subtext 180 – ‘better sorry than safe’

Fortnightly during term time.

Letters, contributions, & comments: subtext-editors@lancaster.ac.uk

Back issues & subscription details: http://wp.lancs.ac.uk/subtext/about/

In this issue: editorial, welcome week, deanshare, lab location, UA92 galore, FASS typos, house-building, union blues, shart, poem, TV review, letters

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EDITORIAL

Gaps, holes, deficits, cuts, absences. Call them what you will, it would be hard to deny that the academic year has been littered with them, providing the subtext drones with more than enough metaphorical material to stretch to breaking point and enough space to fly the traditional end of year round-up through on a bus.

The biggest gap generator has been the ongoing building work on campus, particularly on the Spine. There have been holes in the ground where the Spine has been dug up, communication gaps where the pink and purple diversion signs have failed to keep up with the actual situation ‘on the ground’, and most worryingly there has been a huge gap in provision for disabled users of the spine, with accessible routes around the pinball game that traversing campus has become having all but disappeared. Add to this the gaps of buildings that failed to appear (squints at the Management School) and the gap we didn’t know we had (cocks an eyebrow at Alexandra Square’s Big Screen), and it’s a wonder we didn’t all get a collective sprained ankle.

There have been financial gaps as well. Students who may have specific learning disabilities have seen a cut of 50% in the funding available from the University to be assessed for them – a massive blow to the life chances of those that need one but can’t afford it. Nationally, the most disruptive gap of the year was the deficit in the UCU pension fund – and understanding thereof – that saw an unprecedented turnout in support of strike action, and UCU members picketing for two weeks in freezing conditions. Whilst the picket lines saw a huge amount of support from students and non-striking staff there was another gap: no clear or coherent response from the VC. The University as a whole continued to fail to cover itself in glory when the Gender Pay Gap report was published in April, revealing LU to be third from the bottom in the country (University of the Year, though!) with a mean pay gap of 27.7% as opposed to the national average of… cough… 17.8%.

There have been notable gaps in democracy, honesty and decency. Maybe it started when Lancaster University Students’ Union refused to take a stance in regard to supporting the UCU strike, and it definitely didn’t end with their ‘creative’ approach to the online AGM ballot. Maybe it started when the University Court was abolished, removing one of the last democratically elected bodies in the institution (and one that oversaw the appointment of various posts). In fact, subtext notes – with some glee – that you can read all about the machinations of Lancaster University’s ‘Strategic Planning & Governance’ division at gap.lancs.ac.uk. Maybe it started when the VC led us to believe that Lancaster was the first port of call for UA92 (it wasn’t) and shrouded the entire business in a cloak of secrecy. Maybe it started with swastikas on Sociology department doors appearing overnight followed by the attempted setting up of a new student society concerned with white supremacy and other alt-right (i.e. fascist) ideas. This is a gap that is going to take more than a bit of polyfilla and a trowel to sort out.

And we’ve been feeling a bit gappy ourselves – retirement and illness have left us short of an editor or two in the subtext warehouse, so we welcome all those readers with a critical eye, a writerly bent and a typing speed of 80wpm to drop us a line at subtext-editors@lancaster.ac.uk to get involved. And so, once more unto the breach, dear readers – starting October. Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks for writing in – do keep doing that. Failing that, hit us with your ‘like’ stick on our Facebook page, at www.facebook.com/lusubtext

A MINOR PROBLEM

In subtext 168, we reported on ‘A proposal for radical improvement’, drafted by the Dean for Academic Quality. The subtext collective postulated at the time that the implementation of those proposals could have meant the end of Part One at Lancaster. News reaches subtext of another proposal – well, an instruction – from the Dean for Academic Quality that could have further implications for Part One. This concerns Welcome Week activities, whereby it is intended that students will spend an increased amount of time during Welcome Week in their major department. The purpose of this is to help the new students to engage with their academic disciplines at an early stage, so that they can feel more embedded in their academic community. This is seen to be of vital importance, contributing significantly towards high student satisfaction, performance and retention.

To facilitate this bonding experience all minor taster talks, normally delivered on Tuesday of Welcome Week, are to be scrapped. This, we are told, is an idea which has found widespread support throughout the University among academics, professional service staff and the Students’ Union, although subtext is not aware of any consultation fora where this has been discussed.

Minor talks are to go online. Details are sketchy at the moment but subtext understands that the plan is to set up a repository for information about every minor option across the university. This will probably have a standard template as a ‘front page’ for each option, and departments can then add links to anything else they want, which could include readings, handouts, videos etc. It has been made clear to departments that no additional money will be available to facilitate this.

Information for students about how to access this repository will be given to them in their welcome packs, and they will be encouraged to access them before they arrive, with further ‘prompts’ by their major departments when they get here. Let’s hope that these prompts aren’t used to apply pressure to students to choose a particular minor, otherwise the days of Marketing students choosing Criminology or Gender and Women’s Studies as their alternative for Part One may be numbered.

As we pointed out in our initial coverage, a number of departments or degree schemes with small student numbers are very dependent on the revenue that Part One minor students provide. Quite a number of departments welcome face-to-face interaction with potential Part One students and see it as a good recruitment opportunity. Anything that threatens such arrangements should be considered very carefully.

The fact that this proposal apparently emanated from the working group charged with looking at radical improvement set alarm bells off in the warehouse regarding ulterior motives i.e. the dismantling of Part One by the back door. Other wiser heads point out that such joined-up thinking is not normally how the University operates and we should take the proposal for what it is – an attempt to foster greater identification with the students major department and aid retention. Thoughts and letters to the usual address.

KEEN DEAN

The Dean of the Faculty of Science & Technology (FST), Peter Atkinson, is ‘to act as interim Dean of the Faculty of Health and Medicine for a period of up to one year … (to) support the University while it seeks a replacement Dean of FHM’. While such community spirit is to be applauded, a number of questions spring to mind. On the most basic level, subtext has not heard yet how the microbiologists and clinicians of FHM feel about their new computational geographer overlord. According to a recent message from the VC posted on the staff intranet, none of the candidates had the ‘right balance across the wide range of experience and attributes’. What is going on that we can’t attract decent bio-medics? Don’t they know that we are the ‘Times and Sunday Times University of the Year’?

Have YOU got any ideas as to who could head the faculty? We aren’t being facetious – the University welcomes ‘suggestions as to people we should be talking to (sic) in looking for the substantive replacement for Neil.’

More fundamentally, assuming that this is not the start of a Stakhanovite movement amongst middle management types, will the denizens of FST now flounder, bereft of 50% of the guiding wisdom that they previously enjoyed as their Dean turns his attention elsewhere? Or will it turn out that the faculty can run itself happily without the attention of a full time strategic thinker and visionary? Is it even possible that if the time spent in such charades as Dean’s group Departmental visits is squeezed more actual work may get done? Only time will tell how sorely 50% of a Dean will be missed.

HUMAN PERFORMANCE

In subtext 179 we noted that the new Human Performance Laboratory mentioned in a sits vac for an LU Sports Science Lecturer (and also suspiciously similar to one mentioned in UA92 literature) was to be built at an unspecified site: ‘The Human Performance Laboratory will initially be housed at a separate site which is presently being developed’ and expressed concern that development needed to be PDQ for the first intake in September. Possibly in response to this searing piece of investigative journalism LUText 15th June reported that in fact this separate site is … an extension to the sports centre! ‘The new extension will temporarily accommodate a Human Performance Lab to support research and learning around the newly introduced Sports Sciences degree. The Human Performance Lab will move to the new Health Innovation Campus (HIC) in 2020.’ So why the mysterious reference to an undisclosed separate site when the HIC(up) is referred to elsewhere in the advert? Could it be that the final decision regarding the location (which should ideally be equally accessible for both LU and UA92) was not actually taken until after the advert had been written? Is it possible that the visionary planning had omitted an actual location for a heavily advertised facility? Surely not – that would be like opening a chemistry department without deciding where to build the labs before the students started!

SPAWT

GARY ON AT YOUR CONVENIENCE

In subtext 179, we reported on the somewhat embarrassing lack of solid information on simple things like UA92’s disability provision, placements, and whether or not they’ll be taking international students. Thankfully, a public consultation with Stretford community stakeholders was held last Monday (18th June), and there were high hopes that the community liaison representative dispatched by the council to answer to concerned residents would be able to bring some much needed clarity.

UA92 is a done deal that was signed off by Trafford’s Conservative administration before the Tories were replaced by Labour and the Liberal Democrats. While the conversion of the Turn Moss green space into a training facility for UA92 students was immediately torpedoed, it remains to be seen how readily the new administration will nod through Gary’s plans. The only accepted planning application thus far is to convert the old Kellogg’s building into educational and office space, and two more ‘masterplans’ – one for Stretford town centre and one for the Trafford ‘civic quarter’ – are to be put forward for consultation in the coming months. Furthermore, plans to hand Stretford’s leisure centre over to Gary have been mooted.

So, we know what isn’t happening, and what is definitely probably going to hopefully happen. At present, there is no information on what sites, apart from the old Kellogg’s building, are in place. Stretford residents were sympathetic to the human shield that the council had dispatched to the meeting, who was clearly poorly briefed, working on little information, and was not joined and supported by any figures with direct involvement in the planning and implementation of UA92. To surmise – UA92 has teaching and office space confirmed, partnerships with Microsoft and Lancashire Cricket Club and… that’s it. We wonder if things are going to be any clearer come the UA92 open day in July. subtext understands that two Lancaster student staff are being deployed as ambassadors to answer questions. Have they been warned, in the two non-compulsory training sessions, that many of the attendees are likely to be concerned Stretford residents masquerading as students and parents with a wad of questions that thus far haven’t been adequately answered either by council liaison officers or full time staff at the university?

The fact that, as reported in subtext 171, no-one has been willing to release the market research that lead everyone to decide that UA92 was a cracking idea is important to remember. If no-one wants to come to the party, there is the chance that UA92 might end up as a white elephant. And yet, they have so little to offer right now, be it provision, accommodation, or any of the superb facilities that are promised in the hype videos, that it’s hard to see why anyone WOULD come to UA92.

Only four months until applications open!

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IMPRESSIONABLE MINDS

The promotional video of what UA92’s ‘campus’ is going to look like (or to use the exact quote, ‘might’ look like) consists of shots of Manchester Piccadilly Station, the Manchester skyline and Old Trafford football ground, overlaid by an intense dubstep beat and meaningless slogans to make up for a lack of content. Oh, the camera also soars through a CGI rendition of an extremely red, cavernous building that looks like a cross between a 60s themed American diner and a missile launch facility. For those still wondering what UA92 is even going to offer, it’s better than nothing, and the start of the video reminds us to ‘speak to a member of the UA92 team for the latest information.’ Ahem. https://youtu.be/vhULu8sD1Is

We are also told that ‘designs continue to be developed and further details will be available in 2019.’

Only four months until applications open!

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PLACES FOR PEOPLE

At a recent meeting of the Stretford & Urmston Constituency Labour Party, it was noted that the Labour administration has asked that the office space being sold off as accommodation for potential UA92 students be made viable as 1 or 2 bedroom flats for general use in case the Students Don’t Come. This could prove problematic: at the moment, building student accommodation is hugely attractive to developers because student houses don’t have to meet the same regulations as normal housing. Less red tape and fewer regulations, coupled with a potentially huge market, means more money in the pockets of the developers. This presents some interesting questions – will developers take the risk and refurbish the old office blocks to a minimum standard, confident that the Students Will Come? And if they don’t, will they even be able to convert the empty student housing into normal housing that satisfies the additional regulations, or will logistics, money, and disinclination leave more disused space in Manchester?

Only four months until [we get it – eds.]

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SETTING THE BAR

As we’ve established, Gary is having difficulty finding buildings to house the millions of students and partners falling over themselves to work with him.

By a sheer stroke of luck, his ‘Polynesian cocktail bar,’ ‘Mahiki’, is to close after less than a year of trade. The Manchester branch of the London venue (a famous celebrity haunt which has even attracted royals), which charges a tenner for entry, £12 a cocktail, hosts parties for celebrities and whose opening night was attended by David Beckham, was promised by Gary to be ‘the opposite of pretentious.’ It was also the opposite of ‘good’, and attracted scathing reviews variously describing the venue as ‘tragic’, the staff as ‘rude’, and the experience the ‘worst night out in Manchester ever.’ Since Gary has already signed a 20-year lease on the building, there is no reason not to see if he can’t squeeze a couple of 3G pitches in there.

MEOWING

In our piece on the forthcoming REF we reported that FASS apparently likes impact from ‘mew’ projects. A small but dedicated number of subscribers asked subtext to explain. Our first thoughts were that this was simply an acronym. Marketisation Educational Work. Multinational Experimental Writing. Multi-agency Economy Waffle.

Research was clearly needed, so we knuckled down and spent almost two minutes on the Googles in search of the answers. In turns out that those folk in FASS are really at the cutting edge in terms of the up-to-the-minute state of the art research trends. Mew projects are the very latest in cross disciplinary developments involving cyberspace research, sociology, spirituality and anthropological work. ‘Mew is … pink, bipedal … with mammalian features. Its snout is short and wide, and it has triangular ears and large, blue eyes. It has short arms with three-fingered paws, large hind legs and feet with oval markings on the soles, and a long, thin tail ending in an ovoid tip. Its fur is so fine and thin, it can only be seen under a microscope. Since Mew can make itself invisible at will, very few people have knowingly seen it, leading some scientists to declare it extinct and most to assume it to be a mirage.’ claim various Pokémon websites.

Or has FASS teamed up with Mew Developments, a chartered building company which has been delivering superior building projects in and around the Lyme Regis area for over 20 years?

Excited by the new ‘disruptive’ turn taken by FASS, we were somewhat deflated to discover that it was merely a typo on their webpage – it should have read ‘new’ projects!

OLD MACDONALD HAD A… HOUSE (OR 68)

Mary Rose’s letter on Bailrigg Garden Village (see below) offers a counter to subtext’s mildly optimistic tone. As Prof Rose reminds us, many Galgate residents are unconvinced that city council planners are taking their concerns about future development – on traffic, air quality and especially flooding – seriously.

The city council planning committee’s recent decision to permit development at Ward Field Farm has particularly annoyed villagers. Ward Field Farm is on your left as you leave Galgate on the A6 northbound and its land abuts the north bank of the River Conder. Given the ongoing serious risk of flooding, one might expect an application to build houses there to receive short shrift. Not so. The landowner now has permission to build up to 68 houses on the site and the tenant farmer faces eviction.

Conveniently for the landowner, Ward Field Farm lies just outside the Bailrigg Garden Village zone – if it lay within the zone then permission would probably have been refused, since the plans for Bailrigg make clear the importance of protecting the ‘buffer’ between Galgate and Lancaster, and not doing anything to increase the flood risk.

But surely, given that every other square inch of land between Lancaster and Galgate comes under the remit of the garden village consultation, it’d be premature, to say the least, to let a developer build on Ward Field Farm before the final shape of the garden village is known? Not so – as the council officers reminded the planning committee, ‘refusal of planning permission on the grounds of prematurity will seldom be justified where a draft Local Plan has yet to be submitted for examination.’ In other words, until we finalise the Local Plan, it remains open season in places like Ward Field Farm. Ho hum.

Hence the vote by 6 (Labour) to 5 (Conservatives and Greens) to approve the development plans. Read all about it at https://committeeadmin.lancaster.gov.uk/mgAi.aspx?ID=39599

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KEEPING IT CLASSY

Presented with such an open goal, how have the Conservatives been behaving? We’re pleased to report that their opposition campaign has so far been robust and dignified, with one of their more colourful councillors berating Lancaster & Fleetwood MP Cat Smith this week in a self-penned press release that subtext was lucky enough to receive directly from the author. Blaming the MP for Labour councillors proposing to build ‘thousands more houses in Galgate’ (‘thousands’ meaning ’68’), the press release lamented her ‘refus[al] to meet with her residents from the CLOUD campaign’, and slammed her as ‘out of touch’ and an ‘absent MP.’

On an entirely unrelated note, subtext would like to send its best wishes to the ‘absent’ Cat Smith, who is heavily pregnant and awaiting the imminent birth of her first child.

MUSICAL UCU CHAIRS

Following our report in subtext 178 on the rather confused goings-on at the Lancaster UCU AGM we can report that things appear to have been sorted. Well, clarified. The bewilderment arose regarding the election of officers on the Lancaster UCU executive. Those attending the AGM were told that the actual posts (i.e. the people who would be taking up these positions) would be dealt with ‘in-house’ by the executive. No dissenting voices regarding this arrangement at the AGM and within a fortnight the executive delivered on its promise.

The reason for all this obfuscation was a falling out behind the scenes. Trade unions have historically been broach churches with diverse memberships and this is reflected in individual branches. Lancaster UCU is not untypical in that regard, and fissures will occasionally ensue.
 
The outcome of all this is that it is all change at the top table of Lancaster UCU. They now have a new President, Vice-President, Treasurer, Secretary, Membership Officer, Equality Officer and Anti-Casualisation Officer. The post of Welfare Officer has also been created. subtext wishes them all well, so that Lancaster continues to be strongly represented in what may be another fractious year in the sector.

SHART ATTACK

FROM: Chas Phockwoddes, Lead Male Member: Child Services, Lune Valley County Council
TO: Hewlett Venklinne, Provost of Press
CC: Mike M. Shart, VC, Lune Valley Enterprise University (LuVE-U)
SUBJECT: Cathy Smithen-Wesson Comments on Floods

Cathy Smithen-Wesson’s utterly ubiquitous response to the floods

Councillor Chas Phockwoddes is today TRIGGERING the absent Lune Valley MP Cathy Smithen-Wesson with FACTS AND LOGIC following her recent comments regarding the November floods.

‘Cathy Smithen-Wesson’s exegeses in last week’s paper were so ubiquitous. She inculpitates the Government for the Lune Valley floods, yet ignores the fact her Labour-run City Council is proposing to build five hundred million houses right on the bank of the River Lune, and has specifically hired builders with one star ratings on Google Reviews and instructed them to ensure maximum subsidence so that decent hard working voters end up in the river while they’re innocently taking a bath, all covered in rubble, like. Even last week yet another bleedin’ application was pushed through by the casting vote of one Labour Councillor. Is he having a laugh or what? It’s absolutely ubiquitous! Why won’t Cathy lay off the epidural drugs for five minutes, get on the dog and bone and tell her old chinas to leave it out? All she’s done is had her barnet done and gone out to take a few dolly mixtures with the locals, whereas I’ve done loads of stuff! I mean do me a favour. It just goes to show doesn’t it?’

ENDS

For any further information, please contact me. I’m available at all hours of the day, every day, to talk about absolutely anything, not just this. I’m happy to be featured in any way I can in anything that you decide to run. Just get in touch. Always happy to help. Can do radio and telly too if that’s more your bag. I look great on the telly. Just let me know.

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FROM: Mike M. Shart, VC, Lune Valley Enterprise University (LuVE-U).
TO: Hewlett Venklinne, Provost of Press.
SUBJECT: FWD:

Hewlett — This press release was, as I understand it, sent to every media outlet in the local area regardless of relevance to the publication or veracity of the facts contained therein. This press release was written by its own subject, demonstrating excessive hubris and conviction bordering on self-delusion, and attacks its organisation’s competition with scant regard for cooperation, respect, and an understanding of the facts of the issue it discusses. On top of that it is dripping with insincerity, relies on cheeky chappie bluster to get ahead, and will likely be lapped up by people susceptible to superficial charm.

Why can’t we do more stuff like that?

Mike.

SUBTEXT – THE POEM: 17/18

Panic in granadaland
better sorry than safe
dragging us into a black and white photograph
their tongues are silver forks. There’s a lack of wisdom, you can hear it on their breath
empowering your opinion with impartial information.

For the avoidance of subtext
a frontier without borders, a subtext without regulatory alignment
complicated actuarial subtext
ambitious managed divergent subtext
the stable genius of a shithole subtext
giving our graduates the tools to make subtexting happen.

Building a subtext that works  or everyon
the future ain’t what it used to be
be realistic and demand the impossible
accelerate… but remember speed kills.

TV REVIEW: JARGON

We think this is a first for subtext: a review of a television programme, namely Jonathan Meades on Jargon (BBC4, 10.30pm, 27 May), which readers can still catch via the BBC iplayer (https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09xzsbp – programme no longer available, link provided for reference). Only those with a certain kind of sensibility are likely to enjoy every last drop of what is, in effect, an illustrated lecture in which Meades praises slang, the language of the common person, and attacks jargon, used by idiots and charlatans. If you are the sort of person who giggles at the use of term ‘offal-rubbing’ for sexual intercourse or laughs out loud at the description of the jargoneer as someone who ‘gives great forelock’, then you will greatly enjoy this.

Meades begins with a splendid and heartening defence of slang. Slang gets to the core of what we actually think rather than what we are bullied into thinking. Slang is wildly creative; so much of the pleasure of it lies in its making. Meades own invented adjective badered means legless, derived from the flying ace Douglas Bader, who lost both his legs while doing aerobatics. Slang is the opposite of jargon, it has a directness which forms a vital antidote to obfuscation. Jargon, on the other hand, is the language of the trained liar, it is everything slang is not: ‘Centrifugal, evasive, drably euphemistic, unthreatening, conformist.’ While slang belongs to the gutter, ‘jargon belongs to the executive estate,’ he says. ‘It is the clumsy, graceless, inelegant, aesthetically bereft expression of houses with three garages … It is delusional, it inflates pomposity, officiousness and self-importance, rather than punctures them.’

His passionate rant demonstrates how jargon has infected everything – including universities of course. And because you cannot separate jargon from its users, there is plenty of scope for wicked personal attacks – the usual suspects come in for some savage onslaughts.

Clearly polemical rather than carefully argued, and a bit lax on terminology, but nevertheless the subtext reviewer drone felt he a good thesis in the first half hour of the programme. It was surprising that he only quoted George Orwell once, at the end of the first half, given that the 1946 essay ‘Politics and the English Language’ basically makes exactly the same point about jargon – and the book 1984 was a chilling illustration of what happens when you take jargon to its logical extreme. In the second half, regional varieties came in for a surprise attack. Meades clearly knows very little about how language works. The very points he was trying to make against regional dialects could equally have been made about what he called ‘slang’ at the beginning (where he was essentially talking about sociolects, i.e. class dialects, though there were some regional aspects to the examples he gave too). Received Pronunciation (RP) was never some golden age lingua franca, as Meades contends – it was an accent (note, not a dialect) spoken as a first-language variety by a small minority consisting of the wealthy elites, and acquired (to a greater or lesser extent) by a certain number of less affluent (but still privileged) who worked in the media and certain other professions. At least one of the examples he gave (the footballer, Denis Law) was very obviously *not* using RP! But his comments on Gaelic were absolutely unforgivable, and incredibly ignorant of the importance of language in the retention of identity and culture.

At this point, your hard-working reviewer drone began to overheat a little. Given the ‘meta’ nature of his arguments, using slang to praise slang, jargon to decry jargon, RP to praise RP, funny accents to make fun of funny accents… can anything he said be taken seriously? Is it all just a big joke at the BBC’s expense, allowing Meades to repeatedly use the tabooest of taboo language on national TV? Should any readers have views on this, slang-filled and jargon-free letters are welcome at the usual address.

LETTERS

Dear subtext,

I am an enormous fan of subtext and have been over a number of years. I have been especially impressed by reports on UA92 and much more. This meant I was surprised to see the report on Bailrigg garden village which seemed to lack your usual depth, questions and challenges. Bailrigg garden village has been in the public domain since January 2017 and the ‘issues and options’ drop ins followed Local Plan drop ins in February 2017 and consultations in October 2017. In other words it has been around for rather a long time.

Am puzzled by the housing numbers that you quote since there is a bid in to the Housing Infrastructure Fund – something in the region of £150m on the basis of there being 3,500 houses. This is to justify some funding for the reconfigured motorway junction, the crossing of the mainline west coast railway to access the site, to develop the bus system etc. Maybe a first question to ask is what are the infrastructure costs associated with this particular site? Given recent history of expenditure overruns on say the Bay Gateway the track record is not encouraging.

This week’s Lancaster Guardian (paper edition) includes a two page special report entitled: ‘There’s a sense that Galgate doesn’t count: seven months on from the major flooding that hit Galgate, residents are becoming increasingly concerned about new building developments that could leave them at even more risk than ever before’:

https://www.lancasterguardian.co.uk/news/galgate-residents-reveal-frustration-desperation-and-depression-after-2017-floods-1-9208157

You seem to be dismissing the community impact of Bailrigg garden village as something that only affects Burrow Heights and the tone is ‘well so what?’ Galgate, Bailrigg village, Burrow Heights and Scotforth are Bailrigg garden village’s neighbours. The November floods affected all those areas and additional building simply adds to concerns. Did you attend the recent open meetings around the Health Innovation Campus? Those meetings highlighted how the local communities felt about drainage from University development flowing into the Ou Beck and the Burrow Beck – residents were anxious and angry. Did you read about the angry flood meetings in December following last year’s floods? Residents were not reassured by Lancaster City Council that Bailrigg garden village would solve all that, far from it.

Another question to ask is what relationship, if any, does the university have to Bailrigg garden village? It isn’t at all clear and with a venture that is causing so much local concern it would be interesting to know. Where will people work who live in Bailrigg garden village? I have long been confused by seeming conflicting employment projections from the Health Innovation Campus.

2,000 jobs are quoted in the publicity – how has that figure been arrived at?

There is also massive worry about air quality in South Lancaster, highlighted in research from LEC. You commented on the very vague ‘plans’ for rapid bus transport and the belief that the reconfigured motorway junction would solve air quality for Galgate. But would it? What will happen to Scotforth and the Pointer roundabout, already hardly quiet, if spiralling costs or planning issues and personal choice mean people still use their cars to take their kids to school, to go to the supermarket, etc.?

I am a retired member of the University and I am a Galgate resident so you could say I am an interested party. You normally provide an excellent set of insights and hope this letter might be helpful.

Best wishes,

Mary Rose

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Dear subtext,

Thought this might be of interest. A group of squatters recently occupied one of Gary Neville’s properties in Manchester in part to protest against the lack of affordable housing in the city and Neville’s role in gentrification. Their collective statement (cited in the below piece) directly takes aim at the UA92 plan and its relationship to the wider marketisation of HE.

https://freedomnews.org.uk/gary-neville-luxury-development-occupied-by-persons-unknown/

Best wishes,

Toby Atkinson

subtext 179 – ‘dragging us into a black and white photograph’

Fortnightly during term time.

Letters, contributions, & comments: subtext-editors@lancaster.ac.uk

Back issues & subscription details: http://wp.lancs.ac.uk/subtext/about/

In this issue: editorial, LUSU, access, calling on gary, lost & found, fascists, tech, canal quarter, garden village, sports science, impact!, more access, no letters.

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EDITORIAL

In the last edition of subtext we focused on the subject of precarity. In this issue we highlight the problem of access for those colleagues and visitors with mobility problems. The rather tired cliché trotted out by senior management is that this is the price we have to pay to stay at the top table and continue to see Lancaster ‘punching above its weight’ is nonsense.

The politics surrounding the sector, the increased marketization, the stifling of debate and the closing down of democratic structures and the ongoing farce that is UA92 are subjects that subtext will return to again and again, but campus accessibility and job security are not areas that should be a cause for concern at this university.

Oh, did we mention how much we like the wild flowers and grasses on the roundabout at the far end of the underpass – very nice.

ANOTHER GLORIOUS VICTORY FOR SUBTEXT

In subtext 178, we helpfully noted that LUSU’s online general meeting was not only completely unconstitutional, but also easy to game, as it was possible for students to vote as many times as they wished. Since our report, we note that LUSU has sent out a ‘special newsletter’ to promote participation, which also clarifies that in the event of multiple votes from a user, only the first vote will be counted.

We are, however, disappointed to note that LUSU is continuing to promote voting in this unconstitutional and illegitimate general meeting, held to approve or disapprove their affiliations for the next academic year. We reiterate that LUSU’s constitution and bye-laws do not allow for General Meetings to be conducted in this way. Eager to help, we have decided to place this piece at the top of our running order, so that LUSU cannot possibly miss it.

PUBLIC RELATIONS

Don’t tell anyone – they will never notice. If you go on the university website and click on ‘campus accessibility’ you are invited to visit DisabledGo for a disability access guide to Lancaster University. It has not been updated for over a year and not surprisingly there is no mention of any development work. All the pictures show unproblematic access to all areas. Obviously the university is not going to show the reality of the situation, all publicity material is by its very nature somewhat economical with the truth, but a simple statement advising people that there may be problems for folk with limited mobility would not go amiss. Anyone with mobility problems who consulted the university webpages before popping over for a visit would be in for a major surprise. subtext has already been told of some folk who did in fact do that very thing and were quite angry about having been given no clue whatsoever what awaited them on arrival. See our extended piece below on the horrors of navigating campus when you have restricted mobility.

SPECIAL REPORT: WHO’S CALLING?

It’s hard to keep up with how Gary Neville is getting on with his university, UA92, what with the lack of information or active verbs on its website. We usually rely on the national press, local election results, and Twitter meltdowns (subtext 177) to keep abreast of what he’s up to. Since his plan to colonise the Turn Moss open green space and turn it into a bunch of football pitches was torpedoed, Gary has retreated, presumably to regroup and thrash out the finer details of running a university. Details like ‘where will the students live?’, ‘who is going to be in charge of the university?’, and ‘where is our university going to be?’ subtext decided to seek answers straight from the horse’s mouth, and called UA92’s general enquiries number.
 
subtext’s sleuth made three phone calls under three different guises to get some fundamental questions answered. Before we start, subtext wishes to make clear that the staff at the other end of the line were at all times helpful, friendly, professional, and working very, very hard with very little material. Here’s what we learned.

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DISABILITIES

Our first ‘caller’ wanted to know about provisions for disabled students. Basic things, like disability support services, SpLD assessments, provision for targeted learning support, that any university worth its salt is going to have. At present, nothing whatsoever is in place to deal with any of these issues. UA92 does ‘aim to be’ an inclusive university that does not discriminate against students based on their abilities (although its obsession with physical fitness using lean, athletic looking types in its marketing might be somewhat alienating to those of us who can’t ‘Feel The Burn’ quite as easily as others), and is ‘sure’ that all of this will be in place by the time applications open. This suggests that the senior management team hasn’t even begun to think about it, and while they do ostensibly have over a year to put it in place before students arrive, UA92’s call handlers surely don’t want to have to be speaking in terms of ‘plans’ and ‘aims’ two months before applications open. Such a vague set of aims and objectives in the place of a robust strategy is also not going to go down well with Trafford’s new local administration, who are seeking to review all of Gary’s plans before giving him the nod to lay the first brick.
 
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PLACEHOLDER
 
Our next caller, seeking to study journalism, wanted to know what sorts of placements Gary had to offer him.

The first issue, not to put too fine a point on it, is that UA92 does not have even close to enough exciting placements to offer to prospective students. At present, they are only able to confidently state that Microsoft and Lancashire Cricket Club (both of whom are partners) will be offering placements. Is somebody with an interest in studying journalism going to be enticed by the opportunity to cut their teeth at Lancashire Cricket Club? No, and our ‘caller’ made that clear. At present, UA92 has no relationship to boast of with any of the innumerable media organisations operating within Manchester, and given that other universities in the area already have direct lines and fruitful relationships with the big swingers in media city, it’s not going to be logistically easy to get busy media organisations like the BBC to take a plethora of students on placements, let alone to ask them to help design the curriculum …

… Yes, UA92’s partners are expected to have a hand in ‘designing the curriculum’, although how anybody can be helping to develop the curriculum either at present or in the future, given that our curriculum was supposedly submitted for approval earlier this year, is anybody’s guess. subtext understands that QAA accepts curricula on a rolling basis, but it would be really helpful if the curriculum was set in stone before September, when UA92 is meant to start accepting applications.

Another logistically challenging (read: ill thought out) promise is that all students will undertake a paid placement. Unlike paid placements at Lancaster, which are taken up during sandwich years, UA92 placements will be woven into the course. It’s not quite up there with a paid year in industry, but it’s not uncommon for a work placement to form part of a module. What is uncommon is for vocational placements woven into a course to be paid. This adds an extra layer of complexity to Gary’s already vexing workload – he not only has to convince a hell of a lot of people to take on his students as part of a course and provide an experience in line with a curriculum and learning outcomes, he’s going to have to convince them to pay students for the privilege.

Each call handler we spoke to was keen to stress that Microsoft and Lancashire Cricket Club are ‘Not The Only’ organisations they have on board, and they are planning to ‘drip through’ numerous big names over the coming months. That sounds like code for ‘they are the only people we have on board right now.’ subtext understands the value of a slow burn marketing campaign, but if a university is three months away from accepting actual UCAS applications from actual people who want to know if they are worth being their top choice, everything should be in the window. Students take their choices very seriously, and while Gary can get away with buzzwords and cliches while he’s hyping without consequence, he’s going to have to have something far more substantial to offer when potential students, income, and business partners are riding on his verbiage.

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INTERNATIONAL FRIENDLIES

In subtext 177, we reported that the Home Office rejected Gary’s application to be able to sponsor of Tier 4 visa students. In subtext 178, we reported that our ‘cunning plan’ was simply to sponsor Tier 4 visa applicants ourselves. The people manning the phones at UA92, meanwhile, have come up with a compromise – apparently, Tier 4 applicants will be ‘co-sponsored’ by both UA92 and Lancaster University. We’re not entirely sure if this is allowed. But anyway. What would our being the sponsor of Tier 4 visa applicants at UA92 mean? Potentially, UA92 would have to become a satellite campus. Does this mean that, by extension, we would also have to bear their NSS and TEF scores which, in any new institution, are likely not to be perfect? The conflict between UA92’s explicitly profit-oriented approach and Lancaster’s Royal Charter constituted status as a public body could also cause us some interesting constitutional and legal crises.

Ultimately, though, the greatest risk is borne by the Trafford taxpayers. UA92 is, as Gary’s original business plan stressed, utterly financially reliant on a strong international student intake. Existing universities all but acknowledge that their wheels would fall off without their investment. If Gary doesn’t deliver on his promises to bring foreign lucre to the local economy, UA92 runs the risk of becoming the academic equivalent of the Mr. Blobby amusement parks of the late 1990s.

We will be extremely surprised if UA92 looks anything like a serious university come September 2018 when it opens for applications, and the responsibility lies with senior managers, who should know better than to coast on slogans and clichés rather than solid strategies.
 
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AND ANOTHER THING

If readers think phoning UA92 is going to leave them none-the-wiser, they should see the website…

In order to understand what makes UA92, which is promoted more like a Jordan Peterson talk than a university, such a ‘game changer’, it might be worth visiting the ‘our philosophy’ section of the website. Since the page is so difficult to find, however, subtext is happy to reproduce its contents:

‘No page has been found.’

LU TEXT LOST AND FOUND

Once again, we bring you Lancaster’s recognition in the national press that somehow didn’t make it into LU Text’s ‘Lancaster in the Media Roundup.’

LU Text has been on the ball, so we’ve not got much to share. We did, however, enjoy the New Statesman’s account of our esteemed Pro-Chancellor Lord Liddle ‘waddling’ over to Peter Mandelson to celebrate Corbyn defeats in the commons over Brexit. https://www.newstatesman.com/politics/uk/2018/05/commons-confidential-peter-mandelson-s-double-trouble