Author Archives: Tim Davies

Lambeth walk

Staff and Students come together for the Lambeth Walk

Around 170 people joined the event organised by Kent’s LGBTQ+ Staff Network as a show of support for LGBTQ+ staff and students ahead of the Lambeth Conference. 

The march around campus was planned to show the world that people of all gender identities and sexualities are welcome and part of the Kent community. A number of Conference delegates – including gay Bishops with their spouses – joined in along the route, which culminated in a mass dance-off in the University’s central plaza. 

Lambeth dance

Following the joyful and celebratory rally, the Network also hosted the Rainbows in Religion Symposium in Marlowe to explore further the intersection of sexuality and religion. Speakers including UoW Trinity St David lecturer Dr Angus M Slater and former UK Government LGBT Advisory Panel member Jayne Ozanne reflected on their own experiences pushing for equal marriage within the Church, before a panel discussion featuring staff and students at the University. 

The Lambeth Conference has been hosted at the University since the 1970s, with senior figures from across the worldwide Anglican Communion convening for prayer, reflection, fellowship and dialogue. While we are clear that the Church’s views on equal marriage in particular do not fit with our values as a University, our aim throughout the conference is to facilitate debate and discussion where we can in the interest of positive progress. 

Find out more on what to expect during the Conference 

Find out more about Kent’s LGBTQ+ Staff Network 

Short-Life Voluntary Severance Scheme

As we approach the end of the financial year at Kent, we have opened a short-life Voluntary Severance scheme to specific cohorts of staff across the University. While we continue to make good progress in delivering our Financial Improvement Plan, we still have work to do to be sustainable and we have an opportunity with funds available this year to explore potential savings in areas that could make a difference. 

The scheme is open to all academic staff in the Division of Arts & Humanities, along with all staff at Grade 10 and above across the University. All eligible staff will be contacted directly to let them know they can apply, with the email including a link to full details about the scheme itself. 

As many will be aware, the Division of Arts & Humanities has recently been reviewing its different academic areas to respond to the national decline in prospective students looking to study humanities courses. This scheme is predominantly being launched to support any academic staff in the Division who may wish to leave the University, with any savings helping to inform the future direction it takes. 

However, given the external environment remains uncertain with both ‘frozen’ home fees and new challenges linked to the cost of living crisis, we have also opened the scheme up more widely across senior staff in case there are any other opportunities to make savings. This is part of helping us get ahead of any future financial constraints while we can, making sure we manage their impact in a way that minimises the effect on overall staffing levels. 

Directors of Division will also be communicating with colleagues in their respective areas to provide local context on the scheme, with all applications considered on a case-by-case basis. If you have any further questions about voluntary severance, please contact your HR Manager, or the central Employee Relations team at VSscheme@kent.ac.uk. 

The University also has a number of existing options available to staff across the organisation who are looking to move on at a time that is right for both them and their division/directorate. These include efficiency retirementflexible/phased retirementill health retirement as well as our existing voluntary redundancy package. If you would like an informal, confidential conversation about any of these schemes please contact your local HR Manager.

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Industrial Action: Our mitigating actions

From Professor Richard Reece | DVC Education and Student Experience

Next week we are due to have five further strike days by the University and College Union (UCU) from Monday 28 March to Friday 1 April. As with the previous strikes, this is the result of the ongoing national dispute about staff pensions and pay and working conditions. It also sits alongside the ongoing marking and assessment boycott.

I know this will be frustrating news for all of you and we are equally frustrated that this is happening again. Throughout this period of industrial action, we have continued negotiating with our local union representatives on issues we can influence here at Kent, while also campaigning for change at a national level where we are able to. The issues are important, but it is our firm view that industrial action is not the right way to go about this while discussions continue. You can read more about what we are doing to address these issues on our industrial action webpages.

Supporting you and your studies   

Above everything else we regret the effect that the UCU’s action is having on all of you. I know that industrial action inevitably brings stress, frustration and uncertainty. It has been a difficult couple of years for you all, and I know that this new strike will be further unwelcome news.

While we will continue to do all that we can to reach agreement with our local UCU colleagues before the strike is due to start, our focus will remain on mitigating the likely impact on you and your studies as far as we can. While we won’t know who will or won’t be taking strike action, we will let you know wherever we can where there will be an impact on your studies.

We also often won’t know what mitigating action we will need to take around marking and assessment, or when affected marks will be available, until nearer to when the exam boards themselves take place. I understand this is frustrating but want to be clear on that so that you know what to expect.

Maintaining academic standards    

I am aware of some confusion circulating about the University’s response to the marking and assessment boycott and I want to offer some reassurance about how we will be managing the award of your marks this year. It is important that I address these inaccuracies today to avoid unnecessary stress and upset for all of you through not having a fuller picture.

The ability to award your degree is a privilege to all of us at the University. It is a mark of your commitment, dedication to learning and, above all, your hard work. There are no circumstances in which we would risk the integrity and value of that award, and our decision-making over the last two years has had that point at the forefront throughout – our intention is also always that all assessment, marking and exam board processes run in the usual ways.

Managing disruption to studies

Alongside this, our University Senate is planning for situations where disruption could threaten your ability to progress or graduate. This is about protecting the essential integrity of your degree while ensuring your studies and future plans can continue without interruption. Learning objectives and necessary credits still need to be achieved and there is no intention to award degrees without the participation of relevant external examiners; we are just making sure that we have options available if (and only if) we need to adapt some of our usual marking processes to make sure no student is disadvantaged.

These would only ever be a last resort and any adjustments that were required will be notified to the Office for Students as usual, who are responsible for ensuring we maintain the strict standards all universities adhere to. We have also put similar mitigations in place on a number of occasions in the past as part of a pragmatic approach to managing disruption to studies.

Marking & Assessment Webchat   

I am aware that these issues are a cause of concern for many and that the thoroughness of the potential mitigations prepared with Senate mean they can sound more alarming than they are. With that in mind, I would like to invite all of you to a Webchat via Teams this Friday at 12.45 so that I can update you directly on this and answer any questions you may have. You can sign up for this via the form and the session will also be recorded for those who can’t make it.

Do also visit our industrial action webpages for further information and make use of support available if you are feeling concerned or anxious about this, including our Student Support and Wellbeing Team, the Kent Union Advice Centre and Divisional contacts.

With my thanks for your continued patience with this,

Richard

Professor Richard Reece | DVC Education and Student Experience

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.