January update

Happy New Year. We hope you had a restful break and that the start of spring term is treating you well. Given the number of ongoing concerns around the University’s financial position and the plans for Kent 2030, we thought it would be useful to give you a quick update on what we know and what action we are taking on your behalf as part of these processes.

Financial situation

As the Vice-Chancellor confirmed at the Mid-Year Review on 16 January, the University’s negotiations with the lenders are drawing close to a final agreement. This is likely to be confirmed by the end of January or in very early February.

We are kept up-to-date on the progress and content of these negotiations through a number of channels, but some of that information remains commercially confidential. We continue to urge management to be as transparent and up-front as possible with all staff about the agreement and its key implications.

In brief, the agreement, once confirmed and signed, will allow the University to manage its loan repayments and therefore remain solvent for the time being. This has been achieved by way of a number of concessions (including the drastic changes at the heart of Kent 2030) as well as some short-term measures to realise capital.


UCU representatives attend every meeting of the Joint Staff Negotiating and Consultation Committee (JSNCC), which meets roughly once every two months. This is a useful forum for HR and management to share staff-related policy changes with us (and other staff and trade union reps) and for us to comment on and challenge those policies. It was principally through the JSNCC, for instance, that trade union reps were able to ensure that automatic pay increments were paid last October.

At the most recent JSNCC meeting, which took place on 17 January, there was encouraging news about pay, especially the implementation of the JNCHES-agreed National Pay Award from July 2024. This will be funded, in large part, by the savings made through the reduction in the University’s USS pension contributions, from January onwards.

UCU reps also raised the question of staff morale and received assurances from HR and members of Executive Group that concrete action would be taken in the near future to address the mental health and morale crisis which is widespread among Kent staff at this present time. We will continue to hold leadership accountable on this.

If there are any issues or comments you would like UCU to raise on your behalf at the JSNCC in future, please don’t hesitate to contact Charlie Hall (ch515@kent.ac.uk), who is one of two UCU reps on that body.

Kent 2030

The reorganisation of the University under the auspices of Kent 2030 continues at pace, and there remain a number of serious concerns about both the principles underpinning this change and the mechanisms by which it is being enacted. The scrutiny, interrogation and, where necessary, resistance of this process remains a top priority for the local UCU branch. Through negotiation, we have secured representation as observers on the Kent 2030 programme board, which meets fortnightly and oversees the management of this reorganisation. In addition, we have reps on the Kent 2030 sub-JSNCC, which also meets every two weeks to discuss the implications of the changes on staff.

Job security

We know that our members’ top priority is job security and this is reflected in our branch strategy. Our red line remains no compulsory redundancies.

It is highly likely that a reduction in the University’s staff base will form a central part of the Kent 2030 plans. We intend to resist this, and the deeply flawed logic on which it rests, at every turn. We will always consult with members about the best tactics to avoid job losses, up to and including industrial action.

Where such cuts prove unavoidable, we will insist on a voluntary severance or redundancy process which is transparent, fair, and offers generous packages. Personal UCU caseworker will be made available, wherever possible, to any member put at risk of redundancy.

If you would like to speak to a caseworker about this, or about any other matter, please contact Kester Richardson-Dawes (krichardson-dawes@ucu.org.uk) in the first instance.

Looking ahead

The coming weeks and months are set to be a trying time for all staff at Kent. We are hopeful that, once the deal with lenders is formally agreed, there will be increased scope to challenge and resist the current Kent 2030 plans. UCU is well-positioned to be closely involved in that process.

We encourage all members to use every forum available – all-staff meetings, surveys, focus groups, boards of studies, etc. – to raise your concerns with the University’s current direction and keep up pressure on management to listen to staff. Details of how you can feed in to UCU branch strategy will be forthcoming in the near future.

We will continue to update you – and urge management to do the same – whenever there is important new information to share.