Monthly Archives: May 2018



As predicted in subtext 176, opposition to Gary Neville’s plans to colonise Turn Moss, the Stretford open green area, proved to be crucial in overturning the Conservative majority on Trafford Council, with Labour gaining four seats and the Greens (unexpectedly) gaining two seats. One of Labour’s first announcements after the result was that they would honour their pledge to withdraw Gary’s application to build training pitches for Salford City FC on  Turn Moss. This means that there will be no shared sports facilities for UA92 students to use, despite the fact that they are promised in the prospectus. A bit tricky, that, for a sports university.

Gary took the news in sportsmanlike fashion by going on Twitter and berating concerned residents in a series of angry tweets, declaring that ‘we had been called liars, insulted and harassed on this project’, and that ‘we will be welcome everywhere else we offer the same solution’. In response to an activist who had queried the rigour of the local public opinion surveys (commissioned by one of Gary’s own companies), he tweeted ‘xxx is a Lecturer, and likes to Lecture people!’. Lancaster colleagues currently toiling to make sense of UA92’s ‘Target Talent Curriculum’ take note – Gary doesn’t like it when academics contradict him.

Gary will no doubt find another area for his football pitches – some place where people will be more appreciative of his generosity, unlike those ingrates in Turn Moss. However, what is potentially much more serious for the UA92 project is another Labour pledge concerning the main campus site in central Stretford. Although Labour supports the principle of establishing a university, they will want to ensure that it will be of benefit to all local young people, and accordingly will institute ‘a review of all existing proposals in full, completed alongside extensive consultation with local residents’. At best this will ensure yet further delay, making it highly unlikely that UA92 will be able to open its doors to students in 2019. At worst, it could result in the scuppering of the whole plan, as the academic viability of UA92 will come under much closer scrutiny than it did when the Conservatives ruled Trafford.

And for Gary, the ultimate question might be how much longer his billionaire financial backer Peter Lim will be prepared to bankroll what is increasingly looking like a failed – and expensive – enterprise.



As if that wasn’t bad enough, word has reached subtext of what could be another major setback for UA92. It would appear that its application for a licence as an educational sponsor for Tier 4 visa applicants has been rejected by the Home Office. Currently there are over 1200 educational institutions who hold such a licence, including all the recognised universities. This allows them to sponsor international students to come to the UK under Tier 4 of the Points Based System, and to charge them extortionate fees for the privilege.

Why UA92 may have been turned down (if this is the case) is unclear. Most of the criteria for acceptance relate to the probity and good record of the institutions and individuals applying for a licence. We would have thought the outstanding reputation of Lancaster University in this regard would have pretty much guaranteed a successful application, but we can’t vouch for the *ahem* other partners in the bid. What is most likely is that UA92 has fallen foul of the requirement that ‘the provider has systems, policies and processes in place that enable it to meet its sponsor duties (under the Immigration Rules and/or the sponsor guidance)’. This will probably come as no surprise to Lancaster staff who have been seconded to try to turn Gary’s ‘vision’ into a reality.

There is no appeal against Tier 4 decisions, but institutions can reapply after six months, so long as they can demonstrate that they have put right the deficiencies that caused their application to be turned down. Should a 2nd application be rejected by the Home Office, the opening of UA92 in September 2019 could still go ahead, but without any international students. As it was envisaged that a third of students would come from overseas, lured to Manchester by the footballing fame of Gary and Co., this knocks a rather big hole in the UA92 business plan.

The subtext collective continues to investigate this story, and aims to report on the reasons for our rejection in subtext 178.



In subtext 176 we reported that a Stretford resident recently obtained a lot of useful information from the UA92 stand at a recruitment fair. One such nugget concerned the relationship between ‘University Academy 92’ (Gary’s lot) and ‘Undergraduate Academy 92’, part the rival UCFB operating out of the Etihad Stadium complex down the road. As subtext 174 revealed, UCFB is owned by Brendan Flood of Burnley FC, who set up a football university before Gary thought up UA92. To complicate matters further, the title ‘UA92’ is owned by the same Brendan Flood, who registered it with Companies House shortly after Gary went public with his plans.

Our Stretford sleuth was told that legal action was being taken against Brendan Flood over his use of the UA92 title in UCFB advertising. What makes this particularly intriguing is the fact that Mr. Flood is also a business partner of Gary’s and sits on the board of his Jackson’s Row development company, currently seeking to build Manchester’s tallest ever high-rise block. It should make for a very interesting courtroom confrontation, if it ever gets that far. And let us not forget that Lancaster University would also be a party to this legal action and would be expected to pay its whack towards legal fees. Just as well that university management had the foresight to shave 2% off departmental budgets last year.



In a blow to the Labour Group on Lancaster City Council, Cllr Oscar Thynne, John O’Gaunt ward councillor and current Lancaster student, has relinquished the Labour whip and gone independent.

As you might expect, the announcement of his defection on Facebook hasn’t gone down well with local party members, with the level of abuse and indignation (some of which came from senior figures who should know better) reaching fever pitch. Cllr Thynne’s Facebook page vanished shortly thereafter.

The biggest  objection from local Labour activists was that, as Cllr Thynne had effectively changed his party allegiance without forcing a by-election, he was depriving residents of the opportunity to elect a councillor ‘who represents the party of their choosing.’

Fair enough…

… Although why local Labour members didn’t fulminate in the same way when Cllrs Andrew Kay and Sam Armstrong defected from the Greens to Labour without a by-election is anybody’s guess. Are the residents of Bulk and University & Scotforth Rural wards not entitled to a councillor who represents the party of their choosing or something?



It’s election time on campus! Again.

University & Scotforth Rural ward residents will soon choose two new councillors to serve in place of Cllrs Sam Armstrong and Lucy Atkinson, who are stepping down. Polling day is on Thursday 17 May and the successful candidates will serve for just under a year, before they’re up for re-election again in May 2019 along with all the other councillors. There are eight candidates: two each from the Conservatives, the Greens, Labour and the Liberal Democrats.

subtext is pleased to see plenty of posters on campus – and equally pleased that so far no-one has wrongly tried to Enforce The Poster Code and remove them.

Aside from a vaguely warm feeling about democracy, though, why should those not living in the ward be interested? Well, there are two reasons to look out for the result. Firstly, the turnout. The last time there was a by-election on campus (see subtext 156), the turnout was a whopping 7.12% and the winner was elected with fewer than 100 votes cast, something that usually only happens in areas heavily depopulated due to war.

Secondly, control of the city council hangs on the result. If Labour wins both seats, it’ll have 31 out of 60 seats and retain overall control of our district. But if Labour fails to win either seat, it’ll be reduced to 29 out of 60 seats, and will need the support of other parties or independents every time it wants to get a proposal through the council.

Independents such as Cllr Oscar Thynne, who Labour members have done a sterling job of keeping on side thus far.



We at subtext are just about managing to get the hang of this FaceBooks lark. We have our own page on the site, which you can find at Please ‘like’ and ‘follow’ us on there. No, our fragile egos aren’t buoyed by the number of FaceBook likes we have – it’s just that we occasionally post original content on there, and we don’t want any of you to miss out. So don’t be a square – get with the times like a modern groovy dude, ‘like’ our FaceBooks, and get your matez subscribed by following the instructions on our website,


It was a somewhat subdued Vice-Chancellor who opened Senate with his usual verbal report, and it is fair to say that he had much to be subdued about. There was the small matter of Lancaster’s rather large gender pay gap – one of the highest in the HE sector and not a league position he relished. He did not want to speculate on what might have caused this (though management policies and practices might be a good place to start). He was instead in the process of setting up a Task Force to look into this, with membership and terms of reference were being finalised. But we should not expect immediate results and it was likely to take ‘years of activity’ before the situation was resolved (so don’t hold your breath, laydeez).

He mentioned the recent pensions strikes (the most effective and best-supported that UCU had ever mounted, though of course he didn’t say this). He wanted to express his thanks for how the action was conducted to all involved, to Lancaster UCU, to heads of departments, and to the students. We all behaved magnificently, it would appear. As to the pensions issue itself, employers and union were now united in trying to ‘shift the goal posts’ (he wasn’t saying this the last time Senate met). On the plus side, he was happy to report a major improvement in the student retention rate, something he had previously identified as a major concern for the university. There was also to report a successful bid for an additional 60 medical student places, and a move from 9th to 8th place in The Times Complete University Guide.

There followed a discussion and approval of an Intellectual Property Strategy, content embargoed so we can’t report it. Then came a further look at proposed amendments to Charter and Statutes. As reported in subtext 174, Senate at its last meeting had relinquished its right of veto over Statute changes but had asked Council to look again at its proposals to ensure that Senate was at least consulted before changes were made relating to academic matters and student welfare. With the assistance of Professor Alisdair Gillespie of the Law School, a form of words was found that required Council to ‘give consideration’ to the views of Senate before making future changes. This, suggested Professor Gillespie, was the next best thing in the absence of a veto. The amendments were generally welcomed, though one senator pointed out that Council could still override the wishes of Senate if it was minded to do so. He believed that the result of all these changes gave too much power to Council and, with the abolition of Court, there was now no constitutional restraint on its actions. His, though, was very much a minority view and Senate voted overwhelmingly for the Statute changes.

Then came reports on University KPIs, and on revised arrangements for the conferral of PhDs (see below). Finally, approval was given to the new title of the Department of Entrepreneurship, Strategy and Innovation, and a recommendation for the appointment of two Professors Emeritus (names embargoed, but they know who they are).


In springtime, thoughts turn to matters horticultural, and the Physics Garden appears to be the subject of a rethink.

Recently, the terrace of sunken troughs, which had sat empty for most of spring 2017, was filled with earth and plants in preparation for an open day. Between then and now, the area sat untended, and an interesting range of weeds and wildflowers spread forth to supplement the decorative plants. Sadly, all of the growth was ripped out and replaced with officially approved flowers prior to the next graduation ceremony, and this unorthodox slash and replace version of gardening has been repeated for each open day / graduation until now. Following a recent full excavation back to the original concrete, subtext is delighted to note that some species have now been installed which not only might actually survive the Lancastrian climate, but if used in cooking could even turn basic student grub into something resembling food!


Lancaster is set to make history, this time as the first university to be named in a class action lawsuit over a breach of contract due to industrial action.

The Law Gazette reports that the consumer and human rights firm Leigh Day has notified our Vice-Chancellor of a claim for lost tuition time. The student who instructed the firm has set up a crowdfunding page to fund the case, and has, at the time of writing, raised £490 of its £10,000 target (this has been reduced from the original, more ambitious target of £30,000).

So, are we doomed? Is Lancaster going to be the first domino to fall, sparking off a national frenzy of universities shelling out hundreds of thousands of pounds to outraged consumers *ahem* students? Your correspondent consulted his 1987 A-Level law textbook (and a couple of highly qualified legal professionals) for some answers.



The case is almost certainly unprecedented – class action suits against universities are rare in the UK, with cases tending to be individuals suing for academic failure. In the case of a class action suit, it is nigh on impossible to determine how to recompense the students, since one student will have lost more or less contact time than the other, meaning everyone would be ‘entitled’ to a different amount in ‘compensation.’ On that basis, the case is highly unlikely to succeed, and plaintiffs would stand more of a chance if they sued individually for the amount of contact time that they themselves have lost.

This isn’t to say that a plaintiff would be likely to enjoy any luck whatsoever if they were to bring individual action against the university. Given that each subject, and therefore each student, is different, the university will no doubt have some sort of clause to obfuscate what is promised in terms of classes – as far as we’re aware, there isn’t a separate contract for every degree scheme. Furthermore, a firm would have to demonstrate how a few missed sessions in a three year degree programme is going to make a difference to how ‘educated’ the student is. It’s not as though you can measure how ‘educated’ somebody is at the end of the degree – you might hold up a Physics student with a 3rd class degree as an example of how the missed contact time has held the student back, but you only need one student in the same cohort with a 2:1 to blow that theory out of the water entirely.

In unprecedented cases such as this, courts are highly conscious of what they are unleashing on the public, and whether or not opening floodgates is in the public interest. Since granting credence to this sort of case would likely lead to the bankruptcy of every university in the UK and an appetite to curtail trade union rights, subtext’s legal experts were doubtful of the case standing any sort of chance.



It really wouldn’t be at all difficult for the university to defend itself in court over this. All students have had the opportunity to catch up on missed contact time – they have access to the reading lists that they are required to consume in order to understand key theories and concepts, their fees pay for an entitlement to utilise facilities in which to study and libraries and online archives replete with educational materials, as well as lecture slides and handouts. Since the university has provided plenty of ways for students to work around the industrial action, it could easily be argued that students are to blame for not taking the initiative.

We also have to consider whether or not students are entitled to any kind of financial recompense whatsoever.

Why would any student come out of this lawsuit with a few hundred quid in their pocket, when most have taken out a loan from the taxpayer?

Will universities write off a fraction of the debt that wasn’t going to be paid off in the first place?

Is the hardworking British taxpayer going to enjoy a little more on top of their rebate come the end of the tax year?

Is there a planet where this case isn’t a waste of time orchestrated by some students who think they’re going to get rich quick, and a law firm which when mentioned to our legal expert elicited the response ‘Leigh Day is a bunch of publicity seeking ambulance chasers in my opinion and a lot of lawyers regard them as a disgrace to the legal profession’? This is the same legal firm that recently suspended some of its employees for touting for business after the Grenfell Tower tragedy, and earned significant scorn from the mainstream media and the general public for representing members of a Shia Militia in a murder compensation case against members of the British Armed Forces.

The subtext collective is confident that the case will come to nothing, and that those who have donated to the legal fund have done so wastefully. We wish the university well in dealing with this nonsense, and hope that it doesn’t prove to be too much of a distraction or financial burden.

After all, we’ve football universities to fund!


Given the frequent cessation of construction on campus, with staff and students alike occasionally pausing outside fenced off areas with no workmen in them and thinking ‘why aren’t they DOING anything?!’ readers may not have noticed that construction work taking place around the Management School has been at a complete standstill since December 2017. According to a memo, sent out by Management School Dean Angus Laing, the pause in activity was to allow for ‘an examination of the programme’s objectives and costs.’ We have run this quotation through the subtext jargon translator, which produced the following: ‘turns out the project costs more than quoted and will take longer than estimated.’

Perhaps we oughtn’t to be cynical, but friends of the collective who work in the industry tell us that this sort of vacillating is part of its business model. Contractors woo businesses with a quick turnaround and a low price, pause in the middle of it after ‘realising’ that they need more time and money, and negotiate another pay bonanza. Is Facilities aware of this? We would hope so, although you would think that if they were, they would have the savvy not to distribute initial timescales and costs through internal communications. It isn’t helping Facilities’ reputation for appalling punctuality and financial imprudence.

The building work around the Management School will recommence in January 2019(?!), and the over-under on its completion date is currently late 2020.


Harry S. Truman once famously pleaded for a one-handed economist, tiring of his questions being answered with ‘On the one hand … and on the other’. And so it is with the proposal to have some PhD students share their conferrals with summer graduates, which has split opinion in the subtext warehouse.

The idea is that a number of PhD graduands will be spread across most of the July ceremonies, with around ten attending each event. Allocating them in this way will ensure the message of the university’s research mission and impact on the wider world reaches multiple ceremony audiences. Whether that message would actually be interpreted as intended by the parents in the audience is an interesting question. As in last December’s PhD ceremony, the title of each thesis would be read out. As readers may know, the world of academic research is a far more inclusive, eclectic and unusual place than some parents may assume. We suspect eyebrows would be raised at some of the more interesting PhD titles that would be read out – especially ones from those degenerate disciplines like sociology, criminology and linguistics. There might even be swear words! Current PhD title favourites (not from Lancaster) include ‘Jesus Potter Harry Christ’ and ‘Intimate Relationships With Artificial Partners’. The proposal suggests that listening to some of the work being announced in this way would not be ‘engaging for the guests’. subtext begs to differ. We feel this could generate quite a frisson of wonderment. Is that what they do at University?

subtext understands that, under the current system, PhD students need to submit any corrections by 30th Sept to guarantee a place at the December ceremony. From 2019 onwards, this deadline moves forward to 31st August (with 28th Feb as the deadline to get into the July ceremony). Someone students finishing their corrections in September would be massively disadvantaged by the proposed changes. Previously, they would get their PhD within 3 months, while under the new proposals they would have to wait 10 months! Many PhD students have their vivas in June, July, August or September, and then work solidly on corrections (if needed) by the end of September.

On the other hand(!), under current arrangements, someone submitting in October would have to wait 14 months until their conferral. It would be good to look at some actual figures on completion dates, but alas, no statistics were provided in the proposal. If the figures for completing corrections are uniformly spread across the year, then the proposal has some merit. On the other other hand (CLANG), if there is a late summer spike, then the change might disadvantage more students than it helps. subtext welcomes the views of one-handed or two-handed subscribers on this particular topic.


On April 29, 1975, Operation Frequent Wind saw the evacuation of those Americans who remained is Saigon at the end of the Vietnam War. It was the biggest helicopter lift of its kind in history — an 18-hour operation that carried 1,373 Americans and 5,595 Vietnamese to safety (or to escape the people’s justice, depending on your point of view).

Let’s talk about Roses weekend, and the associated difficulties getting to and from campus.

For those members of staff who use public transport, leaving campus last Friday was a fraught affair. Roses weekend necessitated (for whatever reason) the closure of Bigforth Drive, which meant that number 2 buses would not be running from the underpass. There was no indication as to where the buses WOULD run from (if at all), and no details of when the last bus would be setting off.

What to do? Your intrepid correspondent knew that such an exit would be complicated by the hold-ups on the A6 caused by the roadworks opposite the Health Innovation Campus building site. Should he leave shortly after arriving to avoid being trapped on Campus over the weekend? Or should he risk carrying on shredding confidential documents and deleting incriminating emails until the very last minute and be on that last bus leaving the University?

Instead of Jolly Green Giants, as the choppers out of Saigon were known, Stagecoach’s Big Red Double Deckers were our means of exodus. Travellers weren’t sure that Stagecoach staff would not be deployed, as U.S. Marines had been to smash the fingers of desperate Vietnamese trying to make it over the wall of the Embassy to safety, to restrict University staff trying to make it onto the overcrowded last bus.

When your correspondent managed to board one of the double-deckers, he found himself surrounded by evacuees nervously fingering their bags and frantically texting loved ones. As the bus left the underpass, thousands of people could be seen moving towards the road, as marshals (or marines – it was difficult to tell in the moment) closed in with barriers.

A few days later, news reached the subtext warehouse of further calamity as innocent visitors, having thought they were just ‘getting the number 2 to campus’, found themselves unceremoniously dumped outside Cartmel and told the bus wouldn’t be travelling any further.

subtext would like to hear any accounts from travellers caught in the thick of the operation. For this correspondent it was a close thing – something that could have been avoided by actually publishing the time of departure.


In what has been yet another docile year from the Students’ Union, our interest was piqued by a number of posters on campus which read:




It was a classic bit of union tubthumping, questioning why a university awash with cash to spend on giant screens and fountains, on ‘renegotiated’ contractor fees, and a football university, can’t invest in services for the students who provide more than half of its funding.

We understand that members of County JCR distributed the posters after a frustrating meeting with a senior university figure who disagreed that the current counselling waiting times are unacceptable.

The top table has not heeded the warning of Universities Minister Sam Gyimah, who has pledged to establish regulations protecting free speech on campuses. Some 60-70 of these posters were swiftly removed by officialdom without explanation. Then we remembered that ‘free speech’ is only for people who want to verbally abuse foreigners and transsexuals.

subtext also understands that the Students’ Union swiftly intervened, allegedly advising the campaigners that the issue is not exclusive to the County College and is therefore an unjustifiable use of resources. This is complete horse puckey, of course, but the campaigners are confident that LUSU intervened purely to improve the campaign, widen its appeal, and attract wider attention.

Presumably, then, we can expect the SU to mount a broad, cross-campus campaign against extravagant spending by the university at the expense of student services in the near future? We’ll look forward to that. Probably for quite some time.


subtext has recently learned of a payday loan firm, (no, we don’t know either – piggy banks?), which caters to students and their unique financial calendars. We are sure that all readers of subtext will have an opinion on payday loans and their gargantuan interest rates and late payment fees. In the case of, students can expect an interest rate of 0.8% per day, which is fairly good as far as payday lenders go, in the same way that there exists a tallest hobbit and a friendliest arsonist.

What concerns subtext is the fact that this firm is being advertised in the toilets of the Crafty Scholar, a pub in town. You can just imagine a college football captain on an impromptu night out, hollowing out his overdraft with reckless abandon and being too drunk to care. What do you do when you’ve just ordered a row of shots and twelve pints of lager, your card’s been declined, and there’s a poster on the wall promising you free money within seconds and a crew of thirsty footballers on the pull? Well, quite.

The subtext collective needn’t go into the dangers of payday loans, and hopes that the University and the SU will mount a campaign warning against them. The colleges and university house offer emergency loans with zero interest and flexible repayments. 


Even though the idea of ‘quiet period’ has long been a running-joke, albeit one that students can get a double fine for disrupting, Michaela Masci’s letter (see letters, below) has evoked fond memories of days gone by.

subtext 52 (6/5/09): ‘Despite it being the ‘quiet period’ within college residences, a private wedding reception was booked into Pendle College Bar for Saturday 18th April. Unfortunately, the event deteriorated into a brawl by the end of the evening.’

subtext 105 (16/5/13): ‘… such building work might better have been reserved for, oooh, say, any of the 48 weeks of the year which are not officially designated – by the University – as ‘Quiet Weeks’ for revision…’

subtext 119 (8/5/14): ‘The helpdesk contact details should be particularly useful for those who live in County Main, where once again there is substantial (and noisy) building work taking place in the so-called ‘Quiet Weeks’.’

subtext 134 (28/5/15): ‘… once again Facilities are stressing the urgency of building works continuing, quiet period or no quiet period. Many students will no doubt feel a great deal of resentment at their liability to receive a hefty fine from their Dean for noise, while those pesky lawnmowers and multi-million pound building projects get off scot free.’

Subtext 149 (9/6/16): ‘Last week saw the official opening of the new University Library, an event joyously celebrated by the University’s great and good. [Students were] presumably wondering why a fairly noisy event was taking place in the quietest part of campus during its busiest period. If students party on campus during exam ‘Quiet Period’ they’re treated to a double fine by the deanery. Not that we’d suggest any double standards are at play.’

Same time next year?


FROM: Enoch Benito McAdolf, President, LuVE-U White Christian Preservation Society

TO: Jacob Woolly, President, LuVE-U Student Experience Co-ordination Unit

Dear Jacob,

I would like to thank you for disregarding the absurd notion that I am trying to set up some kind of Nazi society. Advocating for the preservation of a white, Christian Europe is nothing like Nazism because Hitler was an atheist, and I am glad that the officers accepted our reasoning so readily at our last meeting.

As per your request, here is the annual budget for our proposed student society. I trust that your societies committee will have no issues with this.

White cloth and scissors, £87

Wooden stakes, £30

Nails, £60

Hydrogen peroxide solution, £40

1 litre industrial fertiliser x 6, £22.85

10 kilos pig carcasses, £1.46 per kilo

1 kilo vaseline, £10




FROM: Jacob Woolly, President, LuVE-U Student Experience Co-ordination Unit

TO: Enoch Benito McAdolf, President, LuVE-U White Christian Preservation Society

CC: Mike M. Shart, VC, Lune Valley Enterprise University (LuVE-U)

Hi Enoch,

Nothing amiss here as far as I can see mate. Have copied in the VC as the uni’s been wanting to monitor the group for some reason. I would send this back to the societies committee but they keep going on at me.



FROM: Mike M. Shart, VC, Lune Valley Enterprise University (LuVE-U)

TO: Jacob Woolly, President, LuVE-U Student Experience Co-ordination Unit

CC: Hewlett Venkklinne, Head of Positive Institutional Perception Synergy

Hi Jacob. Not had chance to look over what this white christian preservation society entails, but Hewlett tells me that the movement is deeply rooted in British history – something about national socialism? Should keep the unions happy. Go right ahead, sounds good.



Review: Debussy 100

The present year, 2018, is being observed as the centenary of Debussy’s death right across the musical world. Why the fuss about Debussy?

Debussy’s music is unlike that of any previous composer. Indeed, the music critic Paul Griffiths has written that ‘if modern music may be said to have had a definite beginning, then it started with the flute melody, the opening of the Prélude à L’après-midi d’un faune by Claude Debussy.’ This opening phrase, whilst not atonal, is not in any key; furthermore, the rhythm is not in any obvious metre, and the whole feeling is of improvisation and of freedom from the constraints of key and rhythm.

In the Prélude, Debussy conjures up very effectively not just the sultry afternoon heat in a wood, but also the thoughts of the faun in Mallarmé’s poem on which the music is based. He went further than any composer before him, and probably more successfully than later composers, in revealing in music the workings of the subconscious mind.

In the concert in the Great Hall on 22 March, students from the Royal Northern College of Music celebrated the life of Debussy by performing a varied programme of some of his lesser-known works. The concert opened with Danse Sacrée et Danse Profane, written for harp and strings – which was excellently played, particularly by the solo harp. This was followed by the Rhapsodie for alto saxophone, arranged for saxophone and ensemble.

Between these works, a chamber ensemble performed Erik Satie’s Sports et Divertissements, arranged by the composer Dominic Muldowney. This is a set of pieces written to accompany an album of drawings by the illustrator Charles Martin; each of the pieces has a corresponding short poem. At the side of the stage sat a narrator, a Rees-Mogg lookalike in a Norfolk jacket and cap, smoking a pipe. The whole thing was very droll.

The concert closed with arrangements for orchestra of four of Debussy’s Préludes, originally written for solo piano. Some of this was serious stuff – but some was surprisingly funny.

Reverting to L’après-midi d’un faune: there was something of a scandal in 1914 when Nijinsky danced to this music, because his dancing exposed the erotic undercurrent in the piece. Since then, many dancers, most notably Rudolf Nureyev, have done the same. Both before and since, other composers, notably Richard Wagner in his opera Tristan and Isolde, have attempted to portray in music sexual desire and even orgasm, but none of these attempts reaches into the subconscious as Debussy did. His music is unique. If anyone reading this is around in 2062, perhaps they could promote a celebration of the bicentenary of Debussy’s birth.

Contributed by Martin Widden


Dear subtext,

In 2005/6 when I (as HoD) was trying to support an appeal by a female member of admin who had been downgraded by the job review that was supposed to bring equivalence to roles, I looked  through the internal telephone directory at the names of people who occupied similar grade roles that had not been downgraded. They were almost all male names and employed in University House roles. In departments where the pay was lower, the names were mostly female. The justification was that centralised roles undertook tasks that gained more points, mostly because they undertook centralised tasks!!

My observations were insufficient to challenge the gender neutrality of the job/pay review at that time. I’m pleased to see that gender pay differences is now more valued as an indicator of equality and fairness.

Bob Sapey



Dear subtext,

The so-called Gender Pay Gap is, in fact, a Sex Pay Gap and the efforts that the university are suggesting around maternity and childcare are woefully inadequate, the latter mainly consisting of signposting things that are already available (though in the case of preschool childcare, pretty inadequate – it’s impossible, for example, to get additional hours/days at the Preschool Centre if asked to work extra time by one’s department).

The pay gap is in place way before we have children. Women are less mobile due to tending to have professional partners (while men are more likely to have partners in more portable and less professional jobs, since men earn more than their partners across society). Lancaster could make it easier for women to take a job if they have a professional partner, and advertise this. We could make it more flexible to, for example, take a sabbatical or a non-sabbatical career break so partners can move temporarily together. I had a big struggle when I wanted to take two terms’ sabbatical because it was the right time for my husband and me – he’d just been made redundant but apparently ‘we don’t do that in Psychology, we only take a full year’. One male colleague on hearing this said ‘oh I suppose my wife just gave up her job when I went on sabbatical’.

Women have more other caring responsibilities, not just children. My husband and I needed to stay locally for a number of years – at a time when other colleagues were getting promoted by moving jobs – because my husband’s mother was elderly and needed care. Few men help with care of their mother in law because that’s not what they’ve been taught since childhood.

Travel for work is often impossible for women with caring responsibilities – I couldn’t really travel for the first couple of years after we had children and the only reason I can now is because my husband’s work has become more flexible, not my job (he’s gone part time through choice but also his employer has pushed and enabled working from home a lot more. There’s been no change at all in the help Lancaster has given and no substantial change in the availability of childcare). Even a full day travel is impossible for me (London and back in a day for example) if I’m relying on outside childcare. This means not only could I not go to conferences at first but I also couldn’t go to e.g. a government meeting or grant meeting.

Because of Lancaster’s location, talented postgrads who want to stay in the area have to move into a professional services job – there are few commutable academic jobs if you don’t get one in Lancaster. This is more likely to affect women – men just move for work, while women stay put with, as I’ve said, a professional partner, non-childcare responsibilities or children.

Women have always been taught (since birth and, these days, before) that they are supposed to be less assertive. Obviously if you’ve managed to get a job in academia, you must have managed to push yourself forward to some extent. We recently had an excellent small workshop on promotion for women but previously the University has run workshops where at one a female professor just told us ‘it’s easy to be a professor, you just have to publish a lot and get grants’ (I can hear the hollow laughter of men and women echoing round campus!) and at another senior women just said ‘oh I’ve never experienced any discrimination’.

From the moment the doctor says ‘It’s a girl!’ or ‘It’s a boy!’ society treats us differently – our sex determines what gender roles society thinks we should take, following a partner as a trailing spouse, not speaking up to creepy supervisors, not putting ourselves forward for keynotes and promotions, taking on caring responsibilities for older and younger people – and that in turn determines how much we are paid.

Katie Alcock



Dear subtext,

I concur with your evaluation of the Gender Pay Report.

I have received an ex-gratia payment of £1000, but I was told not to tell anyone that I’d received it. Apparently it might upset those who hadn’t got one. It felt cheapening at the time. No celebration there, then.

I sent my son to the Pre-School centre 25 years ago – it hasn’t been useful to me since. Indeed, its convenience has probably been instrumental in keeping people (possibly men as well as women) working at Lancaster longer than they reasonably should. At any rate, this and other childcare services, despite their longevity, do not seem to have had the impact on the career ladder of women in the past that the report bandies for the future.

Regarding the report itself, the graphs show annoying blue blocks (men) suffocating the beige (?) women at all levels of the organisation. Even in print there’s no level playing field.  The SS 1-5 ladies’ block is so small the corresponding number has to fit outside it, faintly out of step.

I’d sign this letter, but as the informal NDA mentioned above is probably still in force, I am, yours truly, Anon.

Name supplied


Dear subtext,

Noise!!! I have quite an interesting and long story to tell, of which I will spare you the details, about men drilling under my window ledge in Bowland North, me contacting Keith Douglas in Facilities as suggested by them, Keith assuring me on the phone that he had asked them to stop and schedule the noisy drilling 8-9 the following days, the men telling me that they could not take orders from him, and so on and so forth…

Drilling that shakes the floor and deafens your ears is great, especially if accompanied by shouting, swearing, bad singing, plus various types of machinery moving around, beeping, etc…

Never mind my work, but what about the students who are trying to do oral examinations, attend seminars, revise, talk to tutors, etc…

I just wonder whether, like last year, there will actually be noise during written examinations just outside the exam rooms…

Thinking of it, I wrote a similar comment in May 2015, and I thought about writing more every year since then…

Michela Masci

Department of Languages and Cultures


Dear subtext,

My own recollection of the Jim Bowen performance, which was in approximately 1997 or 1998 and which I witnessed, is not particularly close to the account given in subtext 176. He performed in the Bowland quadrangle, not the bar, on a stage set up for the extrav that evening, for which he provided an opening act. The JCR President was on the stage with him and was the only one present who appeared to find it amusing, although he admitted afterwards that in fact he had not been listening to Bowen’s act! That consisted almost entirely of racist anti-immigrant ‘jokes’. These might have been suitable for a 1960s white audience or a BNP convention, but were totally wrong in the context of a multi-racial audience of intelligent students, as he should have anticipated. It was a crass and stupid choice of content.

He was not booed off the stage (the Bowland students were much too polite for that), but there was no laughter and much audible muttering and cat-calling. Bowen clearly realised his act was going down very badly and cut the performance rather abruptly short and left the stage hurriedly. One of the audience threw a half glassful of beer at him as Bowen passed by, splashing the leather jacket the ‘comedian’ was wearing. He was very annoyed by this and asked me, as the College Principal in attendance, for the cost of having his jacket cleaned. I refused, telling him that his choice of subject matter was so clearly unsuitable and provocative that he should have expected even more of an adverse response and that he was lucky to get away with only that much damage. This was not well received, but we heard no more from him.

Ian Saunders


Dear subtext,

Regarding the picture on the university home page (see letter in subtext 176) – it must have been taken some time ago, since that area of the spine has been enclosed within steel barriers for what seems a lifetime but is probably about a year.

Olwen Poulter

Research and Enterprise Services