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Early evening visit to the Tannery Development and meal

13th August 2024
Venue: Tannery Development, Canterbury
Early evening visit to the Canterbury Tannery Development lead by Andrew Clague who was the principal architect on this project.
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Inter Club Bat & Trap Competition Evening

16th August 2024
Venue: The Golden Lion, Broad Oak
This year's Rotary in Canterbury Interclub Bat & Trap Competition is being held in the evening of Friday, 16th August at the Golden Lion Pub, Broad Oak.
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Evening talk: Marco Keir, Developments at Canterbury Christ Church University

We’re all very aware of the expansion of Canterbury Christ Church University (CCCU) – but less so about what the University brings to the region. So it was fascinating to hear from Marco Keir, its Director of Marketing and Communications, about CCCU’s history, development and, importantly, its local impact.

Marco was introduced to us by our President Rosemary Doyle who, by coincidence, worked with Marco at Canterbury City Council in 2004-2007.

Kicking off with a bit of biography, Marco told us how his ties to Canterbury go back a long way, starting in 1968 when he first came to Canterbury and attended St Peter’s Methodist School. After going to St Edmund’s School, he set off for Bristol University and then a career in advertising in London, before returning to Canterbury and joining Canterbury City Council. While there he said he worked on projects including the redevelopment of The Beaney; he was also involved in bringing the Tour de France to Canterbury in 2007. He joined CCCU in 2008.

Shifting to talking about CCCU’s history, Marco said “It all began in 1961”. He gave a potted history of the University’s development, showing us a black and white picture of Christ Church’s distinctive chapel under construction. Back then it was the era of Harold McMillan and Harold Wilson, and “a time of white-hot tech and an increasing demand for teacher training in the UK,” said Marco. The government asked major institutions, including the Church, to support education. In answer to the government’s request, the Diocese of Canterbury agreed to donate the land on which Christ Church was built.

The Institution, which started out as a teacher training college, welcomed its first students in 1962 in the Priory – next to St Martin’s Church, a World Heritage site. “We’re extremely proud to be on that plot of land that is surrounded by a World Heritage site,“ said Marco. The college further expanded its campus on North Holmes Road.

Marco’s next slide outlined more of Christ Church’s history – “it was always peppered by responses to workforce requirements”. Christ Church first awarded a B.Ed [Batchelor of Education] back in the 1970s.

Some years late there was a great need for nurses – resulting in the first school of nursing in Canterbury being set up at Christ Church in the 1980s. In 1990s Christ Church bought Salomon’s Centre in Tunbridge Wells to create a centre for postgraduate studies e.g. in clinical psychology.

The 2000s saw Christ Church’s biggest expansion with the opening of a number of campuses. In the early 2000’s it was invited to join with the University of Kent and Greenwich University to become the Universities at Medway – a multisite, multi university development close to the Chatham Historic Dockyard.

With a growing realisation that many SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) in Kent were focussed on the creative industries, the University started to support the workforce for creative and tourism sectors in the 2010s. More recently, as we all know from Chris Holland’s talk to us, CCCU became part of the joint enterprise: the Kent and Medway Medical School (KMMS). In 2022 the University celebrated its Diamond Jubilee (the year it also hosted our 9th Innovation Competition).

Marco reminded us that although the University is a church foundation university, it accepts staff and students of all faiths and none. Currently it has over 25,000 students – with about half based in Kent and the remainder distributed across the UK and worldwide studying CCCU courses delivered by partner institutions.  There are around 1,200 students from over 80 other countries around the world. The University employs around 1,800 staff, mostly based in Canterbury – “it’s important to have good representation from countries across the world given their students will be working in a  global economy”. 

In recent years the University has developed several important partnerships across the county e.g. with the Discovery Park in Sandwich and with old the TV studios in Maidstone. 

Marco moved on to talk about CCCU’s economic and community impact. They estimate a £535m impact on the South East economy (and a £324m impact on Canterbury’s economy). They have had around 13,500 graduates in key worker professions – with 78% securing employment in Kent and Medway.

Marco described KMMS as “Certainly the most exciting development in the last 5-10 years.” The intention was to develop students and doctors who will be retained locally. With KMMS they were also keen to give opportunities to bright students from non-typical backgrounds for medical students. They received £9m in public funding but, interestingly, £6m in philanthropic donations. The School has now been in operation for five years, and the first cohort will graduate next year. 

Another major investment made by CCCU is in its support for engineering and technology. They recognise that many local businesses want students familiar with practical engineering. But “there is an absolute dearth of this,” said Marco, who went on to describe the establishment of the EDGE hub (for Engineering, Design, Growth and Enterprise). He told us how the curriculum is quite distinctive in focussing on CDIO (Conceive, Design, Implement and Operate, an approach practiced at MIT in the States).

The University claims that the impact of its research in health can be seen across Kent, Medway and beyond. Marco highlighted projects such as DWELL, MOTION and THRIVE and their impacts on conditions such as dementia and diabetes.

To accommodate this expansion of facilities they have had to invest. Recent buildings include the Daphne Oram creative arts building, and the Verena Holmes building (where we held our Innovation Competition last year). CCCU has also purchased an old prison site. There are “some challenges associated with that,” but it’s currently being used for running events and for filming. In the future it could potentially house “incubator areas” for local enterprises and businesses, providing facilities at a peppercorn rate. 

Marco ran through other statistics on CCCU’s contribution to the South East e.g. through local graduate retention. The University is particularly proud of work with schools and colleges in Kent and Medway that are operating in “disadvantaged” areas that need support.  The University is ranked 25 on the 2023 social mobility index and Marco told us that their “Inspiring Minds” and “Community Lab” STEM outreach initiatives have raised aspirations for learners from over 50 schools in the region. 

Marco also highlighted the University’s environmental impact. The University has reduced carbon emissions substantially – although  “the challenge continues”. In 2022 it launched the Academy for Sustainable Futures, and it has won a number of awards in relation to the environment.

The University also sees itself as having a civic role. It is a permanent member of Canterbury BID (Marco is a Board Director), which ring fences Ievies from local businesses for local activities such as Canterbury’s Medieval Pageant, Canterbury Pride and Canterbury in Bloom. CCCU is also a headline sponsor for the Canterbury Festival and a sponsor of the Kent Women’s Cricket Team. “We are really proud of our association with the team,” said Marco.

Finally, Marco listed some of CCCU’s notable successes in recent years – such as its number one ranking for all universities for graduates in work. 

Marco was given a warm round of applause at the end of his presentation and asked a number of questions about CCCU before he was thanked by Rosemary and invited by President Elect Maxine Blades to the final of our Innovation Competition, to be held in association with CCCU near the end of the month at Old Sessions House.

Picture: Marco tells the audience about all sorts of initiatives that CCCU is involved with – including the Medieval Pageant. Picture credit: The Rotary Club of Canterbury.


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