the University’s governance, regulations and quality framework reflecting the transfer of responsibilities to Divisions have also been published.

Detailed work is also ongoing to introduce new mailing lists and Teams channels to help people across the University communicate with new stakeholder groups formed through the divisional structure. This will also support work to simplify how we communicate at Kent, reducing duplication and out-of-date email lists where relevantAn update on official University-wide lists and channels to use will be included in the wider guides to the new structures later this month. 

Find out more about Organising for Success 

Finance

New Finance Authorisation Process

A working group in Finance have been working on a new solution for requesting financial approvals as part of the ongoing focus on simplifying how we work through Organising for Success.   

In the next couple of weeks, all financial approval requests will move to a SharePointbased Financial Authority form under a new process developed with input from the Directors of DivisionThe form includes all areas needing financial approval and reporting access, and is automatically passed on the appropriate approver once it is submitted. Once approved, the form routes to UBW Help for processing and for creating and updating workflows. 

This move away from the existing paper-based process is designed to make applications easier to complete and approve. The new form will be visible and editable by the applicant, with reports to Finance Managers detailing financial approvers in their areas made available shortly. 

Due to the scale of the changes for both Divisions and PSDs, all existing approvers will also need to complete the forms to enable us to close the existing workflows held in UBW. Support will be provided with this, with new workflows based on the SharePoint forms then be in place from 2 November. 

More detailed information will be provided to relevant finance staff across the University next week ahead of the launch. In the meantime, please contact Vicky Gatward-Warner in Finance directly if you have any further questions. 

Financial Sustainability: New ‘No PO, No Pay’ Policy

As part of continued work to identify non-pay savings across the University and ensure our spending is closely controlled, the University will be introducing a ‘No Purchase Order, No Pay’ policy from 14 September 2020. 

The University’s Procurement Team supports Divisions and Departments with getting the best possible value from the goods and services they use, while also keeping track of how much we spend on key suppliers. Introducing the new ‘No PO, No Pay’ policy is key to this, ensuring we have better oversight of what we are spending when while also increasing efficiency by reducing the number of invoice queries. 

Under the new system, invoices will only be paid if they include a valid Purchase Order (PO) number which has been agreed with the supplier prior to the delivery of goods, services or works. This will set out likely cost and delivery dates, along with an agreed payment process for suppliers, bringing us in line with what is increasingly standard practice across the sector. 

Once fully introduced, the move to ‘No PO, No Pay’ will help reduce our overall spend through better management of suppliers, ensuring as much support as possible can be put towards our core teaching and research activity. Detailed guidance will be sent to Finance Managers later this week, ahead of ongoing support with adapting to the new way of working ahead of the change and from September onwards. 

Find out more about our Procurement Team 

Find out more about our Financial Sustainability work 

KentVision: Progress Update

KentVision is a major project underway at the University intended to bring together a number of different administrative processes and simplify how we support the student journey. 

As a complex programme impacting on numerous areas of our work, getting the final scope for this right has been crucial and has required detailed work over recent months. With this now in place, the project is now nearing the testing and approval stage ahead of launching in January 2021. 

KentVision aims 

As well as replacing the expiring Student Data System (SDS), KentVision is designed to introduce simpler and more consistent ways to input, manage and process student data across the University. This will in turn support wider work to reduce bureaucracy and improve the ways we work at Kent. Its objectives are to: 

  • Provide an administrative journey that is clear, informative and seamless to all applicants and students. 
  • Create a united academic administration across Central Services and Divisions, giving us a single source of highquality authoritative data. 
  • Refine student administration, reducing administrative effort for staff across the University 
  • Improve processes and deliver full IT enablement, using standard SITS capability to maximum advantage and enabling fully integrated mobile-enabled services for students and staff. 

Next steps 

After a lengthy and at times challenging initial development phase, the KentVision project is now fully on track against an agreed timeline to launch in January 2021. Key staff will be invited to take part in detailed testing work throughout the coming monthsahead of a broader training programme for wider staff later in the autumn awe prepare for full data migration. After launching in January, the project will move towards ongoing support for staff as they adapt to new system, while also working together with users to identify improvements and ensure we make the most of the multiple benefits KentVision will offer.  

Find out more about KentVision 

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Pay Freeze Proposal: Staff Poll

Message from Alison Ross-Green, Director of HR and Organisational Development

I am writing to update you on where we are with proposals for a pay freeze ahead of a poll of all staff on its introduction. This is absolutely critical to weathering the severe financial impact of the Coronavirus pandemic, and without it further redundancies will be necessary. However, I also know this is not an easy ask to make, and for many staff in professional services who are also anticipating consultation around new structures with attendant worries about job security, this is an additional burden to lay upon you at what is already an anxious time. I am hugely grateful to all of you for your forbearance and understanding as we respond to what are truly unprecedented challenges for the sector.

Risks of failing to pursue pay freeze

Feedback from staff was discussed at this week’s JSNCC, which, unfortunately, led to no clear consensus. While most attendees ultimately acknowledge the need for these additional measures, this is not currently the case for our UCU colleagues who have confirmed that they are balloting their members with a recommendation that they reject both the proposed pay freeze and the Reward Strategy.

This puts us at a point of enormous risk to the University. Failing to pursue either or both of these initiatives will significantly worsen our financial position, along with the confidence of our lenders, and require a further estimated 80 – 120 redundancies to address the additional shortfall. I am very sorry to set out the position so bluntly, but given the seriousness of our situation, I wanted to make sure everybody was fully aware of these realities. There is further information on the component parts of our response to the severe financial impact of Coronavirus in our updated finance presentation. Put bluntly, unless we agree savings to address these one-off losses, we will run out of money to meet our commitments.

All staff poll on pay measures

Given the huge implications of this, it is very important to understand the preferences and position of as many staff as possible before committing to any course of action. I urge you to complete this confidential poll on both measures to ensure that your views can be directly received by the University and considered. I cannot stress too strongly the importance of as many staff as possible responding to this poll within the timescales that we have. The poll will be open until 5pm on 7 July, before we reconvene discussions with Staff and Trades Union Representatives on 8 July. At that meeting we will remain ready to discuss any further constructive proposals that are brought forward but noting that time is now very short to explore any further adjustments to our proposals, assuming viable ideas could be brought forward at this late stage.

Ahead of this meeting, we have looked at what we can do to adjust the pay freeze proposals to respond to the strongest of the concerns raised via JSNCC. While our room for manoeuvre is very limited, and all staff will be affected by a deferral of the national pay award, we have committed to the following in exchange for concluding a local collective agreement:

  • PSD Promotions will be taken out of scope of additional pay constraints in order to avoid any double impact of both the Reward Strategy and Pay Freeze on staff currently affected by restructuring, and to ensure that key new PSD positions can be filled from existing staff (who may otherwise opt for redundancy); 
  • Extra Responsibility Allowances will be permitted to continue, where appropriate and in accordance with existing HR policy;
  • A Recognition for Staff Support Scheme will be established, dividing a £1.7m budget equally among staff affected by the pay freeze at the point in future where key indicators show we have reached a position of financial sustainability. This would be in the form of a one-off payment to staff affected by the pay freeze and still employed by the University once this point is reached. Executive Group will not be eligible for any performance-related payments until these payments have been made; given their exclusion from the proposed pay freeze, promoted PSD staff will also not qualify for the scheme;
  • In acknowledgement of concerns around the equality impact of the proposal, an Equal Pay Audit will be completed within the next 3-5 years, in collaboration with the Staff and Trade Union members of the JSNCC.

Making your views heard

I very much hope that these adjustments, and the consequences of a failure to reach an agreement, will be sufficient for most of you to feel you can support both measures. Your Staff and Trades Union Representatives are empowered to reach an agreement on your behalf so do advise them of your views on the proposals should you wish to discuss further.

Please do not forget to make your views heard by completing our all-staff poll.