When asked if Gary Neville had ‘shopped around’ other universities before settling on Lancaster as his business partner, the Vice-Chancellor didn’t ‘believe’ this to be the case. It turns out that this actually was the case, and that Gary had had extensive talks with Salford University about a partnership. Indeed, it was a surprise to many observers that Salford University was not the partner of choice. As it turns out, Salford had enjoyed a fruitful relationship with the Class of 92 stretching over several years, culminating in a formal partnership agreement in 2014. Gary stated at the time that the partnership was ‘a central part of our vision and we’re really lucky to be able to make the most of the enthusiasm and skills of some fantastic students and the incredible facilities at the University.’ Professor Amanda Broderick, the Pro Vice-Chancellor and Salford Business School Dean who had brokered the partnership, said that the ‘internship, placement and research opportunities for our students through our exclusive partnership with the Class of 92 are incredible.’
The deal was sealed with the award of an Honorary Doctorate to Gary ‘for his work promoting the importance of sustainability in the sports and property development industries’. Yes, the same Gary Neville whose property development company plans to disfigure the Manchester skyline with the tallest high-rise ever built in the city, and whose Salford City FC development is set on colonising the Turn Moss open green space (see subtext 175), was given an academic award for environmental sustainability.
Over the next 18 months the partnership blossomed. Salford students got to work and develop their skills with a group of high-profile football celebrities, while the Class of 92 got… quite a lot. Nearly 70 pieces of art, ‘hand-picked by Manchester United legend Gary Neville’, were produced by students to adorn the bedrooms and public areas of the newly-opened Hotel Football. Design students helped develop the Class of 92 brand, Fashion students designed their high-end sportswear, and Film students were responsible for filming key scenes for the BBC documentary about Salford City FC, ‘Class of 92: Out of Their League’. It is not known if the students were paid for their efforts. The partnership’s future looked so rosy that Salford began recruiting extra staff to support it, creating two new professorships in Sports Business and Sports Enterprise. Prior to this, Salford University was notorious for wholesale staff-cutting in order to reduce costs. The most recent instance had been just months earlier, when modern language degrees were axed and teaching staff made redundant.
This happy period culminated in a proposal by Gary to create ‘Academy 92’. This envisaged a major local regeneration project based on building a new stadium for Salford City FC and would involve Salford City Council, Salford NHS Trust and Salford University as major stakeholders. Based in teaching facilities at the new stadium, university staff would deliver sports science, sports rehabilitation and physiotherapy education as components of existing Salford degree programmes. The partnership looked all set to go on to even greater things.
And then it all went pear-shaped.
In December 2015, Gary was appointed manager of Valencia FC, owned by his friend and financial backer Peter Lim, and where brother Phil already had a coaching role. Then Professor Amanda Broderick left Salford to take up a new post as CEO of Newcastle University’s London campus. With these two driving forces off the scene, the project lost momentum. One might have thought that another member of the Class of 92 would have taken up the baton. Alas, it appears that nothing much happens with their various enterprises unless Gary is directly involved.
Neville returned the following March after his brief and inglorious reign at Valencia to announce that the Class of 92 would be withdrawing from its Memorandum of Understanding with Salford to develop the new stadium complex. To use a technical footballing term, this was a bit of a sickener for Salford. In vain did they try to win back Gary’s favour but the reality was that his thinking about ‘Academy 92’ had moved on and, as we understand from Salford insiders, he did not believe that Salford as an institution had the necessary academic strength and reputation to further his ambitions. By now he was no longer thinking of his Academy as a mere adjunct to Salford City FC but as being a university in its own right, hence his approach to Lancaster. He may have been guided in his thinking by Professor Amanda Broderick, who continued her association with him long after she left Salford. In January 2016 she became a director of the newly-formed Education 92 Ltd, (75% owned by Gary Neville) which was to become the holding company for UA92. She left in December 2016 and received a fulsome joint tribute acknowledging her key role in the thinking behind UA92 from Gary and our very own Mark E Smith:
‘We would like to thank Amanda for her considerable work in progressing this project to the point of launch. She has played a leading role in the development of the core education innovation which is the foundation upon which UA92 is being built.’
subtext is confident that we have not heard the last of Professor Broderick’s contributions to UA92 and look forward to her again taking an active part in its development. As to her old employer, all they can do is sigh and reflect on what might have been. As they say, a sickener… or maybe a bullet dodged?
TWO DAYS SHALT THOU LABOUR
New light has recently been shed on the UA92 curriculum, thanks to some nifty undercover work at a recent UCAS recruitment fair by an activist from the Save Turn Moss campaign in Stretford. According to a UA92 representative, all teaching is to be packed into the first two and a half days of the week, with Wednesday afternoons given over to sport, and the remaining two days for work placements and for part-time students to get on with their day jobs. Yes, it will be nothing but fun! fun! fun! if you are lucky enough to become a UA92 student and join Gary’z matez.
Unfortunately, there was no information forthcoming on how the 5 compulsory ‘Target Talent Curriculum’ modules would be delivered under this split-week format. These modules make up 40% of the curriculum so a little clarity for prospective students would have been helpful. The UA92 Prospectus doesn’t assist much either. It states that students ‘can expect traditional workshops and lectures, alongside hands-on sessions, internships, placements and volunteering’ but with no information as to how these are to be weighted. The only information given on assessment for the Target Talent Curriculum is that it will be portfolio-based and ‘assessed on your individual development journey’. Imagine trying to get that one past a QAA audit in the old days.
SEND THEM TO COVENTRY
Our Stretford sleuth, who works in a university, raises an interesting point regarding the UA92 split week. If teaching is confined to half a week, and UA92 is to be a teaching-only institution, this implies fractional contracts for teaching staff. No doubt this is an issue that will be of concern to UCU Regional Officer Martyn Moss, currently engaged in discussions with UA92 about trade union recognition. It may be a surprise to readers that this is not already covered by UCU’s current agreement with Lancaster but as UA92 is a separate entity (although 40% owned by Lancaster) there is no obligation to recognise any union. This is the line that has been taken by Coventry University and its wholly-owned subsidiary, CU Coventry. The latter offers ‘no-frills’ degrees at reduced fee levels and pays its staff below the nationally-agreed pay scales and on inferior conditions of service. Its management has refused to recognise UCU or any other union and instead has set up a ‘Staff Consultative Group’ and signed a union recognition agreement with it (see https://www.ucu.org.uk/CovUniShame) An indication of things to come down Stretford way?
TURNROUND FOR TURN MOSS
Kate Green, Labour MP for Stretford and Urmston, has at last come off the fence and given her support to those objecting to Gary Neville’s plans to take over large tracts of green space for his Salford City FC expansion plans. Stretford residents (and some local Labour councillors) have been frustrated by her previous support for the Trafford Masterplan, which has the development surrounding UA92 as its centrepiece. Indeed, after her meeting earlier this year with Lancaster VC Mark E Smith, she declared herself to be ‘reassured’ by what he had said about the quality of the enterprise (see subtext 171).
So why the change of heart? Could it be that, after many years of Tory control, Trafford could be taken by Labour in the forthcoming local elections? Kate Green certainly thinks so, as reported in a recent article in The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/apr/15/labour-sets-its-sights-on-trafford-the-only-tory-borough-in-greater-manchester
It seems that the Save Turn Moss campaign has had a significant impact in the area, including in the more well-heeled, traditionally Tory-voting parts. The current Tory-run Council has done itself no favours with its cack-handed and insensitive responses to the genuine objections of residents concerned about their dwindling stock of public green space. The indignation sparked by the opposition to the money-making plans of a gang of millionaire footballers may just tip the balance come election time on 3 May. The Class of 92 have often been quoted as ‘wanting to give something back’ to the area. Wouldn’t it be ironic if what they gave back to Trafford was its first Labour administration in fourteen years?