Category Archives: Campus online

Kent People: Landscape and Sustainability teams

Ahead of National Gardening Week 2021 (26 April-2 May 2021), we talk to Chris Wright, the University’s Landscape and Grounds Supervisor, and Emily Mason, Sustainability Coordinator.

Tell us about your roles and a typical day?  

Chris: I coordinate maintenance of the University’s natural spaces – everything from grass-cutting, bed and shrub maintenance, to woodland and pond management and looking after memorial trees and benches. I also oversee management of our sports facilities, working with staff and students on projects that use our green spaces.

A typical day starts with briefing my ten-person team on what needs doing across our 300-acre Canterbury campus. My responsibilities include overseeing planning for future works and developing our new Landscape and Biodiversity Strategy. We work alongside the sustainability team to ensure our management plans align with biodiversity enhancement and support natural space for wildlife as well as people.

Emily: I support sustainability projects across our campuses and provide expertise on specific sustainability topics like biodiversity management and behaviour change solutions. One of my projects is the Kent Community Oasis Garden, which I oversee in partnership with East Kent Mind.

Because my role is so varied, I don’t have a typical day, but I often work with our Sustainability Champions, who embed sustainability into their work. Both Chris and I recognise how lucky Kent is to have beautiful campuses for staff and students to enjoy.

Who else is involved in looking after our green campus?

There are many volunteers and sub-contractors who help look after our campus.

Subcontractors support our woodland management by carrying out coppicing rotations on our behalf. Students and staff help with litter picking, biodiversity monitoring, supporting our Hedgehog Friendly Campus project and using the green spaces for educational purposes. Student societies provide feedback and ideas of how we can improve the site alongside the Staff Sustainability Champions network.

We also work with Grounds teams from other universities sharing best practice on sustainable management techniques.

What can you tell us about the Kent Community Oasis Garden (KentCOG)?

KentCOG is a partnership community garden run by East Kent Mind and the University. It recognises the important role outdoor spaces play in supporting good mental health. KentCOG provides a space for students, staff and the community to learn about growing sustainable food in a calming outdoors environment. It runs practical and digital workshops on ecotherapy, dealing with low mood and anxiety.

The partnership ensures continuity throughout the year with community members keeping the garden going when students aren’t on site.

How has the pandemic affected your work?

All Landscape and Grounds staff were stood down during the first lockdown to reduce numbers on campus. This coincided with the start of the growing season, so when we returned we prioritised restoration of central areas.

During lockdown 2, we were partially furloughed again, meaning our usual winter management didn’t happen, but we’ve planned our Winter 2021 programme to catch up by the end of year. Our contractors were able to continue coppicing, so our woodland and tree management plans are still on track.

It’s been hard, but the team have coped very well. We hope people have come to value outdoor spaces even more during the pandemic and will enjoy the campuses’ beautiful landscape when they return.

KentCOG has been closed for most of the pandemic. However, volunteers are now working to restore the site, so we can reopen for events this summer and, hopefully, permanently in September. We have run digital sessions in lieu of practical gardening and will be shortly launching a series of wellbeing workshops for students during the exam term.

As more of us start returning to campus, what can we expect to see?

We’re keen to emphasise the use of outdoor spaces as safe places for staff and students.

We’re collaborating with Kent Sport in restoring the nature trail at Canterbury, which they’ve publicised alongside their marked-out running routes. We’ve also recently installed a new walking trail from the Canterbury campus to the KentCOG following the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, and are developing walking tours led by staff from Landscape and Grounds and the Sustainability Team.

Areas on campus have been marked to be developed as wildflower meadows over the next year. We’ve also commissioned the building of new hibernaculas, providing shelter for important pollinators and other insects. We’ve planted bulbs across 1,000 sq m so people can enjoy seeing new plants popping up over the seasons. Alliums are due next!

We are also hoping to work with the University of Greenwich to enhance green spaces at Medway and create a walking route linking both ends of the campus

How can staff help look after our campus green spaces and the KentCOG?

Staff are invited to complete our consultation on the Landscape and Biodiversity of our campuses – we’re keen to have lots of ideas for our new Landscape and Biodiversity strategy.

Volunteers are welcome at our open sessions at KentCOG. We’ll let you know as soon as we re-open – in the meantime, you can join our mailing list by emailing kentcog@kent.ac.uk.

You can also find out more about what we do and get in touch via our social media accounts:

Sustainability Instagram/Twitter

Landscape and Grounds Instagram/Twitter

COMPASS Guest Lecture talk on Brexit

Kent’s international partner in the GCRF COMPASS Project, ADA University (Azerbajan) has organised a high-profile talk on ‘Brexit: What’s happened and does what does the future hold’ by Professor Anand Menon.  The lecture is taking place online at 12.30 – 13.30 on Thursday 22 April and is open to all academic staff and researchers.  For access to the online lecture please contact ceeus@ada.edu.az

The COMPASS project works with partners in Cambridge, Belarusian State University (BSU), Tajik National University (TNU) and the University of World Economy and Diplomacy (UWED) in Uzbekistan to connect research, policy and people globally.  The COMPASS project seeks to establish ‘regional hubs of excellence’ at the top-level HEIs in Eastern Neighbourhood and Central Asia to enable them to become our lead research partners and ‘nodes of excellence’ for knowledge production and transfer across the region and beyond.

See the COMPASS website for more information about the project and its partners.

Guest lecturer

Anand Menon is Professor of European Politics and Foreign Affairs at King’s College London.  He also directs the UK in a Changing Europe project.  His areas of research interest include the policies and institutions of the European Union, European security and British politics.  He is co-editor of the Oxford Handbook of the European Union (OUP, 2020) and co-author of Brexit and British Politics (Polity 2018). He is a trustee of Full Fact, a member of the Strategic Council of the European Policy Centre, a Council member of the European Council on Foreign Relations and an associate fellow of Chatham House.

Virtual roundtable on Medical Racism – 29 April

All staff are invited to join a virtual roundtable on Medical Racism: Protecting Ourselves, Our Families and Our Communities on Thursday 29 April, from 17.30-19.00.

Structural racism has increased mistrust and hesitancy to engage with the medical system among Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities. Historical examples of unethical experimentation and medical mistreatment of Black people has heightened suspicion of endeavours to promote public health.

This virtual roundtable, organised by the universities of Kent and Oxford BAME/BME Staff Networks, will feature a panel of expert medical practitioners and scholars, including:

  • Dr Winston Morgan, Reader in toxicology and clinical biochemistry, Medicines Research Group, University of East London.
  • Dr Mohammed Sakel, Director NeuroRehabilitation, Consultant Physician, Director Research & Development, East Kent Hospital University
  • Dr Roberta Babb, Chartered Psychologist, Registered Clinical Psychologist, Registered Forensic Psychodynamic Psychotherapist, Media Psychologist, Life Coach and Organisational Consultant, The Hanover Center
  • Professor Dame Elizabeth Anionwu, Emeritus Professor of Nursing, Patron of Sickle Cell UK
  • Dr Aadil El-Turabi, Vaccinologist specialising in Virus-Like Particles, Jenner Institute

To sign-up for the roundtable, click on this Eventbrite link. We look forward to seeing you there.

Bridget, Dave, Barbara and Vanisha, Co-Chairs of the BAME Staff Network

Lecturer awarded Leverhulme Research Fellowship

Lecturer in US History, Dr Erik Mathisen, has been awarded a Leverhulme Research Fellowship for his new research project, ‘Free Labour & Emancipation in the Nineteenth Century Atlantic World’.

Dr Mathisen shares: ‘”Free Labour & Emancipation in the Nineteenth Century Atlantic World” examines how ideas about free labour (selling our work for a wage) became wrapped up in struggles over the abolition of African slavery, the emancipation of enslaved peoples, and the chaotic expansion of capitalism in the nineteenth century.

‘Focused on the British Caribbean, the United States and Cuba, the project will chart the history of how the problems of emancipation exposed the contradictions of free labour, not only in places where slavery dominated, but in the lives of working people throughout the Atlantic World. As I hope this project will show, the age of emancipation was one in which freedom and coercion were shaped by the ideas and actions of a broad range of people: missionaries and political economists, but also enslaved people on plantations, day labourers, domestic servants, factory workers and more. Free labour is also intimately connected to a global race for empire and labour in the last decades of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. This project ties these threads together, showing how the Age of Emancipation built the foundations of the Age of Empire.

‘It occurred to me that the precarity of work in so much of our economy now, as well as the terms of debate about how work is talked about in popular culture, makes a virtue of the freedom and flexibility to work but obscures the coercion that so many face. Students this year who are taking my Special Subject, “The Age of Emancipation,” have also played a huge part in the project. Spending time thinking through their questions each week has helped me enormously to clarify my own ideas. I hope that when it is finished, they will see some of their fingerprints on parts of the book too!’

Person using laptop

Learning opportunities available

The Talent and Organisational Development Team are happy to share a number of upcoming learning opportunities, that are bookable via your personal Staff Connect Dashboard.

In partnership with Canterbury Christ Church University, and facilitated by Planned Future, we will be offering two webinars as follow:

Pre-Retirement Financial planning: Wednesday 5 May 2021, 10.00 – 13.00.

A half day webinar aiming to give participants knowledgeable advice in regards to all aspects of planning for retirement, looking at areas such as finance, health and lifestyle.

Mid-Career Financial planning: Wednesday 5 May 2021, 14.00 – 16.00.

This short webinar covers a range of issues relevant to planning your financial affairs, both now and for the future.

As part of Mental Health Awareness Week 2021, we will be running the following session:

Mental Health training for Line Managers: Monday 10 May, 10.00 – 13.00.

The aim of the workshop is to enable and encourage managers to develop a management style that strikes the right balance between the needs of the individual/team and the needs of the business.

You can book all these webinars via Staff Connect and you will receive a Zoom invite a day or so before the webinar takes place.

If you would like any further information, please get in touch with the team: ldev@kent.ac.uk

Access to Microsoft 365 services from off-campus

Multi-factor authentication (MFA) set up for staff

All staff have now been enrolled onto multi-factor authentication (MFA) for access to email and other Microsoft 365 services.

If you haven’t set up MFA yet, the next time you try to sign into email, OneDrive, Teams or any other Microsoft 365 app from off campus you’ll be asked to set up a second authentication method.

MFA set up instructions

Full details about what you will need to do has already been emailed to all staff. If you cannot find this email we have reproduced the set up instructions here.

MFA helpline

If you have any issues you can call our dedicated MFA helpline – we’ll be here to help you over this weekend as well:

  • 01227 82 7300
  • 08:30 – 16:00 Monday - Friday
  • 09:00 – 13:00 Saturday – Sunday

Helpline opening hours may vary during the week 19 – 23 April.

What this means

When MFA has been added to your M365 account there will be an extra authentication step for you to complete before gaining access to M365 services from off-campus.

Once set up, MFA is easy to use and provides added protection against cyber-attacks which is especially important now as many staff are working from home. MFA provides a 99.9% reduction in compromised accounts and will also help to protect your own personal information.

For a more in-depth explanation of how MFA works take a look at this film.

Scottish HE/FE Information Security group

What’s next

When the rollout of MFA to staff accounts is complete we will start enrolling our students onto MFA. This will be scheduled after student exams have been completed.

Any questions

If you have any questions, please get in touch with IT Service Desk.

KentVision: Progress Update

From Professor Richard Reece | DVC Education and Student Experience

As many of you will be aware, the KentVision project team are currently working hard behind the scenes to get our new student data system up and running for next week. Launch preparations are going well, and a number of key stages in this process have already been completed. However, while we remain on track to have the system live next week, we now expect this to be slightly later in the week due to the need to confirm that everything is working as it should be before the system becomes fully operational again.

Where we are up to so far  

The initial data migration went well, and the team are currently going through the process of carefully validating key systems records to ensure that the new system is operating smoothly. This process is almost complete for areas including finance, assessments and PGR admin, with core student record admin also well on the way to being finalised.

What we still need to do  

All Student Support and UKVI data is being migrated at the moment, with the team working through the weekend to continue these final steps and carry out all necessary checks. Validating this will take some time, so we expect all critical work to be complete by Monday afternoon – the team will then need a couple of days to bring all of the systems back up before they are available to use. The only exception will be Student Notes and Academic Advisors, which we will now migrate shortly after the system is back live to avoid any further delay.

We will provide a further update for staff and students on Monday, when we expect to have further progress to report, along with confirmation of the expected launch date next week. All key internal stakeholders have already been informed so they can update plans for next week and we have arrangements in place so we can continue with key admissions activity in the meantime.

I am sure you all appreciate the careful and detailed work needed to complete a data migration project of this scale, and so thank you all for your patience as we carry out these vital final steps.

With best wishes,

Richard

Professor Richard Reece | DVC Education and Student Experience

Coronavirus

Covid-19 update: Return to campus

From Professor Richard Reece | DVC Education and Student Experience

On Tuesday, the Government confirmed that students in England will now only be able to return to universities for face-to-face teaching from 17 May at the earliest. This is disappointing news for all of us, and I have written to students today to update them and share our frustration at this further disruption to their studies. 

Latest Government proposals 

Under the latest guidance announced yesterday, students who are still off campus can only return for face-to-face teaching no earlier than 17 May, in line with the next phase of ending lockdown. As we are now moving into the exam term after the Easter break, our focus will therefore be on continuing to support students wherever they are based and ensuring we are doing everything we can to help them achieve the best possible outcome in their online exams from 10 May onwards. There is more information on support available for students on our Student Guide.   

The Government announced further details on asymptomatic testing requirements when students do return, plans to provide home-testing kits for students and an additional £15m in hardship funding to support those most in need. We are awaiting further details on what this means for us at Kent and will share more information as soon as possible. 

Kent Summer plans 

After what has been such a difficult year for everyone, we are determined to give our students a chance to come together to mark the end of the academic year. We are currently developing joint plans with our Students’ Unions to run a programme of activity throughout the summer term culminating in a two-week celebration at the end of June. We will provide further updates on this as soon as possible and I hope a number of you across the University will be able to help with shaping plans as they come together. 

Professor Richard Reece | DVC Education and Student Experience

Challenging Racism – Live Webinar 19 April and Inclusion Circle 22 April

Continuing with our ‘Challenging Racism’ campaign, staff are invited to join us at two key events – a Live Webinar on 19 April and an Inclusion Circle session on 22 April.

For our final Live Webinar on Monday 19 April at 13.00, we are delighted to welcome Dr Jason Arday on ‘Let’s talk about race’.  The 90-minute online webinar is facilitated by Inclusive Employers, with a guest speaker, panel discussion and Q&A session.

We will be looking at why talking about race is difficult and why silence is so damaging to all of us, including:

  • What we can all do to encourage and improve conversations around race
  • Language and saying the ‘wrong’ thing
  • Top tips for starting conversations about race

Dr Jason Arday is an Associate Professor in Sociology at Durham University and Deputy Executive Dean for People and Culture in the Faculty of Social Science and Health. He is a Visiting Research Fellow at The Ohio State University in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, an Adjunct Professor at Nelson Mandela University and a Trustee of the Runnymede Trust, the UK’s leading Race Equality think tank. He is a presenter, with Heidi Mirza, of a podcast on Dismantling Race in Higher Education. 

Book your place today via Eventbrite. You can listen to our two previous live webinars on the Challenging Racism Together webpages (scroll down to the bottom of the page).

Inclusion Circle

Our next Inclusion Circle ‘Taking action on race inequality and inclusion’ will take place on Thursday 22 April at 10.00, and is open to staff from all ethnic backgrounds.

The aim of the Inclusion Circles is to create a safe environment to listen to staff concerns, shared lived experiences, discuss a variety of topics, and show solidarity. The 90-minute session is facilitated by Inclusive Employers consultants Aminata Pungi and Addison Barnett, and will include:

  • An open discussion on how to tackle racial inequality.
  • A facilitated conversation focusing on the problems and ideas for solutions.

Spaces are limited so please email ChallengingRacism@Kent.ac.uk if you would like to join.

About Challenging Racism

The aim of the ‘Challenging Racism’ campaign is to promote unity, not division and to help understand and develop more inclusive behaviours. To do that, we all need to increase our awareness and understanding of racism and how it can be tackled within Kent, to ensure all staff and students feel safe and empowered.

Please share this and encourage your contacts and teams to sign-up so that we can all work together and take the first steps to address racism at Kent and beyond.  If you have any questions, email challengingracism@kent.ac.uk

#EDI #challengingracismtogether #choosetochallenge

Marking Ramadan 2021

Ramadan begins on the evening of Monday 12 April and ends on the evening of Wednesday 12 May 2021. Muslims follow the lunar calendar, so the exact start and end dates depend on the sighting of the moon so these dates can vary slightly.

Ramadan is followed by the festival of Eid-ul- Fitr, a celebration to mark the end of Ramadan, which will take start on the evening of Wednesday 12 May and the evening of Thursday 13 May 2021.

What is Ramadan?

Ramadan is the name of the ninth month of the Islamic calendar.

Muslims believe it is the month during which the Qur’an was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) over 1400 years ago. Ramadan is the holiest month of the year for Muslims and it is considered that the reward of good deeds during this month are multiplied several fold.

During Ramadan, from dawn until sunset, Muslims are obliged to abstain from all forms of food, drink (including water), smoking and sexual activity. Most Muslims will wake before dawn for a meal before the start of their fast (also known as Suhoor), and break their fast (also known as Iftar) with dates and water at sunset, and then a meal.

This year, fasts in the UK will last around 15-16 hours. The start and end times vary as the month progresses.

Fasting during Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam. The overall purpose of the fast is to gain Taqwa (which means to gain piety or God consciousness). This is achieved through an increase in prayers, reading the Qur’an, self-reflection and self-discipline.

Find out more

For further information and guidance for managers and staff, take a look at the Inclusive employers Ramadan 2021 fact sheet.