Tag Archives: community relations


David Allen, the Court Effectiveness Review Group’s ‘external reviewer’, is visiting campus this week to meet with those who asked to be interviewed by him, as part of his review. Mr Allen is a former Registrar at the University of Exeter and we hope he’ll enjoy his visit. He’ll be putting together a report for the Review Group, who’ll be making final recommendations to the University Council in November. The Court won’t get to discuss the group’s recommendations before they’re presented for approval.

Readers might be wondering:

  • Why is the review happening? The official position is that it simply makes sense, following a Senate review in 2012-13 and a Council review in 2016-17, to review the way the Court works. We know that the Vice-Chancellor thinks the composition of Court is not especially diverse.
  • Hasn’t there already been a Court Effectiveness Review? Yes there was, in 2007-8. That review group was established by the Court and included several members elected by the Court. The current review group was set up by the Council and we’re not sure how its members have been chosen.
  • Why does it need an external reviewer? According to the Director of Governance’s ‘Green Paper’, to provide an external perspective (well, yes) and to undertake the review process.

We’re sure Mr Allen will do his job diligently, but several omens suggest that the future doesn’t look bright for the Court. In January we saw management put on a Court meeting that was deliberately as mediocre and unwelcoming as possible – moving the start time forward, cutting the advertised duration to just one hour, and getting rid of lunch (see subtext 157). In June the Court was unceremoniously stripped of its key role in appointing the Pro-Chancellor (see subtext 165). There was no open call for expressions of interest in serving on the Review Group.

And there was something about the choice of a former Registrar for the University of Exeter to do the review that got us thinking… why Exeter? Well, it’s notable amongst the chartered universities in that, back in 2008, it abolished its Court! The minutes of Exeter’s University Council meeting in April 2008 record that Council resolved to ‘thank Court for its work over the years and to stand it down from the end of the current academic year’. ‘Stand it down’ – now there’s a euphemism. Who was the Registrar in attendance at that meeting? Lo and behold, one David J Allen.

Court members thinking of booking train tickets in advance for January 2018’s Court meeting should be careful – they will probably find that there’s nothing left for them to attend.

The deadline for Court members to respond to the Consultation on the Future of Court is Friday 13 October – so if you’re a member and have not yet responded, there’s still time.


Even though the University Court is the single largest meeting of the University, readers may still be confused as to why subtext would make such a big deal over the closure of what is often seen as just a ceremonial gathering. In the simplest terms, the Court is not just an assembly of members of the Senate, Council, and officers of the Students’ Union. It also has places for alumni, MPs, the clergy, the dignitaries, the scientific bodies, etc. A lot of its attendees are lay-members, and since we’re a university that (when it suits a particular scheme) values an ‘outside perspective’, it would seem obvious that the Court would be an ideal forum to, er, ‘court’ the opinions of those who aren’t involved in our day to day operations. It has also traditionally served as an opportunity for disinterested bodies, unfettered by concerns over promotion and how much favour they are currying, to give both barrels to the more fanciful / destructive notions of senior management, as well as an opportunity to engage with alumni who like to make a day of coming ‘home’ to Lancaster. To do away with such a body, which is already lacking in teeth, seems an inordinately petty and isolationist move.