Tag Archives: university of the year

subtext 172 – ‘panic in granadaland’

Fortnightly during term time.

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

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In this issue: editorial, strike, more strike, pile ’em high and sell ’em cheap, UA92, court report, bomb shelter news, letters.



Imagine the situation. You’ve just been named ‘University of the Year’. Yes, we know it’s a marketing gimmick. But they’re not going to trash their reputation by giving you the thing if they don’t think you’re pretty good, are they? And you’ve just got a ‘Gold’ rating in the national assessment of teaching quality. Again, yes, we know it’s a flawed measure. But you’re pretty keen to keep hold of it, aren’t you?

Given all this, what’s your headline strategy for the next few years? What’s that? ‘Go all out for an increase in numbers, with no investment in facilities to match, get the staff to double teach their courses, and make them teach on a Saturday,’ you say? Well, congratulations! You’re just the person we’re looking for to drive our ‘dash for growth’ proposals forward.

Oh, just one more thing. Do you have a private pension plan? You see, I’m not sure you’re going to like our plans for the company scheme…


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.


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!   


From: Mike M. Shart, VC, Lune Valley Enterprise University (LuVE-U)
To: All staff
Cc: Hewlett Venklinne, Head Coordinator: Credence Coordination
Subject: Our Latest Accolade

Dear all,

Jubilations aside, allow me to express my jubilation at our jubilation!

You won’t have failed to notice that LuVE-U was mentioned in the press this week. But this was no ordinary press mention – we have been named ‘Higher Education Provider of the Year’ by none other than the Racing Post! Now, some of you may be asking why a publication that deals solely with horse racing would dedicate a front page to exulting us as its designated Higher Education Provider of the year. Indeed, I asked myself the very same question, but Hewlett assures me that this only goes to show how deeply we have penetrated the public psyche. That LuVE-U could possibly catch the attention of a publication so distracted by matters other than HE is a boon, I am told.

Hewlett also tells me, on an entirely unrelated note, that the hot tip for this Sunday’s race is ‘Buffalo Catscan’, and that a tenner on the nose for Buffalo Catscan to win wouldn’t go amiss. Hewlett also tells me that by way of gratitude, in keeping with the highest academic tradition, we should all unite in purchasing a copy of the Racing Post from our nearest newsagent to read precisely what the publication has said about us – some sort of copyright restriction prevents me from sharing the related text in full, apparently.

So yes. Let’s all buy the Racing Post to see what they said about us. And, by way of continued gratitude, let all 20,000 of us take an interest in the racing and buy the Racing Post every day, for all the Racing, Cards, and Results. Explore our Horse and Jockey Profiles, only in the Racing Post.

All the best,