Coronavirus

Condolences for John Lovell

John Lovell died on Thursday 25 of June in his home at Blean, not long after his 80th birthday.  He had spent his entire career, from 1967 to 1996, at the University of Kent. John was esteemed nationally and internationally as a researcher in his specialist field, trade union history, and an approachable and devoted teacher of economic and social history.

He was also an exceptional and selfless servant of the University, acting at various times as  Chair of the then AUT, Senior Tutor in the Social Science Faculty, and Deputy Master of Eliot as well as being the moving spirit behind the establishment of the University’s Industrial Relations degrees.

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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.

Kent WebChats – 17th July – Resits

The next Kent Student WebChat takes place on Friday17 July between 11:00 to-12:00 for current students. This webchat will focus on resits taking place in August 2020 and will give an overview of important information for students who are resitting exams.

There will also be plenty of time for questions from the audience, and we will have a panel of senior members of staff from across the University in attendance to help answer questions.

Whether you are still on campus, now at home or overseas, you can use these sessions.

Students will have the opportunity to submit questions in advance or during the WebChat which the panel will answer.

You can join us to ask a question or just to listen to what others are saying or asking. Any student is welcome to join any WebChat session:

You can sign up for the session here. We’ll then send you the Zoom link for the WebChat session.

Staff in library 2

University commits to researchers’ career development

The University has underlined its commitment to supporting the career development of our researchers.

Professor Karen Cox, our Vice-Chancellor and President, has written a letter of commitment to the Researcher Development Concordat

The letter of 24 June 2020 reads:

‘As part of our current reorganization, the University has agreed that our Graduate School will become the Graduate and Researcher College (GRC) from the start of academic year 2020. The new GRC will have an expanded remit to support postgraduate students and now also staff across the whole academic career span, including but not exclusively our Early Career Research Staff. The GRC brings together expertise from five support services across the University to provide holistic researcher support across all career stages. It will be central to planning and progressing our commitment to developing our research staff, working across the University with colleagues, Divisions and departments to ensure that the tenets of the Concordat are fulfilled.

‘The University of Kent fully supports the Principles of this revised Concordat and we intend to uphold our obligations and responsibilities as a signatory.’

Professor Paul Allain, Dean of the Graduate and Researcher College, stated: “I am very pleased to have this confirmation of Kent’s commitment to all our researchers. At this difficult time, we need not only more support but also to support each other all the more.”

Read the full letter here. Find out more about the Concordat here.

 

Coronavirus

Condolences for Gary Blundell

The University is very sad to report the death of Gary Blundell who has worked at Kent for more than 30 years – most recently as an operator and service desk analyst in Information Services.

John Sotillo, Director of Information Services writes: ‘Gary joined us in July 1989 and has given almost 31 years of dedicated service to the department and University. Many colleagues across the University have benefited from his thoughtful and measured support and this was recognised on a number of occasions through the departmental award scheme and at a University long service award event in 2014.

‘Gary’s most impressive achievement has been the wonderful feedback from customers. Those he helped really appreciated his patience, care and sense of humour. He was always willing to ‘have a quick look’ no matter what the issue, and as a result always highly appreciated by those he helped. He was an asset to the University and will be sadly missed.’

Funeral arrangements

Gary’s funeral will take place at Barham Crematorium, on Monday 13 July at 14.40. You can view the ceremony via webcast on the day, and for up to seven days afterwards. The login/order ID is 38968 and the password is hxpewadp. Further information is available in these webcast instructions from Wesley Media.

Gary Blundell (centre front, in navy shirt) at his 25th long service celebration

 

Students on campus

Clearing 2020 update – Simone Davies, Interim Director of Marketing

I wanted to give you an update on how we will be approaching Confirmation and Clearing this year in light of Covid-19. We will need to do things a bit differently to mitigate working in a virtual environment and a Clearing that is going to be extremely competitive. For Kent to succeed in this year’s Clearing, we’re going to need a lot of help and support from everyone particularly around Clearing offer making teams and also staffing the Hotline.

For Confirmation, there is little change. However, we will be removing paper from the process and taking an Admissions-based approach with the aim of processing all students before A level awards day (13 August 2020). We will be working on a points-based tariff, whilst maintaining any grades that are mandatory. As in previous years, we will contact Schools about any student who falls outside the pre-agreed tariff.

Early Clearing will be managed by Central Admissions – based on previous year’s applications, this will be manageable and enables us to focus on the changes to systems and processes that are required for the main Clearing activity.

All hands-on deck

This year, we need to take an ‘all hands on-deck’ approach to Clearing. We are going to be delivering this virtually and that’s going to require us to make some adaptations. It’s also going to be extremely fast-paced and we need to process and offer quickly and efficiently.

We will be forming ten offer making teams which, in the main, will be based on the six new divisions with Schools staff and support from Central Admissions staff.

We need everyone to be able to make offers across a discrete range of courses – offer making training will be provided. In the main, this will see Schools making offers to their ‘own’ students. However, if they are not making offers to their ‘own’ students, they might need to support colleagues and make offers to courses within the wider portfolio. We only have a limited number of people and phones and can’t afford to have anyone waiting for specific applications rather than making offers – we need to respond as quickly as possible avoiding any bottle necks.

This year, UCAS has introduced ClearingPlus. We are still working though the detail of that, but it will require outbound calls to be made if/when we receive matches (applications).

We need your help

And we need more help. This year, we are unable to employ past and current students to be part of the Hotline Teams. We are currently around 30 people short of what we need to make this a success. Thursday 13 and Friday 14 August will be our busiest days and we’ll be taking calls and answering queries from 7.30am till 8.00pm. We’ll also be taking calls on Saturday 15 and Sunday 16 August and over the following two weeks.

If you’re able to help, particularly on the 13th and 14th, and you’re not already on a Clearing rota please get in touch with Laetitia Gullett: L.D.Gullett@kent.ac.uk. Full training will be given and, for anyone who hasn’t done it before, it is a really rewarding experience. You will have full support and supervisors are on hand to help at all times.

Thank you for all your help and support with Clearing. You might like to see the Clearing pages, which includes a link to this year’s campaign video. From 6 July, there will also be a link to the Clearing application form.

Simone Davies | Interim Director of Marketing

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University welcomes BME society statement and demands

Eight of our BME student societies have made a joint submission to the University of their Statement of Solidarity & Call to Action to the University of Kent on institutional racism and the University’s need to take action.

Following on from our joint statement on racism with Kent Union, the University welcomes this submission and is committed to working through the issues raised. We have had conversations with groups of students over the last few weeks and will be continuing these. We are also inviting representatives of the societies named in the statement to meet with senior colleagues and the submission will be part of a discussion on our response to institutional racism at the next meeting of our senior management team, the Executive Group.

Many of our staff and students are actively working to address institutional racism and, following recent online forums, we have already begun additional work on a number of issues raised by members of the University. However, we recognise we have much to do to address these issues through our actions, training, education and through appropriate policies and procedures and we are committed to progressing these in partnership with our students and staff.

Physiotherapist Vicki checking on a client

Free initial online consultations at Kent Sport Physiotherapy Clinic

Kent Sport Physiotherapy Clinic online consultations continue to be highly successful and have curved their way through the obstacles created by the pandemic to remain open – virtually.

They’ve been able to adjust the way they approach assessments of functional movements, joint range of movement(s) such as squatting technique corrections and have found the production of online videos to show specific movements has been highly effective. Many have been increasing their running or getting involved in virtual fitness classes, but found themselves getting niggles. The consultations have been great to speak to people and look at their techniques and movements then discuss exercises to help combat the symptoms.

They’re extremely proud of what they’ve achieved and, to date, have been able to reach out and provide more than 150 free initial consultations with clients kindly donating to the NHS Charities.

They will continue to provide free initial consultations and hope to be able to provide face-to-face consultations, with a triage system, in the near future to add the manual therapy treatments which they know many will benefit from and make those next steps towards their goals. This may be the lingering neck pain, back pain or perhaps shoulder pain where exercises have been completed daily as recommended with significant improvements already gained.

“I have recently taken advantage of the free online consultations that are available through Kent Sport Physiotherapy clinic. Although I was unsure whether Vicky would be able to help me online, she diagnosed my problem almost straight away during our first Zoom meeting. She then sent me some exercises which I have been doing daily and which have been helping to reduce the pain I was in. Vicky has also given me a follow up consultation just to check that the exercises are working. It has been really good to know exactly what was causing my pain and to be able to talk to someone so knowledgeable and friendly. Thank you Vicky for all your help!” – Susan Grimer, Library Assistant

So far, they’ve been able to reach out to 32 members of University of Kent staff, who have not been to the clinic before and provide professional physiotherapy advice to them. This number does not include the many staff members who have visited the clinic before lockdown and continue to have contact.

The testimonials from staff members has been incredible and they thank you for your feedback.

Please do not hesitate to get in touch with the clinic via email: physio@kent.ac.uk.

Find out more about Kent Sport Physiotherapy Clinic by visiting their website and like them on Facebook. Please consider showing your support by donating to the NHS charities.

BAME event

Online discussion of institutional racism – Tuesday 7 July

All staff are invited to an online discussion of ‘Understanding and Interrupting Institutional Racism: A Collaborative Dialogue to Communicate Strategies to Advance the Agenda at the University of Kent’, on Tuesday 7 July, from 16.00-17.15.

This collaborative dialogue will give staff an opportunity to share their experiences and perspectives on institutional racism with senior members of the University’s academic leadership team.

We want these discussions to disrupt structural factors that produce white privilege and systemic disadvantage, and to advance an agenda of racial equality. We invite all staff to reflect on their identities and social positions, taking an “intersectional” approach. This approach recognises that several aspects of (in)equality combine to shape experiences and perspectives. It therefore helps to explain why a Black woman, for example, may experience racism very differently than her Black brother, father or male partner.

The meeting is intended:

-To give participants an opportunity to share perspectives and experiences of institutional racism at work, including any recommendations for change, with the University’s senior academic leadership team.

-To give members of the University’s senior academic leadership team:

  • access to and information about staff experiences of institutional [or structural] racism at work
  • opportunities to answer [and to ask] questions about staff experiences of institutional [or structural] racism at work
  • a space in which to affirm commitments to addressing staff concerns about institutional [or structural] racism at the University.

The panel will include: Professor Karen Cox (Vice-Chancellor and President); Professor Christina Hughes (Interim Director of Student Services); Professor Richard Reece (Deputy Vice Chancellor – Education and Student Experience); Professor Georgina Randsley de Moura (Deputy Vice-Chancellor – Academic Strategy, Planning and Performance); Derek Baldwin (Branch Secretary, UNISON); and Sian Lewis-Anthony (President, University of Kent UCU Branch).

Discussion will focus on: the staff profile of the institution; decision-making boards and committees; equal pay; staff recruitment; progression and development; health and wellbeing support; sense of belonging; racial harassment; and racial discrimination.

We hope this event will be the first of many. There’s no need to sign-up – you can join live on Tuesday 7 July from 16.00 by clicking this link: https://bit.ly/2ZfYRJb

We look forward to seeing you (virtually) there!

Dave Thomas
Co-Chair University of Kent BAME Staff Network and Equalities Officer (UNISON)

 

A close up of the inside of a purple flower

Supporting your wellbeing during Covid-19

As social restrictions continue to ease during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, a number of us will be feeling apprehensive, or even anxious.

Remember that our Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) is here to help you at times like these. You can find series of webinars on all aspects of living under lockdown and the Covid-19 crisis, on the home page of the EAP website, (login: uokent and password: university).

The EAP home page also offers webinars on many other mental health issues – especially timely during the coronavirus crisis.

Alongside the EAP, the University has plenty of other support available to help staff manage their mental health positively. Much of this can be found by browsing the staff Health and Wellbeing website

The University provides counselling for all staff via the EAP. This can be telephone, online or face-to-face counselling; the pathway is agreed between the EAP assessing counsellor and the individual. Counselling can be accessed most easily by using the EAP’s freephone telephone number: 0808 168 2143.

When you ring, you will always speak to a trained counsellor who does an initial assessment and discusses the best form of counselling the EAP can offer to support you. Up to eight sessions are available for University staff.

You can find out more about the EAP and all it can offer on the OH website