Category Archives: Kent People

Estates Groundsmen

Enjoy grass tennis at Kent Sport this summer

New grass tennis courts are now available to hire at the Pavilion thanks to the tireless work of University of Kent Groundsmen Lee Ballard and Derek Hockett. Kent Sport tennis coordinator Matthew Brears caught up with Lee and Derek to speak to them about their work.

What do you and your team do throughout the year?

Our main tasks are to maintain the sports facilities to the highest standard possible. this includes mowing the grass pitches and marking them out, and brushing the three artificial pitches we have on campus.

Derek and I really take pride in what we do and always want the people taking part in sports such as American football and now tennis to have the best experience.

How did you create these grass courts and what challenges did you face?

The biggest challenge was the time and the weather. We lost two days of work due to rain and we had a Bank Holiday. so another work day was lost. We were really excited about the challenge of setting out grass court tennis, so once we were asked we set to the job straight away.

We mowed the area with our cricket pitch mower, which hadn’t been used for three years. Our first few cuts were at 15mm so that we didn’t take the grass too short too soon. Next, we measured for three courts and over-marked them. Rolling the court took four days, but when we had finished we were happy with the end results. We have now lowered the grass cut height to 10mm and it looks great.

How are you going to maintain the good quality playing surface throughout the summer?

The biggest maintenance job will be the mowing as I think we will have to do this every other day to keep the grass to a playable height. I’m sure as we get into the summer (hopefully a hot one!) we will also have to water the courts.

Is there anything you would like to do differently in the coming years to improve on what you have achieved this year?

Hopefully this really takes off and we can have a few extra courts next year!

The only job we couldn’t do this year was scarify the courts. If we do this next year it will take out the weeds and thatch that is in the ground. Removing this should help with the bounce of the ball and make the court quality better.

Matthew Brears, Tennis Coordinator and Head Coach, said: “The work that Derek and Lee have done in such a short space of time has been exemplary and I’m grateful for their efforts over the last three weeks, and of course the work they will put in over the summer. They have shown a glimpse of what we can achieve here at the University and I’m looking forward to working with them to provide a great grass court tennis offering for years to come.”

Sean Edwards, UKC Tennis Society President, said: “The new grass courts installed by Lee and Del are a huge step forward for UKC Tennis this year and have great potential for years to come. I’d like to thank them for their efforts as the courts are incredibly flat and have a bounce that nobody expected.”

The new grass tennis courts can be booked by Kent Sport members at the Pavilion reception. For more information about tennis and other activities visit the Kent Sport website and follow @UniKentSports on social media.




Kent Colleagues Connect Professional Speed Networking

Resounding success for the first-ever professional speed-networking event at Kent

The first-ever strictly professional speed-networking event at Kent was a great success, attracting more than 130 colleagues.

The networking events took place on 14 February across both the Medway and Canterbury campuses. The Kent Colleagues Connect organising team was delighted with the take-up and the diversity of participating colleagues, representing schools and central departments, academic and professional services staff.

Here are examples of the extremely positive feedback received immediately following the event:

‘What a really enjoyable as well as extremely useful event”,

“A very welcome event”,

“A great event!”

This new initiative is part to the 2018 Kent Colleagues Connect programme which offers a number of opportunities for colleagues at the University to get to know each other’s roles better through informal meetings.

The next event will be “Coffee with Colleagues”, which will open for registration next month and will allow participants to invite a colleague they do not know very well, or at all, to discuss each other’s roles over a complimentary cup of coffee (or tea!). Watch this space for information about when and how to take advantage of this offer!

Full details of future Kent Colleagues Connect events in 2018 check the programme calendar. If you would like to find out more about the scheme, please contact the programme team at


Voice recognition

Dr Angelos Lengeris to appear at Speech Science Forum

Dr Angelos Lengeris, Lecturer in Linguistics for the Department of English Language & Linguistics, will present at the Speech Science Forum at University College London (UCL) on Wednesday 21 February 2018.

His talk focuses on how ‘Auditory Training Improves Second-language Pronunciation in Spontaneous Speech’.

Computer-based auditory training has been found to improve the production of second-language vowels and consonants in isolated words, and words in scripted sentences. However, we do not know whether learning transfers to spontaneous speech. In his talk, Angelos will present the results of a study examining the effects of computer-based auditory training on Greek speakers’ production of English vowels in sentences and spontaneous speech.

Vowel production was assessed via an identification test with native English speakers and an acoustic analysis of vowel quality before and after training. Training significantly improved learners’ production of English vowels in sentence materials and in spontaneous speech, which demonstrates the ecological validity of the high-variability paradigm.

The talk will take place at UCL’s Speech Hearing and Phonetic Sciences department in London.

Canterbury Firewalk

HEAT team take on the hottest, shortest sponsored walk ever!

Jayne Lawson and Chris Laming, from the aptly named HEAT Service, are bracing themselves for a barefoot walk over red-hot wood embers heated to around 800 degrees, to raise vital funds for Pilgrims Hospices in East Kent.

The Pilgrims Hospices Firewalk in Canterbury, the first in a series of four challenge events in March this year, takes place on Friday 2 March at the University of Kent Sports Pavilion. Contrary to popular belief there are no ‘tricks’, illusions or special materials involved in the Firewalk, just participants, their nerve and the flames, and Jayne and Chris can’t wait to face the challenge and confront their fears!

Pilgrims Hospices’ vision is that everyone should have access to the services they need to cope with illness that cannot be cured; providing free of charge hospice care and a range of additional support services for patients and their families. But with only 23 per cent of funding coming from the NHS, Pilgrims Hospices rely on charitable donations and fundraising to continue their invaluable work.

Every penny raised makes an inordinate difference at the most difficult time in people’s lives, so if you can support Jayne and Chris in raising much needed funds for this incredible charity by making a donation, please do so by visiting Jayne’s Just Giving page or Chris’s Just Giving page. You can also contact Jayne or Chris in the HEAT offices on extensions 16197 and 16198 respectively.

Visit the Pilgrims Hospice website for more information about their work and other challenge events.

Kent academic organises anti-corruption training in Nigeria

A Kent international commercial law expert Dr Gbenga Oduntan has organised a series of training conferences in Nigeria on tracing funds transferred as a result of corrupt practices.

The first two-day conference takes place in Lagos on 20/21 November with a second two-day conference following in Abuja on 23/24 November. Each event is targeted at anti-corruption activists, media practitioners, compliance officers, anti-corruption agencies, opinion leaders, bloggers, lawyers and legal advisers.

With the first day entitled Tracking Noxious Funds: Strategies and techniques for whistle blowing and tracing property purchased and the second day entitled Investments from Proceeds of Bribery and Corruption Transferred to the West and Tax Havens, the training offers a practical, doctrinal and procedural introduction to researching company and property ownership using public sources of information. Conference attendees will also learn how to find shell companies and their property and how to identify online resources and sources of information. The training includes practical sessions that will enable participants to conduct their own searches under the supervision of expert facilitators from Europe, the US and Nigeria.

Dr Oduntan was awarded a grant of $50,000 for the training project by the MacArthur Foundation and the Institute of International Education after running a successful one-day conference at Kent Law School in July.

Dr Oduntan said: It has become clear over the last few decades last that the phenomenon of bribery, corruption and stolen funds is one of the principal causes of underdevelopment in the global south. The stolen wealth of Nigeria and other ECOWAS countries has not only found safe haven in the banks and financial institutions of the UK and other western countries but has become a major source of the funds for the purchase of UK properties contributing to housing shortages in London

Get set for EasterZone Sports Camp

Local children can hone their skills at a fun action packed multi sports camp at the University of Kent this Easter.

Kent Sport will be running an EasterZone sports camp for children aged five to 14, which will run from Monday 10 April to Thursday 13 April, 9.00 -15.00 and will cost just £90 per child. Late pick-ups until 17.00 are available for an extra £10 per day.

What is EasterZone?
EasterZone focuses on providing children with a range of experiences across the four days. This will include street dance, sportshall athletics, tag rugby, hockey, tennis and multi-skills based activities. An introduction to new sports and activities will be on offer along with the opportunity for children to develop their skills in specific sports and make new friends in fun environment.

The sessions will be led by enthusiastic qualified and DBS checked coaches and supported by sports supervisors, children will have the opportunity to take part in a variety of activities on a daily basis including from skills based sessions to fitness based and multi-skills, through to sports specific coaching sessions.

How can I book?
You can book your places online or download a booking form, completing and returning it with payment (cheques made payable to Uni Kent) to:

University Kent of Kent Sports Centre, Canterbury, Kent CT2 7NL.

To find out more about EasterZone, contact email or call Karen Drake on 01227 816391.

Ensuring Congregations are a day to remember

Staff from across the University help ensure that Congregations are an unforgettable experience – and Kent’s winter ceremonies were no exception.


Congregations are the culmination of a student’s time at university. It is the most important day of their life so far and a testament to all their hard work over a three- or four-year period. That’s why it is so important that the occasion is a success for everyone involved.

Congregations in November 2014 consisted of four ceremonies: One at Rochester Cathedral for 756 students from Medway campus, partner institutions and their guests, and three at Canterbury for 3,700 students from Canterbury, partner institutions and guests.


Volunteer helpers

Overseeing the smooth-running of all the Congregations – a job that starts many months in advance of the actual ceremonies – is Corporate Events Manager Lorna Parrett. She explains that the Corporate Events team in turn relies on a huge number of University staff volunteer helpers.

‘Without staff giving up their time and helping us the congregations would not happen,’ she said. ‘The students are always so overwhelmed to see staff that they have come to know over the years and they are so excited when they see them ushering their parents and family to their seats, or meeting them at the front door.’

“My team and I would like to say a very big thank you to all concerned” – Lorna Parrett

She added: ‘Congregations are a special time and without the regular support of staff helpers, we would not be able to deliver to the standard that our students have come to expect. My team and I would like to say a very big thank you to all concerned.’

A few of the staff involved in the Medway and Canterbury ceremonies in November were:

Welcoming students and their guests

Micky Dalzell

Micky Dalzell (Medway campus administration) helped out with ticket allocation and extra ticket sales at the Medway ceremony. She said: ‘It went a lot better than previous years because it was all done on online for the first time. It saved graduands a lot of time.’

Ben Tipple

“Everyone was very happy – there were lots of pleased and smiling faces” – Ben Tipple

Ben Tipple (Partnership Development Office) was on the south-west door of Canterbury Cathedral – welcoming and answering queries from guests and graduands. ‘We had the usual problems,’ he said, ‘such as people being frustrated by the wait outside. It’s a case of facilitating these and making sure people are treated in the right way and having a nice time. Everyone was very happy – there were lots of pleased and smiling faces and, in the end, that’s all that matters.’

Lisa Tallis

“I have done Congregrations every year since I have been here – it’s nice to see students come in and go out” – Lisa Tallis

Helping with student registration and the procession at Canterbury was Lisa Tallis (Student Records and Examinations). She said: ‘It involved making sure that students were seated correctly and went up at the right time. I have done Congregrations every year since I have been here – it’s nice to see students come in and go out. You also get to meet other members of staff who you usually only speak to on the phone. It’s a nice day to be part of.’ 

Tim Warren

“I love doing it and will volunteer again next year” – Tim Warren

Also helping out with registration was Tim Warren (Kent Hospitality Finance Department). He said: ‘I have done it for a number of years. I like the fact that you see students when they arrive and when they depart – you see the whole process through. I love doing it and will volunteer again next year. It’s nice to give something back, and it’s good to represent Kent Hospitality as well.’


In the Cathedral

Sara Witchell

“It’s a great day for them and their families” – Sara Witchell

Sara Witchell (Student Support, School of Politics and International Relations) was an usher in the Cathedral – and said that, considering it was such a busy ceremony, it went very well. ‘I have been helping with Congregations for about 16 years, since I’ve worked at the University. It’s changed a bit along the way, but I’ve enjoyed seeing the students and their reaction to seeing you. It’s a great day for them and their families and, at the end of the day, that’s what we’re here for.’

Ensuring that everything within the Cathedral proceeds in an orderly fashion – from fulfilling guests’ expectations to giving students the right certificate – is the role of the Ceremony Marshal. This essential role has been ably filled at Canterbury for many years by Dr Michael Hughes (Senior Lecturer in English Language and Linguistics).

Michael Hughes

Michael commented: ‘I am very much part of the ‘team’ which includes the Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor, the Deans, the Director of Music, Security, and many helpers from various parts of the University administration. This year, the three ceremonies at Canterbury went very well considering that two of them had over 400 graduating. Although much of the work is done before the day, it is always necessary to keep alert for last-minute changes, updates and some late arrivals. This all has to be achieved seamlessly without anyone noticing. Everyone involved always feels exhausted after a day of ceremonies, but with that great satisfaction of a job well done!’


Other essential roles

Karen Bee

The role of Karen Bee (Academic Division) at Canterbury was also extremely varied – she worked alongside Lorna Parrett to ensure, for example, that academics processed in the right order and sat in the right place within the Cathedral. Karen said: ‘It was a hectic day – these were big ceremonies involving lots of students and, as it’s the end of the year, staff were all very tired. But I think that the day went as well as it does every year.’

Jo Pearsall

Another ‘jack of all trades’ at both Medway and Canterbury ceremonies was Jo Pearsall (Council Secretariat). Jo was helping Sue Wanless, Ceremony Director, in the first ceremony, looking after students in the Cathedral, setting up the dais and assisting Lorna Parrett with background planning.

“I think it’s important for staff across the University to be involved in the ceremonies.” – Jo Pearsall

She said: ‘I think it’s important for staff across the University to be involved in the ceremonies. There are many different aspects: from looking after all the guests coming in, to putting on a good show, getting all the students through in right order, with the right certificates, looking after academic staff and guests, and organising the music. It’s easy to think it just happens and nothing changes. It does change every year and it’s a mammoth undertaking. It’s always exhausting!’

The next University Congregations take place in July 2015. Watch out for an all-staff email in end of April/May telling how you can sign-up to get involved!