Tag Archives: Issue 166

subtext 166 – ‘building a subtext that works  or everyon ‘

Fortnightly during term time.

Letters, contributions, & comments: subtext-editors@lancaster.ac.uk

In this issue: editorial, technology, special report: gary neville, iLancaster, centralisation, buildings 1, court in a trap, court again, the times, nazis, buses, printers, swoosh, inkytext, inkytext 2, buildings 2, buildings 3, John Hadfield, shart attack, theatre review, letters.



The drones are oiled, the shelves are dusted, and the caretaker has been rendered conscious long enough to re-open the subtext warehouse just in time for the 17/18 academic year. And not a moment too soon, for the summer has lived up to its reputation as a time for either burying bad news or pushing it down the hill to snowball until it’s too late to make sense of. Sometimes, the subtext collective wonders if it should be active during the more conspiratorial months. Other times, the valedictory Vanilla Skies and the preparatory Pinot Grigios that buffer either end of the summer vacation are much too distracting.

Readers will remember that we opened the 16/17 academic year by allusively referring to the Gary Neville University. Only seven months after its existence was unceremoniously broken by the Manchester Evening News, the University last month finally acknowledged its impending birth(https://tinyurl.com/y77ekv5r). There are only so many times that subtext can harp on about what a Bad Idea this is going to be before we end up looking like a doomsday preacher, but… this is a very, very Bad Idea.

Below you will find our most detailed report on the matter yet, written now that the collaboration is no longer ‘commercial in confidence.’ Stepping back from our detail driven sleuthing, though, we can ask a broader question; ‘Why?’

Why are we taking a 40% financial stake and a 100% reputational share of what is essentially a new university set up with a group of retired footballers? If it were some private educational firm like Study Group International, subtext would at least be able to understand why top table would be enticed. But we are going into business with a collection of individuals who emphatically are NOT experts in higher education. THEY can cut their losses and walk away if it all goes wrong, whereas Lancaster University would suffer years of reputational damage. The fact that tuition fees are due to be frozen for an unspecified period will leave the University with a hole in its budget over the coming years, but with no reduction in how much it has to contribute to the Gary Neville University. A series of funding cuts (see subtext 165) were already ordered at the end of the last academic year – looking down the line, how much harder are we going to be squeezed to fund this absurd project?


Over the summer, the subtext collective conducted a vast market research exercise. By which we mean, some members of the collective complained about our fustiness – courier fonts, email newsletters, asterisks, indeed! While we have yet to come to an agreement over how best to meet the Fast-Paced demands of the 20th Century [shouldn’t that be 21st?? – Ed], we have at least made some concessions to modern models of Content Provision. So on that note, please enjoy our new Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/LUsubtext/ We’re still trying to figure out how best to utilise the thing, but while we do, feel free to ‘share’ and ‘like’ it (if those are the correct terms) if you’re that way inclined.



The announcement that the Football University is to go ahead means that the issue can finally be discussed openly. The new institution will be a separate entity and not a part of Lancaster University in any way. It will be controlled by two companies – UA92 Ltd (the holding company) and UA92 Manchester Ltd (operations) – in which Lancaster will have a substantial stake. How substantial a stake is still unknown, though the sum of £4M for a 40% share was suggested at an early stage in the discussions.

The ‘Managing Director’ of both companies has been named as Brendan Flood, a Manchester lettings magnate and a director of Burnley football club. The choice of Mr. Flood appears to be an odd one. He is founder and a director of UCFB, an education company with campuses at Wembley, Burnley FC and, recently, at Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium, offering degree courses in sports-related media, marketing, finance, psychology, coaching and event-management. Very like, in fact, the proposed curriculum for UA92, and aimed at the same student market. It’s as if Pep Guardiola was to pop up in the dugout alongside José Mourinho at the next game at Old Trafford. Is an early merger with UA92 on the cards?



It is uncertain how much the Singapore-based billionaire Peter Lim – the main financial backer of the Class of 92 – will be involved in UA92. His name certainly figured in the early negotiations with Lancaster. However, there are signs his business relationship with Neville & Co may have come under strain. Earlier this year Lim’s Singapore company Rowsley had to issue a profits warning to investors, partly due to the poor performance of the Class of 92 businesses in Manchester, 75% of which is owned by Peter Lim. This was followed by Ryan Giggs’ and Gary Neville’s failed central Manchester development scheme (see subtext 158), a setback for Lim’s Manchester property development ambitions. Intriguingly, the same Brendan Flood is also a partner in Giggs’ and Neville’s Jacksons Row Development Partnership. It’s a small world, is Manchester property development.



For Lancaster staff, the immediate impact of the venture will be on those working in IT support, HR, marketing, compliance and quality assurance. subtext understands that individuals from these areas will be seconded to begin the daunting task of setting up a new university from scratch. What is not known is whether this will be voluntary or be deemed to be part of the individual’s employment contract. There is also the question of the impact of withdrawing experienced staff from areas that are already under-resourced and where work stress is worryingly high. Will there be like-for-like replacement of the seconded? Past practice in the University would suggest not. No doubt the campus unions will have prepared a long list of searching questions to present to management.

While academic colleagues may have thought they could get away with having nothing to do with UA92, it seems the academic leadership of FASS has been playing Simon swaps. Simon Guy, erstwhile FASS Dean, has been seconded as Academic Director of UA92, while Simon Bainbridge, previously Deputy Dean, is now Acting Dean of FASS for the next year.



One of the arguments used in favour of Lancaster’s involvement in the Football University was that the Manchester United connection would enhance the attraction of the University to potential international students, particularly in the Far East. Admittedly, the potential is somewhat lessened now that David Beckham is no longer involved in the Class of 92 but it was still an opportunity too good to miss (so it was said).

Unfortunately, cashing in on footballing fame may not be as straightforward as it sounds. Celebrity endorsement is big business these days, and it doesn’t come cheap, thanks to the ruthless marketing of companies who own the ‘image rights’ of the celebs. In the case of the Class of 92, endorsement is handled by an outfit called Mint Media, which also owns the image rights of Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo (now that would be an endorsement worth getting!). And who owns Hong Kong-based Mint Media? Why none other than Mr. Peter Lim, financial backer of the Class of 92 (see above). We can but hope that when the University seeks to use Paul Scholes’ sunny features to promote the benefits of a Lancaster MBA, Mr. Lim will be amenable to providing us with mates’ rates for the job.


First week of term and the iLancaster monitoring and surveillance machine kicks into gear. Well, no.

Cue lots of students randomly pointing their phones at any and all boxes in the corner of the seminar rooms. And lecturers hastily scrambling around for bits of paper and a pen to compile a register. Brave new world indeed.


More creeping centralisation afoot. The subtext collective understands that the Dean of FASS Simon Guy, after extensive consultation (with the Vice Chancellor), has decided to consider an external search for Heads of several departments. Professor Guy has plans to draw up terms of reference to enable a search this term. The natives are not happy about what they consider yet further denuding of their departmental autonomy. Apparently, the Dean sees this simply as a way of dealing with a lack of willing and/or quality candidates for the posts. The Vice Chancellor expressed a preference that, ideally, the position would be filled by a Professor, since it is more reasonable to ask someone who has reached this more senior stage of their career than other colleagues. Subsequently, subtext has learnt that a flowchart appeared (conveniently) in August detailing the direction of travel of any future HoD appointments. This shows that the VC will have a direct part in all such appointments. The circulation of this document was apparently very restricted – on a need to know basis. There is maybe an argument that sensitive financial arrangements need to be handled in a cloak and dagger fashion, but the process of selecting your next line manager should not be so restricted.

This is surely an area that should be transparent. If nothing else, it is a slap in the face to the numerous non-professorial staff who have carried out the thankless role of HoD to a very good standard over the years.


The University continues to resemble a building site, as rumours continue to circulate about a completion date – the latest word to reach the subtext warehouse is sometime in September 2018. Over the summer it felt like scaffolding was covering most surfaces, which not only messed with Lancaster’s ‘Italian village on a hill’ vibe (yeah right!) but also made it exceedingly difficult for wheelchair users to get around. And of course nobody tells you what the purpose of the scaffolding is and you have no idea what is going to happen until the scaffolders  have gone and the work people arrive with their various (very noisy) pieces of kit. The east side of Bowland North just before term started was completely covered by scaffolding, which was then enclosed by vast sheets of white polythene then heat treated with some form of blow-lamp. This of course cut all light from the offices so folk had to turn their lights on during the day to get any work done, with no word as to why. A few days later all was revealed – the work people were sand-blasting the building. Cue various corridors filling up with fine dust particles and folk spluttering and wondering what the hell was going on. The cause turned out to be a colleague leaving a window open (no reason why s/he shouldn’t), and the disabled toilet on that floor having a window that could not close. The result: a disabled toilet covered in a fine layer of stone dust unable to be used until the cleaners arrived the following day.

Following complaints from staff, an email arrived from the Managing Building Surveyor pledging to wet down the external wall prior to commencing further grinding out works, as well as to check that all windows were closed. And finally, a request that people who have offices could refrain from opening their windows for the day. NOW you tell us…


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.


Pretty much everyone at the University of Lancaster was delighted to hear the glorious news – The Times and Sunday Times have named us ‘University of the Year.’ We at subtext aren’t entirely sure what that means – their very own university guide places the University of Cambridge at the top of the league, and shonky though they are, their measurables actually provide a reason why Cambridge deserves to be there. And presumably, the university that sits atop a publication’s league table should, by extension, be regarded as ‘University of the Year’ by said publication.

But we’re just being nasty and cynical. However The Times arrived at this conclusion, the subtext collective can do little but agree that Lancaster truly is a great place to work and study. And if this accolade attracts more staff and more students, all the better. If nothing else, at least it’s stopped us going on about the TEF result!   


Some disturbing news over the summer is the reporting of a number of incidents of material on doors being defaced by the image of a swastika. In addition to alarming people in the offices concerned it is also unacceptable behaviour that can be categorised as gross misconduct. For staff this includes ‘deliberate or malicious damage to University, staff, customer or visitor property’ and for students and staff in the University rules it includes ‘the general harassment or intimidation of another member of the university’ understood to include: ‘any act or expression or series or combination of such, or incitement to commit such acts, against a person, that creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment that prevents or significantly impairs that person’s (or group’s) full enjoyment of living, learning, or working at Lancaster University; and that is insistent and/or persistent and/or repetitive. Examples include: derogatory name calling, insults, humiliating graffiti, verbal abuse or ridicule of, an individual’.

It is somewhat worrying that the University appears to have chosen not to openly address this.


What has happened to the price of the staff bus pass? In 2016/17, it cost £76 per year. It was increased in 2017/18 to £99 per year (grades 1 to 6)  and £112 per year (grades 7 and up). That is a 30% increase for grades 6 and below, and a 47% increase for grades 7 and up.

subtext assumes this is the result of Chancellor Philip Hammond’s announcement last year that he would tighten rules allowing workers to forgo part of their salary in return for certain work benefits. As a result of having a lower salary, employees were paying less income tax and making lower National Insurance contributions. Likewise, employers saved on National Insurance as this was linked to salary. Salary sacrifices could also be used to preserve the £11,500 personal allowance.

Nationally the most popular benefits claimed by staff through such arrangements are pension contributions, meeting childcare costs, bicycle schemes, and medical insurance. In recent years, benefits have expanded to include company cars, health screening, gym membership and even mobile phones, TVs and white goods.

It would be remiss of those of us on higher grades to complain about a relatively marginal increase, and a bigger injustice is revealed when we look at the position of staff on monthly/termly contracts. Stagecoach does not offer the university a monthly option. For someone on a short term contract, the alternative is the one-term unirider that the Students’ Union sells, which costs £99.99. Having your contract extended by a further term does not entitle you to a staff bus pass, so off you go back to the SU to spend another hundred quid. If your contract is then extended for a third term, you are still not entitled to a staff bus pass, so off you go again to the SU to spend another hundred quid. This all assumes that you will not be travelling to work during the Xmas and Easter breaks!

In the extremely unlikely event that your contract is extended over the summer recess for which there is no one-term unirider available, you would have to purchase a Bay megarider Xtra pass at a cost of £56.99 per month for three months totalling £170.97. A total cost of £470.94.

That is £100.95 more than if you had bought a yearly pass directly from Stagecoach! Which you can’t!


Do you have a printer in your office or shared area? Well you won’t for much longer!

Following the outcome of the ‘print transformation project’, all standalone inkjet and laser printers are due to be removed from offices and disposed of ‘in an environmentally friendly manner’. In their place, we’re being told to use the printing and scanning facilities on our departmental photocopiers. This is supposed to ensure a ‘consistent high quality user experience’ for all.

How on earth did this decision happen? Two business options were considered for our office printers: ‘do nothing’ and ‘obliterate everything’. The latter option won, on cost grounds, although given that ISS are also going to end all attempts to monitor individual usage of the copiers (the staff print journal will no longer be maintained), subtext wonders how this claim of value for money is going to be monitored.

‘It is possible,’ reported ISS at the time of approval, ‘that removal of personal printers may be unpopular.’ Oh!?


September is a curious month in the academic calendar. Lectures are ‘dusted-down’ and ideas surrounding teaching that were mere flickers back in June burst into flames (or are quickly dampened down) as the new year approaches. Administrative staff continue to be perplexed as to why their academic colleagues remain unable to remember what happened this time last year. It also is a time of closure. A number of departments hold their postgraduate exam boards in September, and exam grids are circulated or shown on large computer screens.

And there, in top left hand corner of the grids, is the swoosh – just shows you cannot keep a good brand down. It was also heartening to see at the recent Open Day prospective students sat on seats with the good old swoosh emblazoned on the back.


It’s interesting that LUText, in celebrating its 800th issue, should claim some kind of lineal descent from InkyText, the highly unofficial newsletter edited and mostly written by the late Gordon Inkster until 2000. LUText’s forerunner ‘Vickytext’ may well have been named with InkyText in mind, but as anyone who clicks on the link thoughtfully provided in LUText will discover, the two publications were radically different in content and style. For one thing, InkyText was funny; for another, it was about as far as anything could be from a vehicle for central management to initiate a ‘conversation with staff’. Indeed, management did try to co-opt InkyText into its structure, at one point offering to Gordon accreditation to report on Council meetings. This he declined, in his typically courteous manner. In subtext’s review of Marion McClintock’s excellent 2011 history of the university, Shaping the Future, we described InkyText as ‘subtext’s great predecessor’(subtext 84).

Even if we’re often not funny, we’d still like to think that subtext has a more legitimate claim to ancestry and inspiration.



If nothing else, LUText’s small mention will have at least given readers cause to delve into the archive of Gordon Inkster’s incredible body of work, which can be marvelled at here: http://www.maths.lancs.ac.uk/~rowlings/Inkytext/


subtext has received a number of despatches from people who have started their term’s teaching in Fylde’s spaces. The rooms shake every few minutes, interspersed with loud bangs and crashes, and the strange smell of chemicals / fuel has been reported. Occasionally, the contractors enter to check that the ceiling has not fallen in. No it hasn’t, so that’s alright then. Cue more bomb shelter experience. The students are not best pleased and timetabling can offer no alternative. This is exactly the sort of thing students remember and that subsequently ends up being part of their NSS or PTES submissions. The phrase foot-shooting springs to mind.


As the summer drizzles to a close and we all look forward to getting our teeth into the new term (or at least limping through until Christmas), I am drawn to speculate on the impact of our Spine redevelopment. The last vestiges of the 60’s dream are to be found standing forlornly in dripping peninsulas of wood and tar around Alexandra square.  Being able to walk the length of the campus without the elements taking their toll on clothing and spirits is no more.

So, what replaces it? The new spine covering is more modern. It lets in more light (because there is less of it), and it is certainly airier. The brutal winter winds of Lancaster will have no problems reaching places that previously they were unable to penetrate. As the campus fills up, with the new term getting into full swing, it is the author’s belief that an amusing new spectacle will be enjoyed by all who are safely observing from inside a building. We might even write papers on it – ‘Darwinian theory in practice: survival of the fittest at Lancaster University’.

I could be wrong, but I suspect that there is a nice equation that could be written which describes the relationship between the reduced surface area of the new covering on the Spine, the increase in height and the reduced area of dry ground to be found beneath. It could be further developed to introduce wind-speed and direction in combination with precipitation so that we can be better informed on how far up an individual’s legs the rain will reach on windy days compared to calm ones. The distance that the individual is forced to walk from the wall will certainly correlate with the relative dampness experienced. I am not qualified to write such an equation, but even to my layman’s brain it is clear that on a blustery, wet day in Lancaster most people are going to get wet legs.

At this point my whimsical mind wanders off into imagining the scene; older staff being pushed out into the rain by younger, fitter campus residents intent on protecting their £50 hair-dos and expensive footwear,  the oldsters’ pitiful cries of ‘Don’t you know who I am’ quickly lost in the swirling vortex of a November day. University executives will quickly learn that meetings must be arranged close to home so that they can  prevent the crease dropping out of their trousers below the knee. Alternatively, a rash of new posts as ‘Red Flag Assistant’ might be seen – staff employed to walk ahead of said executives, clearing the path closest to the wall and preserving their sartorial elegance. In short, survival of the fittest. Things do not look well for yours truly.

So, having accepted that I am not particularly fit, or  having sufficient standing to merit my own Red Flag Assistant, I am driven to rely on my cunning and guile. In considering the problem I have had to determine my own position in the Darwinian pecking order. Whilst not fit, I am capable of brutality in the face of wet clothing. Though not important, I can shout in a manner that might confuse more easily cowed individuals into assuming that I am important and that it is my RFA’s day off. On that basis I think my position under the covering is probably mid-stream. Probably dry above the waist, but squarely in wet-leg territory.

With that in mind, prototype designs for half-length waterproof over-trousers are already completed. These may be slipped on over the footwear and are held in place above the knee by strap or elastic, depending upon the wearer’s preference. Donned before a walk down the campus, these will protect the mid-stream wearer from the crease disaster, and can be easily and discreetly removed upon reaching your destination. Sales will be limited and availability will be restricted to those neither fit nor important. It’s only fair.


Written by Ronnie Rowlands.

The news of the death of John Hadfield on September 1st came as a great shock. John had been a regular fixture of the university’s decision-making bodies for a number of years, culminating in his service as Deputy Pro-Chancellor of the University.

He was never an especially public figure within the university, but anybody who has held a senior post or served on our highest decision-making bodies will remember John as a gravelly, no-nonsense northerner, whose occasional involvement in unpopular institutional decisions was offset by a common touch that radiated personal conviction in what he was doing.

John was particularly popular among Students’ Union officers. His oft stated philosophy was that, at the heart of everything, ‘it’s about the students. Always ‘as been, always will be.’ It was only ill health that led to his resignation from LUSU’s trustee board, his final post within the university. From 2014 to 2015, I served as a full-time officer of the Students’ Union,  and will always remember when John openly sided with the students when the University Council voted to increase rents and postgraduate tuition fees.

At one meeting, I directed an uninterrupted ten minute tirade over the matter at the then University Secretary Fiona Aiken. At the end of it, she turned to John and said, ‘I’m sure, John, that as a representative of Council you’ll be happy to explain their rationale in taking this decision?’ Arms folded, and barely concealing his complete support for the student body’s dissent, he shook his head; ‘Nope. I won’t.’ The University Secretary was taken aback. It was a rare instance of disunity among the top table, and an action by which I shall always favourably judge John Hadfield.

This continued to the 2015 meeting of the University Court, chaired by John, which famously marked a rare instance of a Students’ Union motion being carried by the meeting. The room moved in our favour after a rambling, inarticulate and ill-advised interjection against the motion by a lay member of the Court. After the meeting, while the Vice-Chancellor and others seethed, John joined me and my colleagues for a cigarette. ‘Wharra’n absolute plonker – ‘e won you the debate the second ‘e opened his gob. Nice one!’

The subtext collective welcomes letters from anybody wishing to share their memories of John Hadfield.