TRAFFORD ELECTION TREAT
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.
TIERS 4 FEARS
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.