Tag Archives: Chris Heaton-Harris


A few readers may still have distant glimmers of a memory of Chris Heaton-Harris, the Conservative MP who tried to force universities to reveal which nasty academics were poisoning the minds of young and impressionable students with the idea that Brexit might not all be jam and prosecco (see subtext 167). While we are still waiting for an answer from our own VC as to what exactly he told Heaton-Harris, the New European reports that Worcester VC David Green was more or less vindicated in his decision to tell Heaton-Harris where to go. A ruling by the information commissioner on a different Freedom of Information request which sought to see all his emails containing the word ‘Brexit’ was firmly in favour of the University’s right to keep its correspondence private in this case.

This may lead to some mixed feelings among advocates of transparency who are also worried about Brexit alongside the UK Government’s increasing surveillance of and interference in university activities (for instance, the draconian new monitoring rules for PhD students on Tier 4 visas). Knowledge wants to be free… but also free from too much interference by governments!


An Open Letter to readers of subtext

The announcement at the annual meeting in January 2017 of a review of the effectiveness of the Court – a body often likened to the annual shareholder meeting in a private company – seemed at the time relatively inconsequential. Six months elapsed before a circular was sent to Court members listing the make-up of the new Court effectiveness committee, with a questionnaire on the perceived role and importance etc of the Court and information that there would be an external assessor. Like others I took a good deal of time and trouble over completion of the questionnaire and I also requested a meeting with the assessor. Meanwhile, rumours were circulating that the University had already decided in effect to abolish the Court.

I felt my meeting with the external assessor went well and like others I have been waiting for feedback from the review committee. Now just two months before the anticipated date for the 2018 Court meeting, we read in subtext about discussions in the University Senate. Evidently the review process is well under way although there have been no public reports as to progress. However, it increasingly seems that for once the rumour mill may be accurate.

The view has been expressed that the Court’s membership may not be sufficiently diverse. It is perhaps worth exploring the whole of the University’s institutional structure in terms of its diversity. I cannot comment directly on the membership of the Senate but I was a member of the Council for a good many years until 2011, by which time that body was certainly not significantly characterized by diversity in its own membership. Indeed, when the Court lost its traditional power to elect some Council members, it seemed inevitable that the latter body would be less diverse. Overall, the University’s governance structure has certainly become increasingly removed from any direct and structured involvement with the outside world. In this context, accountability is perhaps even more important than diversity. The University is certainly in no way accountable in a structured sense to the collective judgement of those who work within it.

Abolition of the Court as a formal body would remove the last vestige of any kind of structured accountability to any locally based institutions. In this sense, abolition would complete what from many perspectives has been an ongoing process. Henceforth, accountability would only be to market forces and national government. Is this a rational choice?

I would like to end by asking what attention is paid by Lancaster University to the wider world which in a real sense determines the parameters within which it operates. The implications of Brexit for the UK’s University sector cannot be other than deeply damaging. If indeed there is a much-needed review of the student loan system, then this too could have significant adverse repercussions for university budgets. In this uncertain world, is it really the moment to send a message to local and regional stakeholders, alumni and others, that the University no longer requires their formal structural involvement? At the very least, is there not an overwhelming case for the regular annual meeting of the existing Court to take place in January 2018 and for its agenda to give priority to debating and determining these issues?

Stanley Henig

A founding member of the University’s Department of Politics 1964-6; elected Member of University Council 2001-11; and elected Deputy Pro-Chancellor 2006-11, in which capacity I chaired the previous Court Review.


Dear subtext,

In response to Cheryl Simmill-Binning’s query (letters, subtext 169): weather forecasters never sit down because of where they have to talk out of.

Keep up the good work!

John Foster


Dear subtext,

I always ‘enjoy’ reading up on developments at Lancaster Uni! And would love to continue my subscription!

It is not just a way of staying in touch with a university’s politics at which still several of key colleagues of mine work, but also subtext is a source for envisaging what may come to to other universities on earth,
in countries that lag behind in neoliberalising higher education.


Ingmar Lippert (IEPPP/CSEC student 2005-7, now IT University of Copenhagen)


Dear subtext,

An update on the university’s response to Heaton-Harris’ letter – the university have told me (after much prompting), via twitter, that they have sent him a copy of the prospectus. There was no mention of the previous response of ‘treating as an F.O.I request’


Sarah Beresford


Dear subtext,

College Council minutes appeared in my inbox last week, and one of the items reported was that ‘the churches’ are withdrawing the funding for the two full-time Anglican and Methodist chaplains, with the possibility that the two posts will be lost during the coming year.

Given that this is a service provided to the University in addition to its own provision for student and staff wellbeing, I wondered if the subtext collective can shed any further light on this situation?

Keep up the good work!

Many thanks,

James Mawdesley



In the Management School Hub. A young man obviously very thrilled to have been offered a job at Lancaster University. ‘I am so pleased, fantastic, and they told me I don’t have to wear a suit every day to work but under no circumstances must I ever wear jeans to work’. Obviously not a teaching post then.



In subtext 167, we reported on the ill-advised letter from Chris Heaton-Harris MP, sent to large numbers of Vice-Chancellors asking for all educational materials relating to Brexit, and the academics involved in its teaching. We were unsure at the time whether our own Vice-Chancellor had received Mr. Heaton-Harris’s pleasant little missive, and if so, what the response had been. Since then, SCAN has reported (http://tinyurl.com/y74h6dbd) that the VC did receive the request from Mr. Heaton-Harris, that it was considered under FOI procedures, and that the ruling followed the precedent set by Arkell v. Pressdram. It was to be expected, but pleasant to learn all the same.



As one of subtext’s drones was returning from a trip to the balmy South [they get holidays now?? -ed], imagine its surprise when it saw, as it was cruising up the A6 and passing the field immediately north of the current Lancaster University campus, the label ‘Lancaster Science Park’ emblazoned over a large grey rectangle to the right of the road on its sat nav screen. There may be no buildings, paths, lights, or any activity whatsoever on the field between Bailrigg Village and campus as yet, but at least someone is preparing for Lancaster’s bold northward expansion!



Here in the warehouse we are always pleasantly surprised when we learn how widespread and diverse our readership is. Following our story on the overcrowded bus (subtext 168) it cannot be a coincidence that your correspondent witnessed a Stagecoach driver, in the underpass, stood outside of his bus counting the passengers on so not to exceed the legal numbers of standing passengers. The power of the press!



Following our trip down memory lane (see subtext 168) a number of readers have expressed interest in knowing a little more about the Lancaster Social Education Project during the miners strike (1984/85). subtext would like to hear from readers who involved with the project or indeed the children and grandchildren of people who were active during that time and know of any ‘tales from the campsite’.


Regular readers of one of subtext’s minor competitors, The Guardian, may have come across an article early on Tuesday morning about a letter sent by Tory whip Chris Heaton-Harris to University Vice-Chancellors demanding to know who was teaching students about Brexit, and what the content of their courses was as well as links to online lectures (http://tinyurl.com/yd7e5xqe). It is true that subtext’s coverage of VCs does not always consist of glowing praise, given pay differentials, inaction on pension theft, vanity building projects, and a litany of other charges. But it seems that at least one VC, Worcester top dog David Green, comes off as something of a hero in this tale, by more or less intimating that he intended to tell the MP to chuff off. Whether our VC had a similar response in mind has yet to be established – D floor has not yet responded to subtext’s request for a comment – though according to the Guardian (the local paper, that is, not the national one – keep up!) it was being treated under the University’s Freedom of Information procedures. This, of course, could amount to the same thing.

Meanwhile, back to Heaton-Harris’s shenanigans, around Tuesday lunchtime, by a report that Downing Street had issued a statement saying Heaton-Harris had been acting not as a Government whip, but in a personal capacity as an MP (http://tinyurl.com/ycdgf4vk). That man must have some interesting conversations with himself. In future, he might take the time to have a good chat with himself about who actually teaches at university, as his letter asked for details of ‘professors’ teaching in the area – presumably unaware of the fact that in the UK, professors mostly do what they can to avoid teaching, which is largely carried out by more junior staff. Or perhaps he thinks anyone who is not a professor can’t be taken seriously? Given the leave campaigners’ attitudes towards ‘experts’, we rather doubt the latter could be the case. Heaton-Harris has been the recipient of failed Tory leadership candidate Andrea Leadsom’s full support, so it can only be a matter of time before he is sacked.

A number of other newspapers have jumped on Heaton-Harris-bashing bandwagon since Tuesday, while some of their… less salubrious fellow publications have jumped to his defence, with hand-wringing articles mentioning ‘remainer universities’ and ‘fears students are being brainwashed by remain-supporting lecturers’. You’d almost think universities had some vested interest in EU membership, such as depending on millions pounds of EU project funding, partnerships with other European universities for inbound and outgoing exchange programmes, and being able to recruit thousands of highly qualified staff from other EU countries.


FROM: Chris Heaton Harris, MP for Daventry.
TO: Mike M. Shart, VC, Lune Valley Enterprise University (LuVE-U)

Dear Professor Shart,

I was wondering if you would be so kind as to supply me with the names of professors at your establishment who are involved in the teaching of European affairs, with particular reference to Brexit.

Furthermore, if I could be provided with a copy of the syllabus and links to the online lectures which relate to this area I would be much obliged.

I sincerely hope you are able to provide me with such and I look forward to hearing from you in due course.

Yours sincerely,
Chris Heaton-Harris MP


FROM: Mike M. Shart, VC, Lune Valley Enterprise University (LuVE-U)
TO: Chris Heaton Harris, MP for Daventry
CC: Hewlett Venkkline, Executive Controller: Populace Perception Precision

Dear Chris,

Many thanks for your interest in Lune Valley Enterprise University. I must confess to being a little unaware of individuals within the Government, but I am informed by our Executive Controller of Public Misperception Interception, Hewlett Venkklinne, that you have recently attained some prominence within the media, with ‘Lord Patten’ and the Chief Exec of UUK both having commented on your recent campaigning activity.

I feel that you are an ideal candidate for an Honorary Fellowship of LuVE-U – Hewlett tells me that the nature of your work would make you particularly useful in our ambitions to form partnerships with institutions in mainland China.

I have to say that I am a robust defender of academic freedom, and at Lune Valley our professors are free to think what they want, so long as they do it in their own time and not when they are being paid by the University. Therefore, I will of course furnish you with the details of our many, many professors and their views on Brexit. In the meantime, Hewlett has asked me to stress to you that he definitely voted ‘Leave.’