Tag Archives: Freedom of Information

GAME OF THRONES

A lighter note now. Your subtext correspondent was astonished to find a toilet seat in their building split in two, and even more so to find that a colleague in ISS had seen the same thing. Over decades of toilet use, neither had ever seen such a thing before. They wondered just what the scale of the problem might be, so did the only natural thing: issued an FoI request to the University asking how many toilet seats they had got through over the last few years.
In 2016, the University purchased 337 seats. In 2017, 271. In 2018, 163. University residents and visitors do appear to be getting less destructive in their sitting, but 163 is still almost one every two days.

Just who are the granite-bottomed monsters responsible for this overlooked slaughter?

SPAWT!

MARKET RESEARCH? WHO NEEDS IT!

In subtext 171 we reported an attempt by a Stretford resident to obtain more information on UA92 via a Freedom of Information request to the University. Despite being given the old ‘commercial in confidence’ brush off, the resident persisted, with follow-up questions seeking more detail relating to the University’s first response. The information revealed in that reply is intriguing. The resident wanted to know what market research had been conducted which convinced the University that UA92 was a viable proposition. It turns out the answer was… not very much.

Lancaster regularly carries out research into the national student market and it was information from this, rather than anything specifically relating to UA92 and Stretford, that informed its decision to go ahead. Despite the claims made by Gary Neville and his pals that local young people would benefit from UA92, it turns out that they will not be targeted any more than those in the UK as a whole. The only differentiation in projected numbers is between ‘domestic’ and ‘international’. Then there is the matter of student retention, already a cause for concern for the Bailrigg campus. According to the publicity, potential UA92 students will be ‘non-traditional’ in that they are less likely to aspire to a university education and will not have the qualifications to enter ‘traditional’ HE. These are precisely the type of students likely to drop out, yet Lancaster’s projections for UA92, according to the FOI response, are based on ‘average non-continuation rates informed by HEFCE’s data’. In other words, the University is assuming that the UA92 drop-out rate will be in line with that of the sector as a whole.

The Stretford resident also wanted to know what information had been gathered on students’ likely disposable income, on car ownership, on public transport usage, on local domicile – all those factors that would justify Trafford Council’s contention that UA92 would be a key driver for local regeneration. The University’s response was that no research had been conducted in any of these areas. So, what justifies Trafford Council’s optimism? Have they conducted their own research, or have they, like Lancaster, been swayed by the charm and celebrity of Gary and the boys? No doubt these and other UA92 questions will be on the minds of voters in the May local elections, where ‘Tory flagship council’ Trafford could be lost to Labour. Should that happen, we’ll be into a whole new ball game,as they say.

(With thanks to the excellent ‘M32 Stretford Masterplan and UA92’ discussion group on Facebook for this information)

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UA-LCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

In what we think was its first mention of the Gary Neville University since the story broke a year ago, SCAN ran a head to head, ‘for / against’ opinion piece on the subject. subtext readers may be surprised to see that the author of the ‘against’ piece was a member of staff, not least a member of staff who was happy to be named (‘big shoutout’ to Dr Jacob Phelps, FST). More surprising, however, was that the ‘for’ piece came from an anonymous source. Not only was SCAN unable to find someone willing to put their name to a defense of the Gary Neville University, SCAN was unable to find a member of staff to write one! The author refers to themself as ‘a student’. Is UA92 so embarrassing that even students won’t put their name to opinion pieces defending it, or did SCAN get so close to the deadline without someone willing to support it that they hastily ghostwrote any old bobbins?

Whoever wrote the piece claimed that the ‘naysayers have given no clear, coherent argument against UA92…’

Clearly they haven’t been reading subtext for the past year!

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LU TEXT LOST AND FOUND

The public pressure against the Class of ‘92 continues to mount, and it continues to make the national press. This time, campaigners are unhappy with the idea of Gary Neville & co taking over Turn Moss, which is green belt land and a habitat of local wildlife. By our count, the Class of ‘92 has had to withdraw and rejig every bit of planning permission they’ve applied for, and their property development efforts are become increasingly unwelcome and irritating to residents, as reported in a number of national media organs:

https://www.mirror.co.uk/sport/football/news/gary-neville-class-92s-plans-12027042

https://www.theguardian.com/football/2018/feb/14/manchester-residents-gary-neville-redevelopment-plans

MISCELLANY

OVERHEARD AT LANCASTER

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.

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THE THIRD RED SCARE

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.

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VIRTUALLY FINISHED

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!

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ANOTHER GLORIOUS VICTORY FOR SUBTEXT

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!

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LSESP

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’.

THE THIRD RED SCARE

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.