Author Archives: Tim Davies

Kent sign on campus

Israel and Gaza

A joint statement from Professor Karen Cox, Vice Chancellor and President of the University of Kent, and Zaid Mahmood, Student’s Union President, Kent Union

We are writing to you together to reflect on what has been a very upsetting time for many in our community. First and foremost we want to directly acknowledge the pain felt by our Israeli, Palestinian, Jewish and Muslim students and staff. We are here to listen and support and want to express our thanks to those who have shared their heartfelt concerns with us.

The recent appalling terrorist attacks in Israel and ongoing devastating war and escalating humanitarian crisis in Gaza continue to cause shock, hurt and concern across the world. It has also been heartbreaking to see rising antisemitism and Islamophobia here in the UK – we want to make it abundantly clear that there is no place for hate in any form on our campuses and as always will take a zero-tolerance approach to any instances.

When traumatic events like this happen, the importance of the University’s neutrality in political matters is made clear. While we express shared values around our mutual humanity, it is not our place to take any side – we must ensure we can support all in our community equally and that we foster an environment where thoughts and ideas can be discussed freely. That said, we are unequivocal in our condemnation of terrorism and steadfast in both our support for international law and for humanitarian approaches at all times. Civilian life must be protected – and peaceful solutions sought – with hostages released and vital aid prioritised where it will protect life.

Many of you will be struggling to make sense of what is happening in a part of a world you identify with, directly or indirectly. Lots have also understandably sought to stand with those they feel an affiliation to or in support of causes they feel strongly about. Our University is rightly an environment that facilitates healthy debate and discussion, while ensuring different views are respected. At all times, however, freedom of speech must take place within the law, avoiding racist or discriminatory language and rejecting extremist ideas that form part of terrorist ideology; and expressing support for a proscribed terrorist group, as Hamas are designated in the UK, is a criminal offence.

It is also crucial that people are considerate of the understandable fear, sadness and grief that many feel at the moment. Progress can only happen when opposing views have space to be heard; equally, tolerance, empathy and respect for others are values that must remain at the forefront of our minds. Many of our students and staff have direct links to Israel and Palestine – it is our shared responsibility to watch out for one another and to be mindful of this in how we communicate, whether online or in person.

Our Report and Support tool is there for anyone who experiences or witnesses discriminatory language or hate. We also have regular drop-in sessions hosted by Student Support and Wellbeing, while a multi-faith vigil is planned at Canterbury Cathedral on Monday 30 October for anyone who would like to come together with others to reflect and mark their support for a peaceful outcome. We are rightly proud to be a supportive University where people with many different backgrounds come together – through our collective efforts, we must work to ensure that that every member of our community feels safe and supported during these troubling times. Now more than ever, we must look out for each other.

Professor Karen Cox, Vice-Chancellor and President, University of Kent

Zaid Mahmood, Student’s Union President, Kent Union

** This statement was updated at 16.00 on 28 October to refer more directly to war in Gaza to better reflect the current situation and how this being reported elsewhere  **

Read our earlier statement for more information on support for students


Nigerian Jollof Rice with Plantain and Beef


#KNOWLEDGESHIFT by Dr Yetunde Kolajo

Welcome to Week 3 of BHM 2023!

Let’s talk about food, I hope you’re hungry!!!

Nigerian Fufu and Egusi soup

This week’s blog is another great opportunity to celebrate BHM theme of ‘saluting our sisters’.

Food plays a significant role in defining and differentiating black culture. It is often said that food is the gateway to the soul, bringing families and friends together, regardless of how much or little one may have. The love and connection shared over dinner tables are truly priceless.

Red beans and Plantain

Nigerian Sweet Red Beans and Plantain

The role of black women as masters of the kitchen and the significance of cooking meals for their families is embedded in most African cultures. Food and cooking are often used symbolically in most black cultures to represent a range of themes, from love and nurturing to cultural preservation and resistance. The history of African food exemplifies how preparing food becomes a symbol of survival and familial bonds in the face of adversity. There are numerous talented black female chefs, food authors, and bloggers in the world of black food cuisine, and a significant number of them own their own restaurants.

Nigerian Okra Soup

Nigerian Okra Soup

Diverse Origins: Black cuisine is not monolithic. Black cuisine is a rich and diverse culinary tradition that encompasses a wide range of dishes, flavours, and ingredients. It has diverse origins and has been influenced by various cultures and cuisines of African, Caribbean, Southern American, and European culinary traditions. Understanding the regional differences is important. Black cuisine is also a celebration of resilience and creativity, as it is often associated with communities that have been historically marginalised and oppressed.

Black food is a celebration of culture and heritage. It is diverse and delicious, known for its bold flavours and use of fresh ingredients. Black cuisine reflects resilience and creativity and serves as a unifier for communities. It is often associated with family gatherings and community celebrations, as it offers a way to come together and celebrate shared culture and heritage.

Here are some interesting facts about black food:

African Roots: Many dishes in Black cuisine have their roots in West African cooking, such as jollof rice, okra soup, and fufu. Learning about the ingredients and cooking techniques from Africa is essential.

Soul Food: Soul food is a popular subset of Black cuisine, known for its comfort dishes like fried chicken, collard greens, cornbread, and macaroni and cheese. Understanding the history and significance of these dishes is important.

Caribbean Influence: Caribbean cuisine, with its emphasis on tropical ingredients like coconut, plantains, and spices, has greatly influenced Black cuisine. Learning about dishes like jerk chicken, roti, and callaloo provides broader insight.

Creole and Cajun Cuisine: Creole and Cajun cuisines, with their mix of African, French, Spanish, and Indigenous American influences, play a significant role in Black cuisine, particularly in Louisiana, USA. Dishes like gumbo, jambalaya, and étouffée are worth exploring.

African-American Traditions: African-Americans have their own unique culinary traditions, often referred to as Southern cuisine. This includes dishes like collard greens, black-eyed peas, and sweet potato pie. Understanding the historical context of these dishes is crucial.

Ingredients: Essential ingredients in Black cuisine are endless, such as okra, yams, black-eyed peas, collard greens, and various spices and seasonings like cayenne pepper, allspice, and thyme.

Nigerian Jollof Rice with Plantain and Beef

Nigerian Jollof Rice with Plantain and Beef

Are you interested in preparing a delicious Nigerian Jollof Rice meal? Check out this link for a recipe.

Last series was about African Talking Drums and I hope this week’s #KNOWLEDGESHIFT with focus on the unique and fascinating aspects of Black cuisine you have found intriguing and informative. I trust that I have piqued your interest and appetite and provided valuable insights into the world of African cuisine. I encourage you to find an African Caribbean restaurant near you to try some of the delicious beautiful delicacies that black cuisine has to offer. Yum! See you in Week 4


#KNOWLEDGESHIFT by Dr Yetunde Kalajo

African Talking Drum

Drums are symbolic representations of African culture, particularly in West Africa.

The Yorùbá drumming tradition is characterised by its unique style that differs from the European approach to drumming (Finnegan, 2012; Iroko). It is considered more than just music, as it is a highly cultured means of communication. This traditional form of drumming plays an important role in conveying messages, emotions, and even history within the Yorùbá community (Iroko 2023: Speaking Without Voice). The African Talking Drums were developed and used by forested cultures for long-distance communication and religious ceremonies. This hourglass-shaped instrument can be precisely controlled in tone and articulation, but its sound can only be heard in close proximity such as in a gathering or marketplace. It is mainly used during ceremonial occasions, including dance, rituals, storytelling, and communication of important information (Akinbo, 2021; Britannica)

In West Africa, especially in Nigeria and Senegal, the talking drums have become a popular instrument in music genres like Jùjú and Mbalax in the 20th century. West African ethnic groups have different variations of the talking drum (Akpabot, 1975; Motta, 2020; demfirecreation).

  • Tama (Wolof of Senegal)
  • Dondo (Akan of central Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire)
  • Doodo (Songhai and Zarma of Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger)
  • Gan gan, Dun Dun (Yoruba of Nigeria and eastern Benin)
  • Lunna (Dagomba of northern Ghana; Mossi of Burkina Faso)
  • Kalangu (Hausa of northern Nigeria, Niger, northern Ghana, Benin and Cameroon)

The African talking drums are not exclusively played by men, but the extent of gender involvement can vary depending on the specific cultural context and tradition within Africa. In many African societies, both men and women can play talking drums. However, there may be cultural norms or traditions that influence who typically plays them. For example, in some West African cultures, talking drums are often played by male drummers, while women may have different roles in the musical or social context. In other regions, men and women may participate in drumming activities without significant gender-based restrictions.

Aralola Olamuyiwa, Female African Drummer

Also, the drums themselves can be referred to as male and female drums as a result of the sound they produce. Some scholars believe that a drum’s distinguishing characteristic might be associated with its high or low pitches, but rather with its “bigness” and “littleness” of sound. “Bigness” referred to a loud and forceful timbre, while “littleness” referred to a soft and gentle timbre. Drums that produced a loud, penetrating sound were classified as male, while drums that produced a gentler sound were classified as female (Carrington, 1971).

The African Talking Drums have gained immense popularity and recognition worldwide due to their captivating effect. You will see the African Talking Drums in various musical performances, orchestras, and even in the Award-winning soundtrack of the movie Black Panther. Their unique sound and traditional significance have made them a sensation and a significant part of the global music scene.

Last series was about Black Hair and I hope this week’s #KNOWLEDGESHIFT on Talking Drums you have found intriguing and informative. See you in Week 3

Kent Logo

Conflict in Israel and Gaza: Support for students

The recent shocking attacks in Israel and Gaza and the appalling loss of life in the region are of great concern to all of us. Our thoughts first and foremost are 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. 

As an independent University, we do not align ourselves with the policies or actions of any nation or state. However, we strongly condemn any acts of terrorism or hatred of any kind and join with voices across the globe united in a desire for lasting peace. We are making contact with students and partner institutions with links to the region to make them aware of resources and support on offer to them. 

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 for students 13:00-14:00 on 16 October, 23 October and 30 October. 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 also 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. 


Blog by Dr Yetunde Kolajo

Welcome to Week 1 of BHM 2023!

I firmly believe in the value of continuous learning. As Albert Einstein once said, when you cease to learn, you cease to grow – I say “When you stop learning, you cease to exist.” This timeless message remains relevant today, as a lack of ongoing education can inhibit personal growth and progress. It is important that our society does not become devoid of understanding. Without ongoing learning, one’s potential for improvement and development is limited, particularly within the realm of higher education. I find Robert Kiyosaki’s emphasis on the importance of fully experiencing life rather than simply existing to be especially poignant. In order to truly live life to its fullest potential, it is essential to keep learning and growing. For higher education students and institutions alike, it is crucial to continually engage in the acquisition of knowledge, understanding, and skills. Embracing a continuous growth mindset is imperative for change and success.


  • Black History Month was first proposed in 1915, 50 years after the Thirteenth Amendment abolished US slavery
  • In America, the month is celebrated in February.
  • Black History Month was created to improve the public’s study of African-American history
  • In 1976, the celebration was extended from a week to a month. v The UK started celebrating Black History Month in October 1987. (source: champions)

Hair holds significant cultural value in African communities, particularly for black girls and women. It is a defining aspect of their identity and a powerful symbol of beauty and pride. BHM 2023 is an opportune moment for our community to delve deeper into the unique and exquisite qualities of Beautiful Black Curly Kinky Hair.

According to Selkridge-Carty ‘s 2021 blog post, the elimination of European beauty standards for black women and girls would effectively end the fashion oppression of black hair.

As we celebrate 2023 Black History Month, we have a unique opportunity to expand our collective knowledge and understanding of this important event. Recently, I watched a thought-provoking TED Talk by Mena Fombo from the ‘No. You cannot touch my hair!’ campaign.

This campaign is a great example and can provide valuable insights into this year’s Black History Month theme, which is focused on recognising and honoring the significant contributions of Black women and girls to various movements throughout history – The theme of ‘Saluting our Sisters’.

Let’s support and embrace the #WEMATTER movement for BHM 2023 by focusing on increasing awareness and knowledge.

Check out this 14-minute video celebrating Black Women and Girls


Corridor of servers

Free Webinar on ChatGPT

We are pleased to invite you to our upcoming webinar Teaching with ChatGPT: Examples of Practice which will take place today (15th March) from 14:00-16:30 GMT. During this webinar, you will hear from academics across the UK and abroad, who have successfully incorporated ChatGPT and other large language models into their teaching practices or plan to in the near future. In addition, we will hear from Zaid Mahmood (Kent Union President) who will give a student’s perspective on the use of ChatGPT in education.

There is no need to register for the webinar, simply click on the joining link below at 14:00 this afternoon.

Click here to join the webinar 

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 

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.

Kent Logo

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,


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

Or visit the Turing website