Monthly Archives: September 2018


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In this issue: hello again, appeal for volunteers, reflections and predictions including: printers, Gary Neville, legal action, University Court, attendance monitoring, power grabs, fascism, disabilities, assistant deans, working at Lancaster, building works, Gender Pay Gap, Students’ Union – stop press! – news of LUSU activism at this weekend’s open day, postgraduate colleges, letter of the year, letters.

During 2017-18 the editorial collective of subtext consisted (in alphabetical order) of: James Groves, Ian Paylor, Ronnie Rowlands, Joe Thornberry, and Johnny Unger.

This subtext annual review was brought to you by Ronnie Rowlands.



As the equinox slowly dawns and the subtext drones count the days before the university springs back into life, we offer you the chance to look back on the year that’s just ended, with a recap of the biggest stories of 2017-18. The last time we produced an issue like this, we quoted snippets of articles from various issues on a series of themes and stories. Now that the subtext computer has been updated from Windows 95, we have managed to move our website into WordPress, so you can look forward to opening lots of tabs in your browser.

The first subtext of 2017-18, lovingly formatted as ever in 10 point Courier, will be hitting your inboxes in Week 1. Until then, enjoy our end of year review, and help us open 2018-19 to as large an audience as possible by ‘liking’ us at and encouraging everyone to subscribe.


In 13 years, 180 issues, 8 specials and a suspension notice, 28 individuals have at some point shouldered responsibility for producing subtext. None of us are getting any younger. People move on, storm off, succumb to ailments, or retire.

We haven’t recruited new, longstanding editors in some time, and now is the time for us to start looking. If you are interested, then do get in touch with us at so that we can have a conversation.

The fickle finger of fate could send any of us packing at a moment’s notice. In 2010, the collective was reduced to three individuals. This, not being enough to produce subtext, led to a hiatus lasting several months. Would staff and students of the university be informed and empowered to speak out against the tsunami of scandal, incompetence and occasional lunacy that engulfed Lancaster in 2017-18 without subtext? For an answer to that, see our recaps below.


A lot of university decision-making is slow-burning, and months will often pass before we are able to provide an update or a follow-up. We will pepper this year-end review with a some of the stories we briefly covered in 2017-18 that, we predict, will be revisited in 2018-19.

For example, in subtext 166, we reported on the mass cull of office printers by ISS, as part of a review which presented two options: ‘do nothing’ or ‘obliterate everything.’ It may be time for us to see how that panned out.


We thought maybe we could adequately recap how the year has gone re: The Gary Neville University in a snappy hundred and fifty words. That’s University Academy 92, a private university that we’re partnering up with a group of ex Manchester United players to build. Sadly, condensing this omnishambles into a couple of paragraphs is too unconquerable a task, since the whole project has been bombarded with failure and incompetence from one end to the other.
So, we’re just going to dump all of the links to all of our Gary Neville University coverage (from 2017-18 only, mind)! Read all about the gibberish promotional literature, Trafford Council rejecting multiple building and redevelopment proposals, the resistance from Stretford residents, the Class of ’92 suing the managing director (who runs a rival outfit in the same area) of their own university over use of the name UA92, the drain it is proving to be on our own staffing resources, the unclear and potentially exploitative contracts the academic staff will be employed on, how their application to take on international students was DENIED, the total lack of any market research, the contradictions of the claims taken from the non-existent market research, the ‘lingerie football league’, and how they are unable to make any promises to prospective students about partners and placements because they haven’t got any despite begging on Twitter for months.
Is that everything? Your UA92 drone thinks it is, so here it all is, in one big lump. It is the most important story we have covered for the past two years, the most fertile golden goose in subtext history, and subtext is the ONLY publication where you can keep up to date on the blatant, blaring disaster just waiting to happen again and again and again. We feel we’ve earned your subscription and attention for our UA92 coverage alone – here it is below.


Ever the trend-setter, Lancaster found itself being the first university in the UK to be sued for loss of teaching time due to the industrial action. We suspect that this case will collapse fairly quickly (if it hasn’t already), and we’ll cover that eventuality as a matter of tying up loose ends.


2018 saw the demise of the University Court, one of Lancaster’s oldest and most diverse decision-making bodies.

The University Court was an annual gathering bringing together a whole array of stakeholders. It made recommendations to the Senate and the Council of the university, was responsible for appointing the Pro-Chancellor, had delegates to various committees of the University, and had historically been used as an opportunity for locally based institutions and the broader community to raise concerns to the senior management. A ‘Court Review Group’ was set up by the University Council. It is not known how its members were appointed, and nobody from the University Court was invited to participate in the review. It was externally reviewed by a University of Exeter registrar who had been involved in the closure of that institution’s own Court, and the recommendations were approved by the Senate and Council, and presented as a fait accompli to the 2018 gathering of the Court, with no opportunity to vote on the proposals.

The reasons for abolishing Court are unclear. ‘Lack of diversity’ was presented as a reason, but the Court was more diverse than the Senate, University Council, and senior management team, so ignore that. It was also suggested that the Court consumed a lot of resources, but since the Court is being ‘replaced’ by a less accountable, less diverse ‘annual public meeting’ anyway, that can be ignored too.

What we can’t ignore is the fact that the Court of the University of Bath was instrumental in triggering a HEFCE investigation into Vice-Chancellors’ involvement in setting their own salary, and that only a few months prior our own remuneration committee was rejigged to remove the Vice-Chancellor. Just in time for the release of said HEFCE report.

What this means is that locally based institutions, alumni, dignitaries, clergymen, etc, now have no official say in the running of the university, and a tiny and unrepresentative body now has sole control over who to invite to its new ‘annual public meeting’.

It is the biggest, but by no means the only, exclusionary change to Lancaster’s decision-making this year, and you can read our coverage of this issue below:


Will the attendance monitoring system – you know the one, where half of your seminar is wasted by students pointing their phones at a box in the corner of the ceiling trying to make it register their attendance – show any signs of improving? Who knows. But subtext also understands that some slightly uglier means of monitoring the attendance of international students has been making waves. We’ll reveal more on these developments come 2018-19.


Along with completely obliterating the University Court, the top table has further gutted the responsibilities and the powers of the Senate, and given them to the University Council. The Senate consists of all department heads, all faculty deans, all college principals, four faculty lecturers, four faculty associate deans, two SU officers, four students, and a non-academic staff member, as well as the senior management team.

The body that most broadly represents the interests of the faculties, departments, colleges, and students’ union, now has no power to open, close, or prevent the opening or closure of faculties, departments, colleges, and the students’ union. Senate’s approval or disapproval will now have no sway over the decisions of a Council which:

– Got rid of the one post reserved for non-academic members of staff.
– Got rid of the one post reserved for a member of the local council.
– Got rid of University Court, and now has sole power over who sits on the nominations committee, the body responsible for appointing its members. Self-perpetuating oligarchy much?
– Extended the maximum term of office for lay members, who have no day-to-day involvement with the university and know none of the people affected by their decisions, from six years to nine years.
– Doesn’t upload its minutes for months at a time.
– Stripped the university press officer and LUSU Vice-President (Campaigns & Communications) of its right to observe proceedings.

Why was this done? The rationale was that it HAD to be done due to the Code of Practice that university governance bodies HAVE to observe. When it was pointed out to the top table that this was nonsense, the reason was changed to ‘the new Office for Students might want us to do it when it’s established.’ Better safe than sorry.

The University Council – which consists of the senior management team, two student representatives, five senators and NINE external lay members – now has zero constitutional restrictions on its behaviour. It doesn’t even have joint responsibility for appointing the Vice-Chancellor anymore – that privilege now belongs solely to the Council. And the saddest part about it? Senate committed this act of constitutional harakiri on ITSELF. YOUR LUSU President, YOUR Head of Department, YOUR Faculty Dean, YOUR College Principal, voted to stop adequately representing your interests. If anybody ends up for the chop, they’ll have no-one to blame but themselves.

What’s more, subtext does not have anybody on the Council willing to share information, as people have deemed their self-importance to be more valuable than transparency and the public interest. Even so, we managed to cover all of this this year, and you can read our coverage below.


Centralisation and the erosion of accountability somewhat paled into insignificance when we learned that a small but vocal group of students were attempting to set up a society for fascists. *Ahem*, sorry – ‘traditionalists.’ Their Facebook page is full of the usual witless moaning about ‘social justice warriors’, complaints about black people being in historical dramas, and quotes from avowed fascists.

In subtext 173, we reported that the group in question (which we have yet to name) attended a public lecture on the politics of fear, and banged on about saving a white Christian Europe and how all migrants are rapists. By the time issue 174 was released, we learned that the Students’ Union had rejected the fascists’ application… due to their failure ‘to convince the committee of the group’s sustainability or unique offer.’ Nothing to do with all the homophobia and fascism, then.

Still, we were at least pleased that the SU had rejected the fascists at all, until issue 176, where we reported that the LUSU Executive had ignored the deferral recommendation made by their societies committee, and took a decision to grant official recognition and resources to an actual group of fascists (with promises of sanctions and heavy caveats, such as, err, a risk assessment…). This decision lasted all of no time at all before a sensible LUSU staff member intervened and postponed the application indefinitely.

Perhaps the spate of Nazi graffiti on office doors, which we reported in subtext 166 and 167, was a forewarning?

The matter is now in the hands of the university. The last thing we reported was a protest against an event put on by the group, at which an individual praised the SS and admitted to being scared for his white skin. Meanwhile, one of his ‘bodyguards’ mocked a protestor’s accent and almost elbowed a pensioner in the face. The individual in question pledged to upload a report and footage disputing subtext’s report. Two months ago.

This unsettling rise in on-campus fascism has made it into seminar rooms and public lectures. Thanks to subtext, you can read all about it below:


It hasn’t been a great year for disabled people who study and work at the University of Lancaster. We started the year, in issue 166, complaining about a disabled toilet in Bowland North being filled with dust due to a combination of building works and a window that wouldn’t close. This minor mishap was dwarfed, as the sheer scale of the inaccessibility our building works were creating became apparent. In issue 179, we highlighted that there had been no fewer than NINE accessibility route changes put out by disability services in the space of two months.

Still, at least staff and students were made aware of the route changes, which is less than could be said for visitors to campus. Anybody consulting the university web pages, and particularly Lancaster’s DisabledGo page, would’ve (at the time we published our report) found no indication whatsoever that our campus had become an assault course. Indeed, in subtext 179, we reported that a number of people had swung by for a visit, and were left infuriated by what awaited them.

Lenient readers may be able to forgive all of the above as a failure to anticipate just how serious the disruption would be, but can there be any excuse for cutting funding to disabled students? This year our cash strapped top-table took the difficult decision to cut its financial contribution to SpLD assessments for students to 50%.

On the bright side, maybe the massive savings made from drastically impacting the life-chances of poorer students will be wisely invested into the Gary Neville University, who told us over the phone that they ‘aim to be’ an inclusive university.

We aren’t aware of any reaction to any of the above, with the cuts to funding for disabled students implemented with barely a whimper of opposition from anybody, except for subtext. You can read all of our coverage of disability issues this year via the links below.


In the same issue subtext revealed that college Assistant Deans were to henceforth be retained on HR contracts, making them subject to employment law and receiving salaries, rather than holding ‘office’ and receiving a rent rebate. There were questions raised as to whether Assistant Deans would be better or worse off under the new system, and we hope to answer them once it has been in place for a few months.


The University of Lancaster is preparing to undertake another staff survey. In order to ensure that the responses are as positive as possible, we at subtext would like to take a look back at where we went wrong in 2017-18 and offer some pointers. We could start by not doing any of the following…

In subtext 166, we reported that the Dean of FASS had drawn up a new procedure for appointing heads of department. This began in the Department of Politics, Philosophy, and Religion, whose natives expressed a clear preference for their next Head of Department (HoD). Dissatisfied with their choice, the Vice-Chancellor decided that future HoD’s should all be professors, and that he should have a direct say in their appointment. The VC’s micromanagement of appointment processes when he doesn’t like a particular candidate, no matter how far down the pecking order they are, is nothing new. But in this case, insisting that HoD’s must be professorial is not only a slap in the fact to the non-professorial staff who have led departments over the years, it also prevents junior (i.e. below professor) academics from developing their experience, and dries up opportunities for women and BME groups, who make up a very small portion of the professoriate at Lancaster.

Then again, being a professor automatically makes you a better candidate for the post of HoD. You only have to look at our report in subtext 167 on the HoD who called an all-staff meeting, at which he berated and humiliated the Criminology personnel in front of the entire Law School, threatening them with closure if they didn’t drive up admissions. With morale boosting like that, it’s little wonder that Criminology at Lancaster is rated 1st in the Times Good University Guide.

Elsewhere, staff members on grade 6 and below were pleased to learn that their bus passes were now 30% more expensive. While this is a negligible amount for those on higher grades, the twenty six quid increase is going to be felt by those who aren’t. The situation is worse for staff on short term contracts, who often are employed on a termly / monthly basis, aren’t entitled to full year bus passes, and therefore have to buy a one term Unirider for a hundred quid. Three times a year if their contracts are extended. And none of these passes entitle them to travel to university during the vacation weeks.

It’s yet another blow to staff on precarious contracts, who make up 65.9% of our workforce. International staff make up a large part of this figure – our report in subtext 178 demonstrated that many of them declined to go on strike for fear of deportation.

Still. At least we can all get on with our research – something which the faculties are keen to help us to do. How? Well, as reported in subtext 179, the Faculty of Science and Technology aims to do this with Research Impact Fund Sub-Committees, scrutiny panels made up of academics often with different specialties to those in the research they’re scrutinising, who decide which academics win five thousand pounds to track their impact. It’s good to free up time to research, isn’t it?

The subtext collective tries to stay aware of the challenges and concerns facing our friends and colleagues who work with us at the university, because we believe our primary purpose is to provide a voice for staff to air those concerns. We think that we did this rather well in 2017-18, and you can read all of it via the links below.


Part I study was a brief feature at the start and end of subtext’s academic year. In issue 168, we reported on a serious proposal to drastically limit the amount of time that students spend on minor subjects, which would impact greatly on departmental budgets and workloads. If implemented, it would require a 2019 start. We returned to the topic in issue 180, where we reported on the abolition of minor talks to new students. A move in a certain direction? We’ll look into it.


We aren’t so nimbyist as to complain about the eyesore that campus has become or so stupid as to think that building works can be completed without a bit of disruption, but we draw the line at people being unable to work. As reported in subtext 166, Bowland North spent the tail end of summer covered in polythene to be sandblasted, blocking out all natural light. With no warning as to what work was even being done on the building, some staff members rather innocently left their windows open, leading to numerous colleagues spluttering and choking in the dust filled corridors.

Meanwhile, a disabled toilet was carpeted in stone dust and written off for the day, because its window couldn’t close.

But never mind the staff – the university is all about the students, and about providing a top ten educational experience. In the nine-and-a-half-grand-feez climate, students deserve to have their sessions spruced up a bit. Spruced up they most assuredly have been, with the intense seismic episodes, deafening crashes, strange chemical smells, dust showers, and contractors popping in to check the ceilings haven’t caved in proving to be a welcome addition to the learning experience. Yes, Fylde is the place to be if you want your learning to be exciting, but students who find learning boring may have enjoyed their sessions in the Charles Carter building, where a large generator was drowning out everything anyone was saying. In many cases, students and lecturers abandoned their sessions entirely in search of somewhere else. If they fancied moving into Management School Lecture theatres 5-8, they were bitterly disappointed. Apart from some turf being removed, seemingly nothing was done to it for the entirety of Michaelmas term. Why it was completely closed for all of that time, as we reported in subtext 171, was anybody’s guess…

… Until subtext 177, when we revealed that everything stopped because the project turned out to cost more than originally quoted. So work will resume in January 2019. Great. Hopefully they’ll get it right on the second attempt, rather than on the third, which was the case for some paving stones on the south end of campus. Cancelling or suspending part of a vast building project for financial reasons causes us to question how well this project has been managed. Doing so to make sure campus is going to be at all navigable by the start of 18-19, as is the case with the cancellation of the ‘Wetlands Bridge’ project near the Charles Carter building, leaves us in no doubt that this has been a logistical cock-up from one end to the other. See our earlier article, DISABILITIES for more commentary on the implications that all of this has had for disabled students.

We at subtext will continue to keep a close eye on how well promises are being kept and deadlines are being stuck to. Until then, please enjoy our efforts to do so from the last year, below.


We reported, in issue 176, that according to a league table Lancaster has the third worst gender pay gap amongst UK universities. A flurry of committees, working groups, and consultations have been frantically set up in response, and we will cover the progress of the university’s deliberations when subtext springs back into action.


It all started so well for the Students’ Union. In subtext 169 we reported on their campaign against an unnecessary rent increase of up to £249. To make their displeasure known, LUSU set up a stall and put £249 worth of pasta on display. A little gimmicky, we thought, but enough to get the usual ‘our costs are going up and we have the best halls ever anyway’ line trotted out by the university. And so, we sat back, and then… nothing. There was no further campaigning action, no publicity releases about negotiations, and no attempt to actually mobilise students into a General Meeting, or a protest, or anything.

And then the SU was complicit in the abolition of University Court (detailed above under UNIVERSITY COURT), the decision making body with the largest student delegation, the only one to which any student representative could propose motions and policy, and at which students had fought and won against the university.

But the University Court was due to be abolished anyway, and perhaps it wasn’t the best hill for the SU to die on if it wanted to pick more important fights. As the industrial action took hold of the entire higher education sector, and the student body increasingly swayed towards the side of the staff, subtext eagerly awaited the SU’s statement of intent, and its plan of action, before issue 173 went to print. The plan, it transpired, was to ’empower [student] opinion with impartial information.’ Yes. After making clear that it wasn’t best pleased that the action was going ahead, the SU decided that it wasn’t even going to OPPOSE it. Instead, it put out some tepid ‘on the one hand this and on the other hand that’ infographics. Thankfully, hundreds of students spontaneously organised, many of whom were heard shrieking with derision at any mention of the SU, joined by striking UCU members.

Even JCR officers weren’t safe. A series of posters denouncing the Vice-Chancellor’s salary and lack of funding for the counselling service quickly disappeared from campus, and LUSU’s higher-ups were reported to have advised the JCR officers responsible to take a different tack, apparently pledging to help ‘broaden’ the campaign and attract wider attention. As we predicted in subtext 177, such a campaign never came to fruition – LUSU simply quashed the activism.

LUSU might have made better decisions, be it on Grad Ball (which this year was cancelled for the first time since the 1970s), opposing strike action, or allowing fascism on campus to be funded, if it were more accountable to students, and hadn’t gutted almost all of its accountability structures in 2015 (as we recalled in issue 174). Could LUSU’s ‘scrutiny panel’ have curbed this behaviour? No. In subtext 174, we noted that the ‘scrutiny panel’ hadn’t met at any point during the nine months that the sitting sabbatical team had held office, and was denounced by a former appointee for producing toothless reports that ‘nobody reads.’ Perhaps a General Meeting of the student body could have passed policy? Not a chance – LUSU’s General Meeting failed to reach quoracy, because they failed to seize the enthusiasm around the rent increase in the first term, or the industrial action in the second term to drive attendance. In lieu of a quorate General Meeting, LUSU instead held an ‘online general meeting’, which is completely unconstitutional and has zero powers to authorise LUSU to do anything.

There must have been SOMETHING keeping LUSU’s political wing busy, because one now-former officer appeared on Bailrigg FM back in May boasting to a Labour Party representative that by-election turnout was healthy because LUSU had bothered to do a bit of promotional work, even though it ‘isn’t their job’ (it is).

subtext keeps a close eye on all of the university’s most influential wings, and the SU is one of them. You can read all of our reporting on the SU’s activities throughout 2017-18, which is far more detailed than our VERY brief recap, below. ||



That was then. This is now. subtext is pleased to report that the new team of LUSU full-time officers seem to have got off to a blistering start, by calling a student demonstration against the proposed introduction of 6pm to 7pm lectures, during this Saturday’s Undergraduate Open Day. The details:

Don’t miss your Week 1 subtext for our full report on the ‘extended teaching day’ proposals, including why you shouldn’t dramatically increase your undergraduate numbers without also dramatically increasing your lecture theatres, and why this problem isn’t going to go away any time soon.


In issue 175, we reported that a University Council approved policy to allow postgraduate students to remain with their undergraduate colleges had not been implemented… three years after it was passed. Perhaps another gentle reminder is in order at some point in subtext’s next run.