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University of Kent plans to axe 40 jobs and move out of Medway campus buildings

It can be revealed today that major financial problems affecting the University of Kent will result in up to 40 job losses.

Lecturers and other staff are losing their jobs and major buildings are being taken over.

Rochester Building at the University of Kent, in Chatham. Stock picture
Rochester Building at the University of Kent, in Chatham. Stock picture

The cuts will be made across departments at the university’s campuses in Medway and Canterbury.

A workforce consultation is under way with the first people set to leave in July.

However, the source fears this will not be enough for the university to curb its expenditure and further cuts could follow, which might see further job losses and the future of some courses left in doubt.

As of the 2020/2021 academic year, more than 18,000 students were enrolled and more than 1,400 staff employed at Kent.

The university was founded in 1965 when the first 500 students arrived at the newly-opened Eliot College with Rutherford College opening a year later. It welcomed its first students to its Medway campus in 2005.

Major changes will be felt especially in Medway where the leases of the university’s Rochester and Gillingham buildings are planned to be handed over to the University of Greenwich, which is also based on the campus.

Gillingham Building at the University of Kent, in Chatham. Stock picture
Gillingham Building at the University of Kent, in Chatham. Stock picture

It is planned for builders to be sent in to reconfigure the two buildings over the Easter break when students are away on holiday.

The remaining departments will all be moved into the Medway building, with some staff speculating on the long-term viability of the campus.

Another source told how staff “cannot believe” the planned cuts are happening – leaving so many people in limbo.

“It’s incredibly frustrating,” they said. “The teachers don’t know when the cuts will come in and haven’t been able to talk to the students who have no idea this is coming.

“I love my job and have had to protect myself so have taken voluntary redundancy but I don’t know whether I will leave in the summer or later on due to the contracts with the students.

“Students sign a contract with the university, so this could end in two ways for them. The uni could allow them to see out the rest of their studies or they could end the courses this summer with them being reimbursed.

University of Kent, in Chatham. Stock picture
University of Kent, in Chatham. Stock picture

“It means I have no idea what my future holds though as I don’t know when I am going to be leaving.

“The teachers love their jobs and it’s a real wrench for those who may have to walk away from the students, some of who might not get to graduate.”

The university has been buffeted by a series of major problems at the same time.

Among them, there has been a substantial drop in the number of foreign students applying since Brexit

Kent is now ranked 48 out of 130 UK universities, according to the Complete University Guide – a fall of 26 places since 2016.

Added to this, bosses have battled to manage finances – constructing buildings in Medway they’re now moving out of – while income from capped tuition fees has fallen due to inflationary pressures and dwindling applications.

Gillingham Building at the University of Kent, in Chatham. Stock picture
Gillingham Building at the University of Kent, in Chatham. Stock picture

The cutbacks are being made amid a backdrop of challenging conversations with lenders.

KentOnline also understands plans involving the university to transform a former police station into a multi-million-pound creative hub are being looked at.

Working with Medway Council and the Historic Dockyard Chatham, The Docking Station aims to provide working space for graduates, shared workspace for academic and non-academic staff, artists and technology experts.

Cllr Vince Maple – leader of Medway Council – has reacted to the news, saying: “It is always concerning to hear reports of this nature.

“University of Kent is a valued partner and one of the original signatories to the One Medway Charter.

Cllr Vince Maple
Cllr Vince Maple

“I’ve written to the Vice Chancellor to seek further clarification on the situation and to understand potential impacts on the Medway campus specifically.”

A University of Kent spokesman said: “We remain fully committed to our Medway campus and our contribution to the region.

“Our newest development for Medway – the Docking Station – has just received planning permission and alongside Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust and Medway Council, our partners in the project, we look forward to it opening in 2025.

“More widely we have been open with staff that we need to explore changes to our size and shape to ensure we are well placed to grow in priority areas in the future.

“This is to do with our broader portfolio rather than any specific campus, and forms part of a wider transformation programme focused on embedding student experience at the heart of our next strategy.

“Proposals for this are due to be shared with staff shortly – these would then be subject to consultation with staff before any decisions were taken around potential redundancies, with compulsory redundancy always a last resort.”

The spokesman added: “None of the proposed plans being discussed would impact students' ability to graduate or complete their courses and as with any organisational changes, we will do everything we can to minimise the impact on their studies."

Meanwhile, the University of Greenwich has commented about rumoured plans for the buildings.

A spokesperson said: “We constantly talk to our partners on the Medway campus to explore ways of making best use of our space, however, no decision about any changes to the campus has been made at this point.”

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