Author Archives: Tim Davies

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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.

Financial Sustainability: End of year spend

Message from Jane Higham, Director of Finance

As you will be aware from the Vice-Chancellor’s recent update, we expect a significant shortfall in our income as a result of the impact of COVID-19 which adds to our already challenging underlying financial position. If we do not take steps to mitigate this, the University will eventually run out of money and be unable to meet its commitments. As I have said before, we can all take steps to help the University through this difficult period and budget holders have a critical role to play through continuing to minimise spend.    

Most urgently, we need your support in ensuring we significantly reduce end-of-year outlay. In previous years we have seen an increase of up to £5m in spending as budget-end nears. This cannot happen this year and therefore any unspent budget for 19/20 must only be used where absolutely essential. Put simply,  as a result of the losses to our income brought about by the COVID pandemic, we cannot afford to spend as we have in the past and we need to conserve all financial resources to support our sustainability in the coming months.    

I appreciate budget holders will continue to get purchasing and expenditure requests from within their School or Department and encourage them to share this with staff as required to help respond In order to assist with our planning, it would be appreciated if budget holders could notify our Procurement team of any significant essential spend that they may be aware of that needs to be incurred between now and year-end, so that we can discuss this in good time.  Similarly, any queries relating to this can also be forwarded to the Procurement Team, who will be closely monitoring spend between now and the end of July.   

Thank you for your continued support with this.

Organising for Success: Consultation timings

Update from Denise Everitt, Project Sponsor and Chief Operating Officer

As you know, we will shortly be sharing proposed team structures with affected professional services staff both centrally and in Divisions. It has been a long process to reach this point and I know how difficult this uncertainty has been for everyone. Thank you all for your patience with this – as I hope you will understand, it has been important to take this time to make sure we propose a University structure that lets us build for the future while reflecting our current financial situation.

Consultation Start Dates 

Consultation will begin for staff in affected teams in each area as follows:

  • W/C 22 June: HR: Phase 1 (Staff savings activity)
  • W/C 29 June: Engagement; International Programmes; IS (Leadership only)
  • W/C 6 July: Student Services; Outreach & Widening Participation
  • W/C 13 July: Professional services staff in Academic Divisions; Research & Innovation Services; Strategic Planning; Graduate & Researcher College; Education; Digital & Lifelong Learning
  • W/C 20 July: Finance: Phase 1

In most areas this will start with group presentations, which will booked by area shortly. Any teams in the above areas which are unaffected by the proposed changes will be also be contacted to confirm that this is the case.

Consultation in the following areas will take place when current strategic priorities are complete: Marketing, Recruitment and Admissions teams (by November 2020); HR: Phase 2 (Devolution) (by July 2021); and Finance: Phase 2 (by July 2021). Alongside this, consultation with Technical Services staff in the Divisions of Computing, Engineering and Mathematical Sciences; Natural Sciences; and Arts and Humanities will take place by November 2020. Any staff in these areas that are placed at risk of redundancy as a result of O4S proposed changes will still be eligible to apply for KVSS during their own period of consultation.

Consultation Timeline 

Within 24 hours of their group presentation, affected staff will be contacted individually to confirm what the proposed structure will mean for them and their options as a result. This will be sent via email. Individual consultation will then take place for 30 days within a 60-day window before the structures are finalised.

Once all affected staff have been contacted, the proposed new structures will be shared across the University on Monday 27 July so that staff can see how wider changes will relate to their own areas.

Selection and recruitment to roles will largely take place in August and September, with new structures operational from the 1 November 2020.

Support and Advice 

This will be a very unsettling time for professional service colleagues, with some having to make difficult choices at what I know is already an especially busy and difficult time. As I’m sure everyone appreciates, we will all need to be understanding of this and recognise the additional pressure that people will be under in the coming weeks.

We will shortly share detailed information on the Organising for Success staff webpages on how consultation will work and what support will be available to staff throughout. Ahead of this, please do also make sure to discuss any concerns you have about this with your manager, HR representative or via the confidential Employee Assistance Programme at any time. You may also wish to seek advice from your elected staff or Trades Union representative.

Can I thank you all for your forbearance and continued commitment to the University over the last couple of years, and I hope that we can soon move to a new structure that will provide both professional and agile support for the University’s activities moving forward.

Denise

Denise Everitt | Chief Operating Officer

KVSS

Kent Voluntary Severance Scheme: Extended deadline

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

As you may be aware, we recently closed the Phase 2 application window for the Kent Voluntary Severance Scheme (KVSS) which was open to specific groups of staff. Our hope has always been that the enhanced scheme would enable the University to meet is target savings of £5.3m for 19/20. While we have had a good response to the scheme so far, further voluntary applications are needed to ensure that we meet (and ideally exceed) this year’s target. Having reviewed funding arrangements, we have decided to keep the scheme open until 22 July 2020 both to maximise savings and reduce the pressure for compulsory redundancies in future years.

The terms of the scheme, aside from the revised timescales appended to it, are unchanged. To help give everyone as much clarity as possible on our financial situation, we have also prepared a short presentation bringing together key information shared on this in recent months. This will also be on the Financial Sustainability staff webpages shortly.

While there will still be individual application windows for staff put at risk of redundancy due to Organising for Success, this extension to 22 July 2020 marks the absolute end of our ability to flex the scheme for other eligible staff and no further extensions will be possible. Where any eligible member of staff feels able to consider KVSS and wishes to benefit from its terms, thus assisting the University to overcome its current financial challenges, then they must apply to the scheme through this last round as no further opportunities will be given.

Lastly, we are aware that some staff are understandably making fine judgements about their financial position if they were to seek voluntary severance and that some reliance may be being placed on enhanced terms (albeit not as generous as KVSS) being available in the future. While the University would always wish to offer some form of enhanced financial terms for those who volunteer for redundancy, we also need to be aware of our worsening financial position as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic and that this may not be possible going forward. We will review the position in September, when our recruitment performance is clearer. If we do decide that we need to make changes at that time, the JSNCC will be consulted and Council approval sought.

As before, all staff interested in applying for KVSS are encouraged to discuss with either HR or their line manager for further details about how the scheme works. If you would like to discuss this confidentially or would like impartial advice, please remember that the Employee Assistance Programme is available 24/7, with more information on the Occupational Heath staff webpages.