This week gives cause to reflect once again on an extraordinary year as we welcome the latest relaxation of the Government lockdown restrictions. Students across the country have missed out on so many experiences due to the pandemic, so it is now very encouraging to have more students on campus and the chance to look forward to something to celebrate together at KentSummer as things (hopefully!) relax further and exams are out of the way!
Balancing the desire to get back to some form of normality with a need to exercise caution as society opens up again has been at the forefront of my mind as we’ve prepared our plans for the next academic year. Opening our campuses in the autumn and prioritising face-to-face teaching where it makes a real difference are central to our plans – however, we have to balance this with keeping student and staff safety as our number one concern. Planning for large group lectures to remain online is key to this and will add agility to our planning, while allowing us to build on what we’ve learnt over the past year. I know we are having to navigate a range of views here but this approach does give us flexibility and will allow us to move quickly to adapt if we need to.
Covid continues to impact our wider planning and current budget setting too. As a large, complex organisation operating in what is still a global crisis we simply cannot predict all of the outside factors that could impact upon us next year, something which I appreciate is unsettling for everyone. It remains an unstable time for the sector: recruitment challenges both home and international have not gone away; regulation continues to increase and costs continue to escalate, alongside cuts in our core grants. However, the way we have collaborated in the face of adversity over the last year has shown the best of us as a university.
In addition, the discussions I know are underway to prioritise our strategic ambitions and target investment to deliver on our plan for a more sustainable and successful university are starting to bear fruit, and while we have challenges ahead it is really positive to start being able to look to the future again. I hope we can continue to work together in this spirit into next year.
I hope you are able to get a chance to meet up with friends and family over the coming weeks, whether inside or outside – and thank you to everyone working to keep both students and staff safe on our campuses.
With my best wishes to you and your families,
Professor Karen Cox | Vice-Chancellor and President