Monthly Archives: October 2018

subtext 181 – ‘mean as you start to go on’

Every so often during term time.

Letters, contributions, & comments:

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In this issue: editorial, evening teaching, gender pay gap, UA92, wellings, stansted 15, heaton-harris, masons, buses, letters.



Over the long hot summer of 2018 market forces required us to undertake radical restructuring at the subtext warehouse, rationalising the workforce and streamlining our operations. As a result we have reduced the number of drones by 50%, relying largely on accidental consumption by bears and rifts in the space-time continuum to prevent enforced redundancies. Several functions of subtext will be outsourced to freelance drones on zero hours contracts. All drones and subcontractors will now work to an enhanced day of 25 hours to mitigate the effect of the extended teaching day. We have agreed a range of new Kwantifiable Pseudo Intentions (KPIs) including: identifying efficiency savings of 5-10%, eliminating any remaining work/life balance and counting the number of teeny-tiny paving stones in the new-look Spine.

Our heartfelt thanks go to outgoing editors Ian Paylor, Ronnie Rowlands and Joe Thornberry. Over the last 5 years (7 in Ian’s case) they have investigated a huge variety of University shenanigans, bringing satire and panache to your inboxes, and this will undoubtedly be a loss to subtext’s pages. This leaves us with a collective captaincy of three remaining editors, and we would like to have more! If you don’t think you can commit to being an editor, we’d really welcome contributions – you know the things we like to print: it’s what you like to read. If you’re interested in either of these possibilities, please contact us at


It’s happened. From this week, the teaching day lasts from 9am to 7pm.

And it’s likely to stay that way. Despite the Deputy Vice-Chancellor’s acceptance that the sudden announcement of an extension from 6pm to 7pm (via a staff intranet post in the last week of July) was ‘less than ideal’, and involvement of staff and students’ unions in a task group to ‘mitigate adverse impact’ and develop ‘recommendations for 19/20 and beyond’, nobody is seriously expecting evening lectures to be ceasing any year soon. The students’ union has loudly protested about the loss of time for extra-curricular activities and family life – although we’re still not sure what the dressing up as cows was all about – to no avail.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that this has been caused by an increase in our overall student numbers, but in fact, the number of new registrations in 2018 is nigh on identical to the number of new registrations in 2017. What we have are larger numbers of large courses, trying to fit into the same number of large teaching spaces – i.e. not many.

Here are the figures. If you have a class of 200 or more that wants teaching, there are five places on campus you can put them: Biology Lecture Theatre, Bowland Lecture Theatre, Faraday Lecture Theatre, George Fox Lecture Theatre 1 and, for those seeking the ‘school assembly experience’, the Great Hall. If we want to Keep Wednesday Afternoons Free – and we do – that gives roughly 200 slots available in large theatres over the course of the week. Doesn’t sound too bad … but now assume your class size has gone up to 300. You’ve only got George Fox 1 and the Great Hall to play with, and suddenly the timetable looks likely to fall over.

What’s the solution? Slowly and surely, double teaching has become the norm. Well, after all, you spent so long preparing for that lecture, that it seems a bit of a shame that you only have to give it once, eh? But then … double teaching a class of 300 might mean that you aren’t crowding out the big theatres any more, but now you’re causing logistical hell for the medium sized rooms. Something’s got to give.

Across campus, sage minds have pondered this problem and shrugged their shoulders. What else can you do?

Lectures at 8am, perhaps? They’re the norm in many parts of Europe, after all. A few months ago, Durham made the … courageous decision to bring these in for 2018/19. It didn’t end well:

Live-streamed lectures? This is popular with many students – possibly the same students who aren’t great fans of 8am lectures – but has been ruled out by our senior management. ‘I didn’t pay 9 grand in fees to watch lectures in my bedroom’ and so forth.

Our disgruntled moles in the Law School (should that be Law moaners?) have reported that they recently received an entreaty from their Head of Department that there should be no consumption of alcohol during lectures. Perhaps this is one of the coping strategies that students – or staff – have had to resort to when forced to take part in a lecture at a time more usually spent cocktail-making than note-taking.

So 6pm lectures it is, then. Fingers crossed we might get a big new lecture theatre some time soon. We wish the Deputy Vice-Chancellor well in his new position as Dundee’s Vice-Chancellor.


Following the recent rescue of her three new friends from the deadly vacuum of space, and her recollection of who she is, the Doctor is looking forward to new faces, new worlds and new times. Her trusty ship, the TARDIS, whirls through time and space, swerving exploding supernovae and sliding between parallel universes. However, she hasn’t yet remembered how to steer the TARDIS, and so it plummets through a wormhole to arrive in Alexandra Square at Lancaster University on 26th July 2018.

Surveying the external scene on the scanner, the Doctor wonders what they are doing in this 1960s brick-and-concrete landscape, then gasps in horror. There is a Gender Pay Gap! The group of companions demand an explanation – will their teeth be extracted and stuck on anyone’s face? No, this is not as glamorous or exciting as a blue-faced alien tooth-pulling hunter of humans, but a monster that slowly strangles women by denying them equal pay for the same work as men. The Doctor points to the screen – apparently, this place has a Task Group that’s fighting it – let’s go and help them.

Yasmin, Ryan and the Doctor burst out of the TARDIS, and start making their way towards Lecture Theatre 4 in the Management School, whilst Graham lags behind bemoaning the lack of alien excitement and wondering why this place they’ve arrived in is a building site. It takes them 20 minutes to make a 5 minute journey, including following Design the Spine diversion signs in a circle round Edward Roberts Court until they achieve escape velocity near the Deli. They finally arrive just as the presentation is beginning, and slide in at the back and make themselves inconspicuous.

As the presentation winds up the Doctor presses a button on her makeshift sonic screwdriver and freezes the other people in the room in a bubble of spacetime as she and her companions huddle round for a discussion. I can’t believe that out of 32 Band 3 Professors at the University only one is a woman, says Yasmin. What’s wrong with that, asks Graham, and gets a icy stare from the Doctor. And there’s more male senior professional services staff than female, points out Ryan. So what, asks Graham, who shuts up and wanders off to stare out of the window when the other three glare at him at once.

They all agree that the Task Group analysis that ‘where the money and status is at LU, women aren’t’ is largely correct, and yes, the overall problem identified, that female staff are clustered in lower grades, male staff in high grades, is also true. It’s been a while since I was last a woman, says the Doctor, but this is getting worse over time. Listen, I think I remember that I used to work at a university, leave this to me.

With a sound like foghorns squabbling underwater, the bubble of frozen spacetime begins to disintegrate, and the audience is asked for questions. Dr Jane Smith of the Foundation for Advanced Temporal Calibration And Transportation Studies steps forward to take the microphone. It’s a crying shame about the professors and senior professional services staff and all that, but according to my sums that’s a lot fewer people than the 936 women in Grades 6 and below. Wouldn’t the most sensible, equitable and immediate way to reduce the gap be to raise the wages of the lower paid staff? And then work on smashing the patriarchy?

As the Task Group insist that they will be looking at as many options as they can, but they have limited resources, Graham turns from the window, his face white with fear: Doctor, you’d better have a look out here. A bevy of barnacled compost bins decorated with plungers are floating down from the clouds. The Daleks are here! The Doctor spins her sonic screwdriver around and slips it back into a pocket. This problem will be a lot easier to solve.

You can find links to the presentation and audio of the first open staff meeting to discuss the Gender Pay Gap here [staffwall].

STOP PRESS: A second open-staff meeting has been announced for Thurs 18th Oct, more info here [staffwall].


On 27 September the University provided staff with another update on progress with its UA92 project. Senior managers were present to give us a most positive spin on the work which has taken place over the last year; including Simon Guy, FASS Dean and Interim Principal for 2017-18, and Craig Gaskell, the new Principal and CEO of UA92. Judging by the number of empty chairs in the Great Hall, attendance was clearly down on what was expected. Most of the allocated hour was taken up with promotional videos (x 2) and Simon and Craig giving us their take on things. ‘Exciting things’ are happening. UA92 will be ‘unlocking greatness’ through its ‘pioneer portfolio’. A UA92 degree is ‘more than just a degree’ – it is ‘game-changing’. Although it’s been a ‘tough, tough journey’ to date, with ‘bumps along the way’ and this year ‘we’ve got to bake this into a proper cake’ (big Bake Off fans, apparently), UA92 will be ‘making a massive difference to lives’ with the ‘amazing opportunities’ which will be on offer. Wow!

Except that when it came to explaining what a UA92 degree is about, it turns out it’s not that different from anything else on offer in HE apart from the Target Talent Curriculum, which runs through the programme (think ‘stick of rock’). Twenty credits per year are devoted to the TTC which is essentially about ‘character development’, for example resilience (how does that get assessed?). Anyway, the UA92 degree will be delivered in modular blocks (innovative!), with flexible start and finish dates (innovative!), admission to lower level awards, i.e. CertHE and DipHE (innovative!) and even possibly enabling a degree to be taken over two years (innovative!).

Not a few of us at the University have been asking for some time why Lancaster has bothered to join up with the likes of Gary Neville and private business in such a venture. Whilst proclaiming all the time that this venture was about a commitment to social mobility (called into question immediately by the huge efforts to obtain a Tier 4 licence in order to be able to recruit international students from the get-go), this presentation gave a clear answer, even though the question wasn’t asked. It’s about getting a physical toehold in Manchester, a springboard from which to tap into the business opportunities provided by the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ and grow student numbers (650 in 2019, forecast to increase to a total roll of 6,500 in 2028). Make no mistake about it, this is first and foremost about growth in student numbers, not just in the UK but globally.

Despite Lancaster’s top-ten position in the league tables, it seems its size and geographical location are seen as constraints. So, with the venture having been awarded government funding of £3m, Lancaster has been moving ahead fast over the last year, with admission of the first cohort due in September 2019. And yet…

– Programmes have been approved, but no modules have yet been written (how does that work in the world of the Competition and Markets Authority where applicants to universities are supposed to have clear information about course content?)
– No teachers have yet been recruited.
– The project is camping out at facilities provided at the Lancashire County Cricket ground.
– The old Kellogg building which has been purchased as the initial facility for this venture needs refurbishment – yet to get started let alone finished.

Cripes! Better get a move-on then. If the Resigned to the Spine project, the Health Innovation Building Site and the LUMS Space Gazing projects are anything to go by, the signs are not good. But perhaps contractors work faster in the big city.

Oh, one last thing. In case subtext readers don’t yet know the business partners involved in UA92, these are Microsoft and KPMG. KPMG? Yes, that’s right – the audit firm which was recently slammed (along with three other auditors) in the report of the Carillion Inquiry carried out by the government’s Work and Pensions Committee and the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Committee, with the chair of the BEIS Committee asserting that the auditors should be ‘in the dock’ for the ‘catastrophic’ Carillion collapse. While KPMG took a £29m pay packet as Carillion’s auditor for 19 years, the inquiry said that it ‘complacently’ signed off ‘fantastical figures’ and that ‘in failing to exercise professional scepticism towards Carillion’s accounting judgements over the course of its tenure as Carillion’s auditor, KPMG was complicit in them’. So a fit partner for the University? We will leave readers to judge. Thank goodness that the financial viability of UA92 itself was assessed by another big financial firm, PwC, which is of course much more competent than KPMG (except perhaps when it comes to organising academy awards ceremonies, or not advising clients to invest billions into offshore tax havens, as detailed in the Panama Papers and subtext 159).


News reaches subtext that our former VC Paul Wellings is continuing the friendly, inclusive style he pioneered at Lancaster, in his current role as VC for the University of Wollongong. UOW staff were striking this week over insecure work and unfair pay, in particular Wollongong’s use of casual and fixed-term contracts. Australia’s National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) has ‘accused University of Wollongong management of misleading and coercing staff ahead of a strike this week. […] A letter from management was posted on the UOW staff intranet on October 4 which directed employees to notify managers, via an industrial action participation form, of their intention to strike. Union branch president at UOW Associate Professor Georgine Clarsen said the letter was illegal.’ In response, UOW management has stressed its commitment to ‘supportive and flexible career pathways for staff.’

Where Lancaster leads, others follow, it seems. According to the NTEU, management at UOW were ‘seeking to bully intimidate and coerce staff not to participate in legally authorised and protected industrial action.’ The NTEU has asked for an apology from Prof Wellings, but doesn’t appear to have received one so far. You can’t teach an old VC new tricks, it seems.

subtext readers are encouraged to show their solidarity with UOW workers – the local NTEU branch can be contacted via:

Full story at:


Former LUSU President, Laura Clayson, stands on trial at Chelmsford Crown Court with fourteen other defendants charged with ‘terrorism related charges’; ‘endangering an airport’. The group known as the Stansted 15 are facing potential life sentences after grounding a charter flight on which 57 people were being deported to Nigeria and Ghana. Many of those on board have since been granted leave to remain through legal challenges to their deportations.

Many of the activists are affiliated with the End Deportations Now movement, which aims to stop the inhumane practice of deporting people at a moment’s notice to potentially unfamiliar and unsafe places – places that, as recent press stories have highlighted, they may have never even seen as an adult. The deportees are often asylum seekers, many of whom have fled dangerous and hopeless situations and have built a life in the UK. Many people consider the deportation of these people a violation of human rights and a number of organisations, including Amnesty International, are calling for an end to the practice. Amnesty consider the Stanstead 15’s charges to be political in nature and are monitoring their case. (

Although it may seem that the charges against the defendants are disproportionate and thus unlikely to hold, the recent case of the Frack Free Four, three of whom were sentenced to fifteen or sixteen months each in prison for non-violent direct action, sets a scary precedent for harsh and extreme sentencing of peaceful protesters. One hopes the case in question does not follow suit. In a democracy much shaped by positive social changes brought about by peaceful protest, these recent rulings are an unwelcome insight into the current attitude of the justice system. The ‘hostile environment’ which Theresa May initiated for people from outside the UK now extends to their defenders and peaceful protesters in general. To tar these protesters with the brush of terrorism and threaten them with life imprisonment is absurd and cruel. As one of Laura’s friends observed: ‘Can you think of anyone less akin to a terrorist? The lass vomits unicorns and rainbows.’

The Stansted 15’s trial started on Monday 1st October and is scheduled to last six weeks. You can find out more about the End Deportations Now movement, and keep up to date with the trial via Please show your support by sending messages of solidarity to End Deportations Now, contacting your MP (e.g. was anyone from the Windrush generation on board?) and spreading the word about the #stansted15 on social media. Please send solidarity messages to the 15 at

Read about the Frack Free Four here:


A few readers may still have distant glimmers of a memory of Chris Heaton-Harris, the Conservative MP who tried to force universities to reveal which nasty academics were poisoning the minds of young and impressionable students with the idea that Brexit might not all be jam and prosecco (see subtext 167). While we are still waiting for an answer from our own VC as to what exactly he told Heaton-Harris, the New European reports that Worcester VC David Green was more or less vindicated in his decision to tell Heaton-Harris where to go. A ruling by the information commissioner on a different Freedom of Information request which sought to see all his emails containing the word ‘Brexit’ was firmly in favour of the University’s right to keep its correspondence private in this case.

This may lead to some mixed feelings among advocates of transparency who are also worried about Brexit alongside the UK Government’s increasing surveillance of and interference in university activities (for instance, the draconian new monitoring rules for PhD students on Tier 4 visas). Knowledge wants to be free… but also free from too much interference by governments!


As usual, dozens of societies were out recruiting during Welcome Week. subtext’s drone footage identified one group which, despite its long historic pedigree, we hadn’t seen on campus before – not openly, anyway.

Yes, if you’re a ‘man of good standing’, you too can join the Freemasons! The City of Lancaster Lodge No. 281 is the local lodge for those connected with Lancaster and Cumbria universities, and it’s interested in attracting members from ‘undergraduates, graduates, staff and alumni.’ It’s transparent, apparently, embracing ‘all the fundamental principles of good citizenship.’ Freemasons are not only completely free to acknowledge their membership, ‘they are encouraged to do so.’

Lancaster is quite the hive of activity for masonry – the district website lists 23 active lodges and 11 Royal Arch chapters, not to mention several Mark lodges and Rose Croix chapters. Certainly a way to make connections. As long as you’re a man, obviously.


Stagecoach’s new timetable has been unveiled, now the Greyhound Bridge has re-opened, and the big news for vintage subtext readers is that the number 1 bus, much loved by Lancaster students and staff at the close of the last millennium, is back! This is, roughly, a rebadged number 3, shuttling up and down the A6, but more often, using double deckers. Meanwhile the number 2 carries on, with fewer double deckers, although there seem to be teething troubles with its new schedule. On more than one occasion in the past week, whilst waiting (and waiting …) at a bus stop, subtext’s correspondent has been told ‘there are no number 2’s at the moment!’, said by someone clearly in the know.

Early evidence suggests that the changeover is proving very helpful to less organised members of our community, as ‘I missed the bus because of all the number changes’ becomes the go-to reason for lateness.


Dear subtext,

I don’t normally email but as a fairly new starter to Lancaster I was gobsmacked yesterday when I received my new parking permit through the post. Just seems a waste of money to me.

A second class stamp costs 58p. Lancaster has 2,500 staff. So if 80% apply for a parking permit that is a cost of = £1,160.

Why don’t they use internal post? Do we even have one? Or send out in batches to departments so staff can collect from named individuals. They could even use the money saved on postage to invest in digital technology that could scan licence plates to see if people have a pass or not, so moving to an automated system would save loads of time and money in the long run.

Just seems crazy to me. I couldn’t find a suggestion page or anything from the staff intranet so thought I would email you! Rant over!!!


Jennifer Kilner


Dear subtext,

And so it begins again: the daily ‘Lancaster Thousand Tonner’, in which hundreds of cars fight their way onto the campus, their drivers – white knuckled and perspiring – engaging in a mechanised gavotte designed to minimise the distance between vehicle and office. The University, increasingly a parking lot with facilities for teaching and research, must surely accept that the problem cannot be solved by carving out more and more of the estate to accommodate the motorist. But it also behoves the enlightened (?) community that make up the majority on campus to consider alternative modes of transport, and while there are no doubt some who must move children or lack other travel options, there will be others not so constrained. I suggest that for a start the latter group consider other privately and socially healthy choices. Alternatively, they can just stick with their cars and continue to bugger up the planet.

Bob Rothschild