Tag Archives: Issue 171

subtext 171 – ‘the stable genius of a shithole subtext’

Fortnightly during term time.

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

Back issues & subscription details: http://wp.lancs.ac.uk/subtext/about/

In this issue: editorial, tech, groveling apology, website, UA92 bonanza, court, leadership bonanza, UCLan, BAM, lowercase letters, shart, concert review, letters.



We had it all sewn up – the editorial was written, the issue was edited, and we were seconds away from hitting our big red button…

… and then we heard this breaking news:

Stretford residents have just scored a major success in its opposition to Trafford Council’s regeneration plans, to which the Gary Neville University is integral. The Council has withdrawn its plans for Lacy Street, the proposed site for UA92 student accommodation. They now want to focus on a significantly reduced size, with commercial use alongside joint student and key worker accommodation, and on a much slower timescale to allow for proper consultation. The delay is expected to be a year. There is no information as yet on how this will impact on the main campus development on the old Kellogs site, but this is likely to be a major blow for UA92, which is supposed to be ready for the first student intake in September 2019. Close observers of recent events in Stretford will realise that locals have worked hard to make their voices heard. Their success is, apart from anything else, a lesson to us all in the power of organised opposition.

Welcome, readers, to another year of subtext!


As astute readers will no doubt be aware, subtext is moving with the times. We even have a Facebooks account now where we occasionally ‘post’ our ‘status’ – what a brave new world we live in! As part of this general modernification, we are also launching a new subtext archive site. Don’t worry – the old site, at http://www.lancaster.ac.uk/subtext/, will stay exactly where it is for now, but we will no longer be adding back issues to it from now on. Instead, you can find past issues at our new archive site, http://wp.lancs.ac.uk/subtext/. This looks a little different from our previous archive, in that it makes use of some of the newfangled bells and whistles of the WordPress platform. Not only can readers peruse past issues, they can also share individual stories using links, or even post them on the Facebooks or the Twitters! As always, the subtext collective would be happy to receive (and probably ignore) feedback from our loyal readers.


[This erratum was originally posted on our Facebook page a few hours after the release of subtext 170. We have more subscribers than ‘likes’, so in the interest of demonstrating the extent of our contrition, here it is for our readers to enjoy.]

A senior manager has emailed in to point out that information on the operation of the Remuneration Committee, which determines the VC’s salary, is incorrect. Contrary to what we reported in subtext 170, our Remuneration Committee has until recently had a co-opted member – the HR Director from Sotherbys (sic). Furthermore, at University Council earlier this year it was agreed to revise the membership for the Remuneration Committee. Also contrary to what we reported in subtext 170, the Pro-Chancellor is no longer the Chair, and the VC does not attend in any capacity.

The subtext collective is happy to publish this correction. We checked our story, but it was lax of us to do so by using a source as out of date, poorly updated and unreliable as, er… the University website! (https://tinyurl.com/y9kcglvq).

We could’ve been a little more diligent and checked the minutes of the last few Council meetings to confirm our report, but the fact that no Council minutes have been made public since last May made that somewhat difficult.


As it turns out, the membership of our Remuneration Committee was changed by a decision of last September’s Council meeting. So it happened just weeks before the HEFCE report on Bath VC’s pay was made public. Phew, a lucky escape for us! It’s almost as if our Council had advance warning of what it contained. Highly unlikely, of course.

And some late news. At the time of publication of this subtext the University website has still not been updated to reflect the changed membership of the Remuneration Committee. Let’s see how long it takes them now…



Local opposition in Manchester to plans for UA92 continues to grow. Stretford residents are increasingly sceptical of the claims from Trafford Council that the scheme will be the major driver for the regeneration of their area. Detailed information from the Council on exactly how the local population will benefit has been sparse, to say the least. What is particularly concerning to residents is that the success of the whole regeneration scheme is totally dependent on the viability of UA92 as a commercial proposition. In this regard, Lancaster University has been even less forthcoming than the Council in providing hard information about how the proposed new university is expected to prosper.

With this in mind, the local MP, Labour’s Kate Green, came to Lancaster last week to find out why Lancaster thought that there was a market for UA92, given that its proposed curriculum is already well covered by other providers in the area. Our senior managers’ response was that the 18+ age cohort is set to rise over the next decade, so there will be plenty of students to go around. Ms. Green, however, managed to glean some information that had not previously been forthcoming, and has posted this on her Facebook page. Firstly, she received confirmation of what we had long suspected – that Gary Neville and co. had approached other universities before contacting Lancaster. We can safely assume that the response of those other institutions to Gary’s proposal was of the terse, two-word variety. Secondly, UA92 will be teaching-only, so those students can forget about receiving the benefits of Lancaster’s ‘philosophy of research-led teaching’ enjoyed by our own students. Finally, it appears that our leaders are also looking at the possibilities for two-year degrees to be offered by UA92 (and if it works there, well…).



Some Stretford residents have tried the Freedom of Information route to prise information from Lancaster, to no avail. One inquirer wanted to know details of the market research that had convinced Lancaster that the scheme was commercially viable, to which the response was the familiar ‘commercial in confidence’ evasion. Such information ‘may enable our commercial competitors to gain commercial advantage’. Not only that, but as Lancaster University was ‘partially funded by public monies’ it would not be ‘in the public interest for this information to be released’. This claim to be acting in the public interest is ludicrous. The ‘competitors’ are universities who are already operating in this field and who are also ‘partially funded by public monies’ and could reasonably claim that they have a ‘public interest’ in accessing this information. The only other competitor is UCFB (see below), whose founder and Board Chairman is Brendan Flood, also named in Companies House as the Managing Director of UA92. We would have to presume that he was privy to all this commercially sensitive information that Lancaster cannot possibly divulge. What, then, is the University playing at? Are there other competitors lurking in the background, too shadowy to identify? Or is it the case that, like the government’s ‘Brexit impact assessments’, no meaningful research has actually been carried out and that Lancaster has entered this partnership with eyes wide shut?



One of UA92’s selling points is the ‘unique connections and secured placements’ that will help students ‘stand out in the competitive graduate job market’. One whole year of a three-year degree programme would be spent on work placement with a major employer. Certainly, an ambitious offering, given that by the time UA92 reaches its full 6,500 student capacity, it will need to have over 2,000 available placements on its books. And these can’t be any old placements. If they are to be integral components in a Lancaster-validated degree, they will have to meet the requirements set out in the Lancaster University Placements Policy, adopted last April. These requirements seek to ensure that the placement is capable of being fully integrated into the degree programme, that it will provide the support and opportunities needed to meet the programme’s learning outcomes, and that it will actually pay the students for the work they undertake.

So how is UA92 faring on the placements front? Which major employers have committed to its ‘unique vision’? Well, so far it has signed up Microsoft… and that’s it, really. Trafford Council, MUFC and Lancashire Cricket Club might also stump up some placements but nowhere near the scale needed. The only other partner who might conceivably come up with the goods would be Lancaster University itself. Would our departments be willing to donate some of their hard-won and carefully nurtured placements to help out Gary Neville and his pals? No, we don’t think so either.

Such is UA92’s desperation to nail this down, that it is now using Twitter to get help in designing and delivering its courses:

‘Want to work with #UA92? Our partners have the opportunity to work with the academic team to help co-design our #university courses & build the curriculum, ensuring that we develop students that have the right #skills for the #workplace’.

This was accompanied by a graphic exhorting the tweet’s recipients ‘To help us unlock greatness’, illustrated with a drawing of an opened padlock that looked like it was composed on an Etch-a-Sketch.

Yes, this is what trashing the Lancaster University brand looks like.



If Lancaster’s senior management thought that a football-related university was an original idea when it was first spun to them, they were sadly mistaken. There already exists in Manchester an institution called UCFB (University College of Football Business), with campuses at Wembley, Burnley FC and Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium. UCFB, in the words of its Chairman, Brendan Flood, is ‘the first higher education institution in the world dedicated to the delivery of degrees in the football, sport and events industries’. By a simply enormous coincidence, the same Brendan Flood happens to be the Managing Director of UA92. The existence of UCFB and Mr Flood’s involvement must have been unknown to the University, because surely it would have been mentioned when the proposal was first presented to Senate.

UCFB’s degrees are validated by the University of Buckingham, an institution ranked much lower than Lancaster in the league tables but one which is coming up fast. Admittedly, their degrees are of the old-fashioned type, where ‘academic discipline’ is central, as opposed to UA92’s dynamic new approach which puts ‘character development’ above academic learning. Despite this handicap, UCFB does appear to be prospering, offering a wide range of sports-related first degrees and, recently, postgraduate courses. The latter involves a partnership with Real Madrid and its own graduate school, the prestigious Universidad Europa, where students will spend part of their course. An attractive offer, perhaps, but surely incapable of competing with the opportunities that will be provided by the Class of 92’s very own Salford City FC when UA92 finally comes on line.


The 2018 meeting of the University Court will take place on Saturday 27 January in George Fox Lecture Theatre 1. Many observers will be pleasantly surprised that the Court is meeting at all, given the ‘effectiveness review’ which took place in late 2017 (see subtext 166). The report and recommendations of that review will form the centrepiece of next weekend’s meeting and, we are pleased to report, members are promised more than just the derisory ‘light refreshments’ that were offered to members in 2017. There will be soup and sandwiches.

What do we know of the review’s findings? Absolutely nothing, although we know the VC’s preference was to remove all governance responsibilities from the Court and replace it with an annual ‘stakeholder event’ (see subtext 169), so the direction of travel has been fairly clear. Nominations have not been sought for the scheduled annual elections to the Court because, apparently, this would be ‘inappropriate’ in advance of the discussion on the review. Court papers should be distributed this Friday.

subtext encourages all Court members who value the idea of a university with at least some community accountability to show up on the 27th. Sadly, as in 2017, the meeting will start at 10am, rather than its more traditional 10:30am, making attendance something of a challenge for members coming from afar. Hopefully the extra time will be used constructively to discuss how to rejuvenate the Court, rather than bury it – but readers are advised not to get their hopes up.


What is happening to our senior leadership? The last issue of LUText advertised for a new Dean of FHM, meaning that the incumbent is stepping down after less than four years in the post, not least in the midst of the development of the Health Innovation Campus, the biggest expansion of health and medicine since the formation of the Faculty.

The current Dean of FASS has been seconded to a leadership role at UA92, and now subtext hears that another Faculty Dean may be off to pastures new after less than three years in post. Maybe the leadership training the University has invested in lately will allow some of these posts to be filled by internal appointments. After all, it is a tad embarrassing that our big shot star prize external appointments aren’t sticking around nearly long enough to make an ‘impact’.


subtext has heard rumours suggesting that another highly senior member of the University is soon to leave. We are certain to produce a professional obituary if the rumour is confirmed to be true. Since we can’t confirm anything for now, let’s just say that having left their mark on campus, things are looking upp for this person.


Within a matter of weeks, HR has lost both of its Assistant Directors. Just in time, oddly, for a major restructure of HR which has seen the consolidation of those posts into a single Deputy Directorship of HR. Last month, Assistant Director (Operations) Sonya Clarkson left to head up a HR department at a different university. A few weeks later, Assistant Director (Strategy) Tracy Walters also left.

The advertisement for the new post of Deputy Director of Human Resources referred to Sonya Clarkson’s departure – ‘As a result of the successful promotion of the current Assistant Director of Human Resources (Operations) to a Human Resources Director role within the higher education sector, the vacancy of Deputy Director of Human Resources has emerged.’

Hang on a minute. The language in the advertisement implies that the post is a slight repackaging of the Assistant Directorship – why else would it be suggested that the departing Assistant Director would have walked into the new role if she had decided to stick around? HR appears to be implying something less than complimentary about its other Assistant Director of HR, Tracy Walters, who is not mentioned at all in the ad. Readers may wonder whether Ms. Walters was offered a lesser role within the new structure, but declined, opting instead to move on from Lancaster entirely.


With leadership such a hot topic in the context of UA92, one wonders about the progress of the new line management structure for academics, based on ‘group leads’ (sic) acting as line managers for members of their research groups. This policy was spearheaded in FST and, regardless of questions about the wisdom of a one-size-fits-all plan for organising research groupings as diverse as Particle Physics and Social Processes (Psychology), it involved an exciting series of away days, networking masterclasses and the like, with external tutors leading the expected range of fatuous activities. So popular were the word showers, etc. with the ‘leads’ themselves that the Dean of FST was forced to insist, in a terse mass email, that they made every effort to attend the ‘Leadership Development Program’. This was backed up with a not-so-subtle attempt to intimidate by insisting that apologies (including reasons for non-attendance) be directed to him in person.


News reaches subtext that the University of Central Lancashire is formally consulting key stakeholders on a proposal to amend its name – specifically, to drop the word ‘Central’ so it would become the University of Lancashire.

Well, we can’t see anyone objecting to that, can we? Oh, hang on…

UCLan has a long history, dating back to 1828. It was known variously as the Institution for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, the Harris Institute, Preston Polytechnic and, between 1984 and 1992, Lancashire Polytechnic. The letter to stakeholders notes that, ‘the institution was known as the Lancashire Polytechnic for many years and we still attract the great majority of our students from the county and surrounding areas.’ The university would like to implement the change during 2018, as part of its 190th birthday celebrations.

Meanwhile, in the Lancaster Red corner, Her Majesty granted our charter in July 1964, agreeing that, ‘We should constitute and found a University within Our City and County Palatine and Duchy of Lancaster for the advancement and diffusion of learning and knowledge.’ Quite so! Hence the two Lancashire Roses on our coat of arms. (Before alert readers point out that UClan also has two roses, ours were first and with Royal sanction).

UCLan’s consultation letter doesn’t address the possibility that students and collaborators might confuse it with us, but ‘the University of Lancashire’ is nothing if not a bold statement of intent. When it was Lancashire Polytechnic, the word ‘Polytechnic’ made things pretty clear, but is the Privy Council really going to agree to a situation where the University of Lancaster is operating 30 minutes away from another university that shares over 80% of the letters in its name? One wonders what Ms Ranvir Singh, Lancaster alumna and honorary Doctor, and current UCLan Chancellor, makes of all this.

The deadline for consultation responses is 5th February. We await the inevitable diplomatic manoeuvrings with interest.


Campus is currently full of temporary screens erected to shield sensitive eyes from the building work going on behind them. They are mainly installed as an aesthetic measure – ‘this place looks like a building site!’ is rarely a compliment – but subtext wonders whether they might also serve as a crude but effective way to cover up a total lack of progress.

As a case study, consider the Management School redevelopment – specifically, the demolition and replacement of the building containing Lecture Theatres 5-8. A great deal of work has gone into screening all that goes on within from the outside world, including wooden barriers (many covered in ‘artist’s impressions’ of what will replace it) and DIY frosting on the windows looking out over the site. What has been happening since the building was closed off back in July?

Well, to subtext’s untrained eye, the contractors BAM have so far managed to: (a) remove some turf; and (b) er, that’s it. Take a look for yourself – the best views can be had by going to the first floor of the new Engineering Building, heading for the southern side, and peering over. Are we missing something? Or have we basically just closed off four perfectly usable lecture theatres for the whole of the past term for no reason? LUMS students must be thrilled.

If any readers spot any BAM staff carrying out any demolishing here, please let us know.


Campus observers will have noticed a proliferation of lower-case signs in recent weeks. subtext has already noted ‘law school’ outside the entrance to Bowland North from the spine (see subtext 170), and now we have ‘languages and cultures’ affixed to the wall of Bowland North, facing the Chaplaincy Centre. Why languages gets the outward-facing wall and law gets the inward-facing wall seems a little unclear – and both ‘history’ and ‘students’ union’ are affixed to the wall of Bowland Main. Other lower-case signs have been cropping up in Fylde, Furness and The County colleges. The reaction in the subtext warehouse is somewhat mixed. It is not thought to be orthographically correct, but in the world of advertising and marketing, it is seen as having a cool, casual hip feel with the intention of looking more youth orientated. Whether or not it actually does appeal to the yoof crowd is debatable; pop-culture fads come and go, sometimes losing their appeal almost immediately.

In fiction, lower-case is a stylistic choice that can be used to give a melancholic feel to your writing or, when used in a visual narrative sense, to indicate childishness or, in some cases, idiocy. On a darker note, this trope also has a tendency to appear in most post-apocalyptic fiction where it is used to mark the point where the unfortunate author has gone mad or given up all hope. We welcome readers’ views, and leave it to you to decide why subtext has always rendered itself with a lower-case ‘s’…


FROM: Lord Rod E.L. Girdle, Pro-Chancellor, Lune Valley Enterprise University.
TO: Mike M. Shart, VC, Lune Valley Enterprise University (LuVE-U).
DATE: 13/1/2018, 03:45AM
SUBJECT: New Appointment


I trssust your well. Listen I’m just art a gatheringt in London, and who shouild I run into but Toby Young? I have just been talking to him now, and hre told m that hes at a bit of a loose end at the moment. He asked if there was anthing going at the moment, and seeing him reminded me that we aer in need of a new lay member of the council, and in particular a chiar of the equalitty and diversity committe,.,

I thing he wouldf definitely be ideal. Hes got a caustic wit but on top of that, he tells me he has JUST finished a term of service on no less than thre Office for Students. THe OfS itself! That to me is exactly what we need at LuVE-U. WAhat do you think?

Respedybelly your

PS. Can you please get me Langleys No. 8 next Christmas. Thar Gordon’s gin you got me doesnt have an affect at all.


FROM: Mike M. Shart, VC, Lune Valley Enterprise University (LuVE-U).
TO: Lord Rod E.L. Girdle, Pro-Chancellor, Lune Valley Enterprise University.
DATE: 13/1/2018, 07:45AM
SUBJECT: re: New Appointment

Dear Rod,

Sorry, I was sound asleep when you sent that email, as I always am well before 3AM. I trust the night was a good one and that you’re in good enough condition for the next Council meeting, which is in an hour.

I can’t say I’m familiar with Toby Young, but Hewlett has made me aware of some of the recent press coverage of him. He’s a big fan of a Hugh Genix? I don’t know, Hewlett sounded quite tired when I phoned him, but I get the impression that Young is clearly a public figure of great prominence and precisely what we need. As ever I trust you to make a meritocratic appointment, so go right ahead.



Review: Ella Remembered

This was the title of a performance given in the Great Hall on 7 December as part of the University’s International Concert Series. Few people who know anything about singing would need to ask ‘Ella who?’ – Ella Fitzgerald died in 1996, but more than twenty years later her recordings are still selling very well, particularly those of songs from what became known as the Great American Songbook: standards by Cole Porter, George Gershwin, Irving Berlin, Richard Rodgers and others. This is partly due to the high quality of the songs, but also to the fact that Ella was such a high-class performer. As her recordings demonstrate, her diction was very clear, her intonation absolutely perfect, and her ability to improvise and to sing scat second to none.

Clair Teal, who sang the Ella tribute in the Great Hall, measured up to this daunting track record very well. In fact, she has made a speciality of performing songs recorded by Ella. Although she only took up her singing career relatively late, in her twenties, she has been very successful, and has won many awards, most recently the vocals category at the British Jazz Awards 2017. An accomplished presenter, she compèred the whole evening in an attractively witty manner. She was supported by an excellent trio, of piano, drums and bass.

This was somewhat different from the usual run of Great Hall concerts, but nonetheless the evening attracted a good audience, of people who were clearly knowledgeable about the songs and the genre – they clapped in all the right places. It was a high-quality performance in all respects, rounding off the term’s concerts most appropriately.

Contributed by Martin Widden.


Dear subtext,

Leadership is a worthless, dangerous concept, in your account of UA92 and its focus thereon. I presume, therefore, subtext welcomes the reorganization/merging of the Department of Leadership and Management in the management school that it has previously bemoaned. As for personal development not being worth of a university programme, it indeed wouldn’t be if it accorded to the banal stereotypes in your criticism of the UA92 ethos.

However, Lancaster has for a long time led the world in the provision of intellectually rigorous degrees which have at the core the principle that the personal development they offer inevitably requires a deep understanding of the social and political structures and processes within which the individual exists and operates. Lancaster is a lead partner in the International Masters in Practicing Management, along with Universities in Japan, Brazil, India and Canada; and its MBA, certainly while I was there, led the world in its development of the concept of managerial mindfulness, integrating this with both the usual business disciplines, and a deep understanding of sustainability and ethics.

OK, I left Lancaster for York. My underlying interest is that I live in Manchester, a great city, but still characterized by inequality and social exclusion. Manchester lost a University, UMIST, on its merger with the Victoria University of Manchester. That merger was a mistake, and a path Lancaster did well to avoid with Liverpool. Particularly with the downsizing of Manchester Business School, and Manchester’s humanities departments, there is a civic gap in the city where another university should be. UA92 might fill that gap. How it does so is up to you guys. But my hope as a Mancunian is that it does what it says it will about leadership and self development, but with the imagination and rigor that already characterize Lancaster.

Professor Bill Cooke


Dear subtext,

Did you know the total amount of money the library received from the payment of overdue items (excluding costs of replacing lost book as far as I can gather) was £14,541.95 for the period 7 October 2016 (start of term) to 6 October 2017. Wonder where that went! What do we think of that… certainly not a drop in the ocean.
See freedom of information link for a little more: https://tinyurl.com/ycbem68u

All the best

Alison Clifton