THIS PAGE WILL BE KEPT UP TO DATE WITH SU COMMUNICATIONS AND FEEDBACK OPPORTUNITIES REGARDING UCA'S PLANS TO WITHDRAW FROM THE ROCHESTER CAMPUS.
15:30PM, MONDAY 9 AUGUST, 2021
At 2pm today, President Kent, Sol Gjøines, and President Surrey, Gaebriel Min, met with Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Catherine Harper, and the Head of the School of Further Education, Sarah Clarke. All members expressed their gratitude as well as excitement for opening a continuous dialogue between the Students' Union and Leadership Staff members.
At the meeting, the sabbatical officers asked for a formal apology from the University on the leak of the Rochester Campus and Further Education curriculum closure. Both the DVC and Head of FE agreed that the University would be unable to apologise for the actions of one member of staff. After asking whether the DVC and Head of FE believed that it was the culture at UCA that caused the leak to happen, both agreed and expressed their commitment to changing the staff culture at UCA to a more supportive one.
By the end of the meeting, the Sabbatical Officers asked the University to commit to greater transparency towards students around their goals and their efforts. It was also asked that the Uni commit to explaining why some pieces of information aren't able to shared, whether that be because of non-final plans, or otherwise. The Head of FE suggested that the University commits to half-yearly updates on the goals and strategy of the University to be relayed to students. On top of that, the Sabbatical Officers asked for the 2/5/10 year plan of the University to be written and produced for public consumption.
The four members in attendance have agreed to continue to meet each month to continue dialogue.
12:00PM, WEDNESDAY 19 JULY, 2021
On 14 July, President Kent, Sol Gjøines, proposed a meeting to discuss the Sabbatical Officers' comments on the University's response to student questions with Vice-Chancellor, Bashir Makhoul, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Catherine Harper, and Pro Vice-Chancellor, Dr. Simon Macklin. The Deputy Vice-Chancellor, as well as the Head of the School of Further Education, Sarah Clarke, have agreed to meet and keep the discussion around closures open.
Moving forward, President Kent, President Surrey, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor, and the Head of the School of Further Education have agreed to meet monthly to have continuous discussions around this transitional period.
11:00AM, WEDNESDAY 14 JULY, 2021
On 3 July, President Kent, Sol Gjøines, pushed for a response from UCA on the questions posed to the University on 13 May. Dr. Simon Macklin, UCA’s Pro-Vice Chancellor, agreed to respond by 9 July, the following response was received from the University on 8 July.
Comment from UCA:
Made 08 July 2021
This document answers the specific questions posted on the SU website. Duplicate questions have in some instances been covered by a single answer. We are aware that the website includes comments alongside questions, and we have not responded to these items, but have noted the feedback.
UCA has held several meetings with the Medway MPs and has been keen to explore whether any financial or estates support might be forthcoming from this quarter. We will continue to hold discussions, however, we have reaffirmed our position that a continued presence at Fort Pitt is not sustainable.
Our strategy is to bring together similar courses onto a single site, creating Centres of Excellence and minimising the need to duplicate facilities. We will shortly be announcing plans to expand our presence in Canterbury, which has seen growth in student numbers.
We will be consulting with staff individually and it wouldn’t be appropriate to share details of these individual discussions with students while they are still ongoing.
The vast majority of our current students will complete their courses at Rochester as planned – all those who may need to change campus in their final year have been contacted and provided with specific information pertinent to them.
We’re aware that the maintenance issues at UCA Rochester would only escalate over time, and therefore fundraising simply to maintain the status quo wasn’t deemed viable.
We did explore some alternative sites in the Medway area, but none of these were suitable for our purposes.
Future developments were communicated to students directly from the President & Vice-Chancellor. A number of forums have taken place at course and school level, and will continue to take place throughout the next academic year.
We have a long lead time to plan these changes and our key priority will be to listen to those students who will be directly impacted over the next academic year. Our processes will be shaped by their feedback.
It is too early to confirm this, but it is certainly an option that we’ll be exploring with impacted students.
We’re committed to maintaining the quality of our courses and our Estates plan will ensure that there is sufficient space to do just that.
This is something we will explore directly with those impacted. A range of options will be discussed, including paid-for transportation, and support finding local accommodation.
- Academic staff are talking about fears for their future - students feel this isn’t being addressed and they are concerned for staff wellbeing.
- What communications are academic staff getting? What support?
- What will UCA do to avoid losing staff while still running courses?
We’re committed to retaining our talented staff and are consulting with impacted staff on an individual basis, providing details of redeployment and relocation options, and signposting staff to the wellbeing services available to them.
We’re committed to doing everything we can to avoid compulsory redundancies.
We explored this with the council four years ago, and unfortunately there isn’t a viable site.
The financial statements give a clear account of income and expenditure and we do not have any plans to amend the format of these.
We’re very aware of the fact that news coverage about our planned departure from UCA Rochester appeared before we’d had the opportunity to meet with staff or communicate with students. We had a clear communications plan in place, but this was unfortunately undermined by an individual leaking confidential information to the press. It was never UCA’s intention to deliver the news in this way and we are dismayed that some staff and students found out about our plans from the media.
We’re drawing up detailed plans to support the relocation of our courses and facilities. These will be shared in due course.
The combinations of Centres of Excellence in campuses has been carefully considered including access to appropriate industry and industrial partners. The over specialisation of campuses is a key consideration and ongoing work on new initiatives for curriculum and delivery transformation will underpin the future of this model including increasing our global engagement with other providers of specialist art and design and creative education and building these collaborations both on our own campuses and through increasing the opportunities for students to study outside of the UK, where possible.
We will be continuing with our outreach and widening participation work, and will continue to work with our partner schools in Kent to support them in raising aspirations and engaging with the arts.
We compete with London universities by aligning our courses with the needs of the creative industries and providing personalised experiences that aren’t offered by our competitors. We have significant curriculum, and teaching and learning projects underway but students are particularly drawn to UCA both in Kent and Canterbury due to its location outside of London but its proximity to it. In addition, UCA continues to position itself as the university for global engagement with the creative industries rather than UK centric.
Comment from President Kent:
The Students’ Union has not provided an update about the Rochester/FE closures since May. As such, I will start this off by apologizing for the lack of communication. During our time as Presidents these past few weeks, we have been doing President Training, and we have been generally settling into our new roles as Presidents - although it has taken a considerable amount of time to update this time around, we will ensure that we update the pages on a regular basis whenever possible from here on out. Following the news about the closures, the Students’ Union set out a list of specific priorities and demands for the University to comment on. We were therefore unable to make further updates on these, until that was received. After a long period of radio silence, I pushed for a comment, which was provided shortly after.
Being completely transparent, a lot of the answers we received from the University were vague and deflecting. It very much seems like the comments made were more so ensuring they saved face, rather than actually taking any accountability. Some of the questions were avoided altogether. One example of this is that the University was asked how they will learn from their mistakes in the future, regarding the poor decisions that have led to two campus closures in seven years. This is something that was not provided, furthering my comment on the lack of accountability taken regarding this matter. The questions that were answered, very conveniently, seemed to be the ones that were “easy” to answer and ensured my previous point about saving face.
I really empathise with both the students and the staff that these closures will negatively affect. There are some really serious concerns regarding everything from community, housing, moving, redundancies and much, much more. As a recent graduate myself, I really understand how frustrating it is to wait for updates that should have been given weeks ago, and to not be given the transparency you deserve, at an institution you are paying thousands of pounds to. Although I appreciate this is all a very long process, you, the students deserve transparency, effective communication and updates in a timely manner - and you have not received this from the University. We assure you that we are aware of this, and that we will continue to push for comments, updates and general transparency.
The students very clearly asked for an apology over the fact that this was leaked, and that they had to learn about this through the media, instead of directly from the University. What was received was not at all an apology, it was simply stating the dismay they felt over the fact that staff and students had to find out that way. Although it might not have been a direct fault of specific individuals, at the end of the day, this is an unacceptable mishap, and it is the University’s responsibility to make sure things like this do not happen. Accidental or not, a real apology is in order.
Our next steps will be to bring our comments and concerns back to the leadership team. I will reach out to arrange a meeting, where we can continue the discussion, and bring our concerns to the table. We will attempt to collate some further questions from students through our various channels, which we will bring directly to senior staff during said meeting. We will ask for this meeting to be recorded, for increased transparency, and we will make sure this is then posted under the closure pages for everyone to see.
I assure you that we will do our absolute best to provide support in any way that we can - regarding this matter, and any others - and to always keep your best interest in mind, and actively fight for your voice, when communicating with senior staff at UCA.
Comment from President Surrey:
To echo the comment made by President Kent, I would also like to apologise for the length of time we have taken to update our commentary on the closure of Rochester campus as well as the FE courses. Even before Sol and I officially stepped into our roles as Presidents, we were thrown head first into this situation. We hope it is understood that the time it took to comment on these closures was not out of apathy, but out of the pure chaos that is moving from Student to President. Sol and I have both made a commitment to each other and to the student community to respond as quickly as we are able to from here on out.
After the Union set out a series of demands for the University, we were met with a reply and an assurance that students would be communicated with. However, there was no comment, no update, no response from the University for weeks... Only after Sol approached the leadership team directly, were we given any sort of response. And in my opinion, what we were given was not an adequate response, it is a collection of deflections and shallow blanket statements. The lack of clear communication in the comment made by the University begs the question of whether or not the University is truly acting in students best interest.
When asked, how will UCA commit to maintaining the quality of affected courses during this transition, we received the response “We’re committed to maintaining the quality of our courses and our Estates plan will ensure that there is sufficient space to do just that”. While I can appreciate that the University is indeed committed to upholding the excellence of their courses, if this past year is any indication as to the level of quality the University is facilitating, this is not enough. I also appreciate and understand that the pandemic was not predicted, however, a detailed list explaining specifically how the University is expecting to maintain quality is needed as some of the student body have not experienced a quality education for the past 18 months. Transparency and specificity is something the student community deserves from their University.
When asked if the University could make their publicly available audit more accessible to the student community, we received the response “... we have no plans to amend the format of these”. Is this the response that a University that is dedicated to its students makes? In my opinion, it is far from it. Yes, I can appreciate that documentation of this nature has a specific way of being created, and has so for years. However, the way we as a society communicate is ever changing, we are constantly learning new ways to express ourselves and relay information. Institutions and large deciding bodies are not exempt from this change. Especially since this institution claims that it is supportive of our Neurodiverse and Disabled student community, would making documentation more accessible not fit within the realms of support?
Overall, the student community has asked for an apology that the University has completely blanked. Our community does not deserve to hear about major changes to institutional structures from a tabloid, nor should they have to wait a prolonged amount of time for an explanation from said institution. This lack of apology once again begs the question, is this institution truly in support of its students and their needs? Our student community deserves transparency, specificity, and timeliness.
Moving forward, the Students’ Union will continue to push for what the students of UCA need and deserve. While doing this, we will continue to provide support and guidance for our student community.
10:00AM, FRIDAY 28 MAY, 2021
Yesterday all staff at UCA received the following email, explaining the current situation regarding Rochester campus closure. We still have not had confirmation from Bashir that he plans to meet with students, and have had no response to any of the questions we have posed to the senior leaders of UCA.
Since we met earlier this month, there has been an outpouring of support for our Rochester campus. I am incredibly proud of the reputation of UCA Rochester, its courses and our talented staff. It is undoubtedly a special place that has shaped the lives of countless alumni.
This support is shared by the local community, and after announcing that we’d be withdrawing from the campus in 2023, I have been approached by a number of stakeholders who are keen for UCA to retain a presence in Medway. I have held meetings with representatives from Medway Council, local MPs and representatives from other political parties, the Minister of State for Universities, various local councillors, and the Director of the Medway City of Culture Bid. I’ve also engaged with other Vice-Chancellors in the region.
It is too early to say whether any of these early discussions might open a door to some form of continued presence in Medway, and I should stress that continuing as we are in our Fort Pitt Hill location is not a viable option. However, I did want to reassure you that we are listening to feedback, engaging with stakeholders and leaving no stone unturned as we continue to explore the future of our presence in Rochester.
I will shortly be inviting all staff to on-campus briefing sessions in late June. These will provide an opportunity for me to update you further and answer any questions you may have. In the meantime, information will continue to be added to the transformation area of the staff portal as and when it becomes available.
Thank you all for your professionalism, and for the continued care and support you are providing our students during this time.
With best wishes
4:00PM, TUESDAY 18 MAY, 2021
Catherine Harper and Simon Macklin have told the SU CEO today that they are organising separate forums about the closures for each School. These will possibly led by the Head of School. The SU made it clear that students are seeking an open conversation with Bashir Makhoul or other senior staff, but this is not UCA's immediate plan. The SU has not yet been told the planned dates for these School forums.
2:15PM, TUESDAY 18 MAY, 2021
UCA's decision to close Rochester campus and most FE courses came as a shock to the UCA community. We as your Students' Union were not consulted about the closures, and feel strongly that the University should not have made the decision to close. Over 60% of students who have responded to our surveys have said they feel negative about the closures, with many asking where their tuition fees are being spent and what this will mean for their course community and graduate opportunities. We are focused on making sure the closures do not harm UCA students, and that the University has explored every available option for saving Rochester and FE from closures.
10:00AM, FRIDAY 14 MAY, 2021
Based on all the feedback we have gathered from the UCA community in the past week, we have now established the Students' Union's 'priorities' regarding the closures. This is what we believe UCA must do for students, and what we as your Union will be fighting for.
UCA should provide these for Rochester and Further Education students between 2021-2023:
- A high-quality education that is not disrupted by the planned closure of their courses.
- A good campus experience and sense of community, which includes the University funding relevant events and opportunities for students.
- Access to the same academic staff. UCA should incentivise and support academic staff to remain at UCA for a consistent academic experience.
UCA should provide these for the whole UCA community now:
- Clarity and transparency. This could be achieved through regular and consistent communication, using simple language.
- Open conversation with students and staff - senior staff such as the Vice-Chancellor should be prepared to address the concerns of the UCA community and take accountability for the closure decisions.
- A 'Roadmap' or plan for the 2023 closures, covering how they will financially support students and staff affected by the changes, how they will maintain a good academic experience for all UCA students, how they will retain the quality of each discipline that is being moved to a new campus, and what they will do to try and prevent student numbers dropping.
- A plan for UCA's future beyond 2023, explaining whether the multiple-campus structure is a priority, and how they will ensure further campuses - particularly Canterbury campus - will be protected, and what has been learnt from the poor decisions that have led to two campus closures in seven years.
- A financial breakdown explaining the background and reasoning for these closures, including a breakdown of tuition fees.
- An Equality Impact assessment, which details the impact that these closures might have on disadvantaged communities such as young people from low-income backgrounds, BAME and disabled young people (particularly in Medway).
- An apology for all members of the UCA community who learnt this news from the media or word of mouth, rather than from UCA.
- A plan for providing access to the arts for young people in Kent, particularly those from disadvantaged communities.
10:00AM, FRIDAY 14 MAY, 2021
Open Forum on Rochester and FE closures 13 May 2021
The following notes summarise all of the concerns and requests raised by UCA students in the forum.
These have now been passed on to senior University staff, and we will update when we get any responses.
- What is UCA’s response to the letter from Medway MPs?
- Does UCA truly want to prioritise their multiple campus structure, considering two campuses have closed and yet Surrey campuses are growing and getting new buildings? Is the University wanting to consolidate courses and reduce campuses?
- Students want urgent information about where courses are moving and what is happening to staff
- What other measures did UCA consider? Has the University investigated every possible funding support? What about famous alumni?
- Why aren’t senior UCA staff talking to students?
- What will UCA actually be doing to make the change over a smooth process??
- Will there be a guarantee of accommodation for final year students who have just moved to a new campus in 2023?
- Concerns about atelier - it’s only one of two courses in Europe. How will quality be maintained? Will there be enough space when it’s moved to Epsom?
- How will students who cannot afford to commute, be supported?
- Academic staff are talking about fears for their future - students feel this isn’t being addressed and they are concerned for staff wellbeing
- What communications are academic staff getting? What support?
- Students feel de-incentivised to stay on for MA or other further study
- Students want to speak to senior University staff ASAP - SU is trying to facilitate this
- Students want it acknowledged that they care about what happens even if they are leaving - it matters to them and to the Kent community, even if their degree won’t be directly affected
- Can UCA find alternative space in Rochester or Medway?
- University should publish their full audit, in as much detail as they can - this should also be clearer and easier to read than the financial statements currently available on the UCA website
- People would like an apology from the University for how the news was delivered
- How will the University learn from their mistakes for future?
- People are interested in whether we can do fundraising for the repairs
- Students believe that this announcement comes with reputational damage for UCA - could this impact student interest and therefore finances
10:00AM, MONDAY 10 MAY, 2021
We gathered feedback from Rochester course reps and Union Council about what they wanted from UCA, in light of the news that Rochester campus and FE courses are closing in 2023. This is what we have called on UCA to provide for students:
A roadmap to 2023 (Rochester closure and FE course closure)
A clear plan for the next two years, addressing students’ concerns, communicated by both email and MyUCA in simple, direct language.
- What will UCA do to avoid losing staff while still running courses?
- How will the spaces on the other campuses be filled?
- How will graduate experience be maintained - such as course community and paid opportunities?
- How will UCA address the loss of the Medway creative community?
- Where will student accommodation be/will it be overcrowded?
- How will creative collaboration be encouraged? How will over-specialised campuses be avoided?
- How will low-income students be supported to access the arts, particularly from Kent?
- How will UCA address the appeal of London universities compared to UCA’s Surrey campuses, if the lower cost of living is not an incentive?
Students would like to understand how their fees are used by the University, alongside an explanation of UCA’s financial wellbeing and the motivation behind the closures.
Equality impact assessment
An assessment into how these decisions will impact working class, disabled, BAME, and other marginalised people who may have accessed creative industries through Medway and/or FE courses.
- How will young people be encouraged to experience the arts?
- How will people in Kent be supported to access the arts?
- How will students and staff be supported to move to living in Epsom or Farnham, both of which are far more expensive than Medway?
10:30AM, THURSDAY 6 MAY, 2021
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