Monthly Archives: May 2019

subtext 188 – ‘eurobants subtext’

Every so often during term time (and sometimes a bit after).

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In this issue: editorial, running out of money, wellings news, atherton news, professional services conference, unconditional offers, nets, partnership quality update, fascists, cash onlyletters.



The European elections are upon us. Despite the fact that the Members of the European Parliament that are returned tomorrow have absolutely no say on what happens with regard to Brexit – they are not even allowed to enter the Westminster Parliament without being signed in by a pal – this election is, just like most of the UK’s European elections over the past years, being treated as a de facto referendum on the UK’s relationship with the European Union.

It seems unlikely that Lancaster students will vote in huge numbers. Turnout in the local elections this month was 18% for the campus, the lowest in the district, although to be fair this was more than double the turnout at the 2016 by-election in that ward (see subtext 156).

An entirely unscientific poll of the University community (i.e. people that the subtext drones ran into while queuing for vegan sausage rolls) suggests that the following factors are preoccupying this small portion of the electorate:

1) Labour’s prevarication over Brexit, and whether or not there should be a confirmatory vote. One poll puts them ahead of the Brexit Party, if only Jeremy Corbyn had clearly come out in favour of a people’s vote, and miles ahead of the Tories:

2) Speaking of the Tories, the absolute trouncing they are likely to receive due to their own hallowed leader’s approach to the selfsame topic.

3) The likely beneficiaries of most of the votes that would otherwise have gone to the bigger parties: the Greens, the Lib Dems and of course the Brexit Party. The latter has a rather curious mix of rabid, frothing-at-the-mouth Faragists, a sprinkling of former members of the Revolutionary Communist Party, and several people who are already salivating at the mouth at the thought of all the money they can make from their favourite kind of disaster capitalism. Pretty much all of them have some kind of saliva emission problem. And other problems too, as an expose of the many problematic beliefs and links of the Brexit Party’s MEP candidates reveals:

4) Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (Tommy Robinson to his less salubrious chums). It is unthinkable that this Islamophobic, hate-inciting and repeatedly convicted criminal should receive even more of a political platform than he already has. A high turnout seems to be the only thing that is likely to stop him, so we urge our readers to do the honourable thing, and – whoever you vote for – please vote today! As long as it’s not Tommy Robinson.


Reports of a curious chill emanating from D Floor have reached the subtext inbox. Apparently, Professional Services roles that are vacant are likely to, err… stay vacant, at least for the foreseeable future. Staff have reported to us that they have been told that new or replacement roles that have been approved at departmental/unit and faculty/division level are being knocked back by senior management. There are also reports of maternity cover not being provided, and of regrades being rejected out of hand.

It is not entirely clear what this practice is supposed to achieve, but likely outcomes seem to be an increase in stress and workload, and a corresponding decrease in wellbeing and productivity, for those Professional Services staff whose areas have vacancies. And the reports around maternity cover, if true, and lack of regrades, which are definitely true, send a worrying signal about the University’s progress on addressing its massive Gender Pay Gap. There has been no statement to all University staff about this, but an email to Professional Services managers that was passed to subtext confirms that the University is basically worried about its cash flow. The rather euphemistic ‘vacancy management control’, i.e. definitely not a recruitment freeze, is used to describe what management is trying to achieve in order to meet its ‘Adjusted Net Operating Cashflow’ targets. No doubt there is a flowchart somewhere that explains it all.

Does this mean the University is about to go bankrupt? This seems rather unlikely, but the massive hole in the University’s finances caused by the shambles that is the LUMS extension, as well as various cost overruns on campus vanity building projects… um, the Capital Programme, seem likely to have weakened the University’s financial position. Plus, D Floor will be nervous about the long-overdue Augar review and of course the ever-present spectacle that gives us so much joy, Brexit.

What seems strange, however, is why Professional Services staff are having to bear the brunt of this recruitment chill – could it be something to do with the REF, perhaps? Or with the perception that Lancaster has a higher ratio of Professional Services staff to academics than many of our so-called comparator institutions? Reports from friends of subtext at some of these institutions of the absolute clustershambles that centralising and reducing admin support can result in – for staff, students and pretty much everyone – should give us pause for thought.


News reaches subtext of Lancaster’s former Vice-Chancellor Paul Wellings, now VC at Wollongong in New South Wales. Prof Wellings’ enthusiasm for ‘collaborative provision’ has continued down under, it seems. The Age reported on April 11 that the Australian National Tertiary Education Union had ‘launched a legal bid to prevent the University of Wollongong’s deal with the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation going ahead, after it was fast-tracked by the Vice-Chancellor.’

The Ramsay Centre will reportedly fund ten academics to teach the three year BA in Western Civilisation, and award thirty students more than A$27,000 each per year towards their living expenses.

What did Wollongong’s senate make of this idea? Reportedly it wasn’t asked! The Age notes that Wellings ‘bypassed the university’s academic senate, which ordinarily approves new degrees, to fast-track approval of the Ramsay deal’. The fast-tracking procedure has never previously been used for an entirely new degree. The senate subsequently passed a resolution objecting to the move.

Luckily such practices wouldn’t be tolerated here, eh? More at:


Our former Deputy Vice-Chancellor Andrew Atherton looks like he’s got off to a storming start in his new role as VC at Dundee. ‘Blind student facing deportation says university reneged on support,’ reports The Guardian on 13 May. Bamidele Chika Agbakuribe, from Nigeria, was promised ‘state of the art’ facilities at Dundee but, instead, Mr Agbakuribe claims he was given ‘failing IT equipment’ and inadequate supervision. When he complained, the university reportedly failed him, cancelled his student status and contacted the Home Office, which has said it will deport Agbakuribe and his family on 5 June.

Mr Agbakuribe faces having to repay tens of thousands of pounds to his sponsor and being left destitute:

There are two sides to every story, of course, and Dundee notes in an official statement that it ‘has an obligation to ensure that academic standards are consistently applied so that the value of a University of Dundee degree is consistently maintained. It would be wrong to permit a student to continue on a programme when these standards have not been met.’ It ‘regrets that, under immigration rules beyond the University’s control, this means that the student is expected to leave the country.’

subtext hopes that the new VC can facilitate a solution here.


At the exciting closing plenary of the 2018 Professional Services Conference, where the facilitators helped the audience to uncover the ‘implicit assumptions’ at the University, the overwhelming message was that Professional Services staff don’t feel as valued as academic staff.

How could the organisers top this for the 2019 conference? Hmmm, let’s think: why not invite a keynote speaker who specialises in the kind of casual sexism that is the stock-in-trade of a 1970s comedian?

Will Kintish, who spoke about how to become a better networker, and describes himself as ‘the UK’s leading authority on Business Networking Skills training’, spiced up his 58 minutes on the stage, with the following comedic gems:

1) He asked a woman in the audience to smile. Think that’s a pathetic thing to complain about?  Take a look at this

2) He complimented his son-in-law for ‘taking his daughter off his hands’ and for producing his grandchildren. Presumably his son-in-law is part-seahorse.

3) He compared the amount of time he has been married to his wife with the prison sentence for murder. Whilst this might (or might not) work as an in-joke between lifelong friends in a wedding speech, it’s pretty crap to talk about your spouse this way in a public forum.

4) As part of his analysis of the kinds of groups people form in a networking situation, he asserted that women always stand in closed groups (thereby preventing others from talking to them) also stating that for women to open up these groups they will have to go ‘against your natural DNA’.  In an academic institution that presumably values evidence-based claims, this seems to be a particularly stupid, as well as insulting, thing to say.

Ha, you say, we’ve all heard worse down the pub, and these are certainly not the most sexist things a man on stage has ever said. What’s all the fuss about?

Professional Services staff are largely women and amongst the lowest paid in the institution. This ‘top ten’ university has one of the worst gender pay gaps in the sector and recently failed to get an Athena Swan Bronze award for the institution. A current ‘pause’ on recruitment and regrades for Professional Services roles means that there will be more work dumped on fewer shoulders.

Last year this section of the University said ‘we don’t feel valued’. And the University said, hold my coat, I’ll find you a mother-in-law joke.

Portal news story on professional services conference (staffwall):

Link to Will Kintish presentation:

You can hear the quotes relevant to the points made above at:

1) 18:08-18:20
2) 19:00-19:20
3) 23:40-23:52
4) 39:09-39:21 and 40:38-41:06

Will Kintish is on twitter. subtext does not recommend the use of the hashtag #ivebeenkintished to let him know what you think about his attitude to women.


subtext readers will have seen that Lancaster was one of 23 universities ‘named and shamed’ by the Department for Education on 5 April for excessive use of unconditional offers to prospective undergraduates (see also subtext 184). In particular, our widespread use of ‘conditional unconditional’ offers, where your offer is only made unconditional if you select us as your firm choice, was slammed by the Secretary of State, Damian Hinds MP, as ‘damaging the reputation of the institutions involved and our world-leading sector as a whole. That is why I will be writing to 23 universities, urging them to stamp out this unethical practice.’

The 23 institutions are: Aston; Birmingham; Birmingham City; Bournemouth; Brighton; City; Derby; Hertfordshire; Keele; Kent; Kingston; Lancaster; Lincoln; Loughborough College; Middlesex; Nottingham Trent; Oxford Brookes; Roehampton; Royal Holloway; Sheffield Hallam; Staffordshire; Surrey; and West London. Perhaps we could suggest that these be listed as our true ‘competitor institutions’ in future admissions strategy meetings?

The DfE statement has had an impact. Aston University reports that it ‘has taken the decision to stop making ‘conditional unconditional’ offers’:

Roehampton announced on 4 April that, after a review, ‘we no longer offer ‘conditional unconditional’ offers. We also continue to ensure that at every stage of the application process our admissions policies are clear, fair and in the best interests of students’:

At Lancaster, however, we’re having none of this defeatist talk. Our press release, as reported in the Lancaster Guardian, states that, ‘there are various assertions within the DfE statement that we do not recognise nor do we feel are backed up by evidence. We don’t practise ‘pressure selling’ tactics and have received overwhelmingly positive feedback from applicants about our approach to offers. We will, of course, consider all advice carefully and will continue to assess our position.’

subtext understands that, having assessed our position, we are still intending to make conditional unconditional offers next year. Over to you, Office for Students!


What with recruitment freezes (sorry, vacancy management controls!), Brexit and a departing VC, you’d think the university would be trying its hardest at the moment not to create any new enemies, but apparently not. We learn that Lancaster has recently managed to seriously upset Chris Packham and a gaggle of other bird fans, by allowing its contractors BAM to instal bird netting around the Health Innovation Campus site. As local ecologist David Morris noted on 23 April, via his Twitter account @JFDIecologist, ‘a month since 1st contact, @LancasterUni & its contractors @BAMConstructUK haven’t removed its bird nets despite repeated advice. Net management goes against the planning permission & hedge tonight has Blackbird & Wren within it. This is utterly poor practice. #NetsDownForNature’

Naming and shaming via social media has quickly prompted the university into action, with Morris reporting a week later that the nets would finally be removed. Unfortunately it seems that large sections of hedge have gone with them! Readers wanting to know why nets are so bad for wildlife are encouraged to read the recent RSPB article by Gemma Hogg at:


Word reaches subtext of some creative approaches to exam-setting in one of Lancaster’s overseas partner institutions. We’re told that, for one particular module, both the proposed main exam, and the proposed resit exam, were exact replicas of past papers, available on the module’s Moodle page… with answers. In case this didn’t provide enough assistance, the resit paper reportedly highlighted key data, and at least one answer, in red font.

Readers are encouraged to contact subtext with any further stories of innovative approaches to standards and quality.


A Generation Identity sticker was spotted on campus, this time close to the Management School, on 9 April. ‘Patriots walk amongst you’ it claimed. It was removed within 24 hours.

Another GI sticker was noted near Lonsdale College in March, a few days after the Christchurch shootings.

Anyone seeing fascist stickers or posters on campus is advised to take a picture and email this, with details, to Security at or directly to Julie Ferguson, the university’s Emergency Planning & Risk Manager, at

While students can report alleged incidents of hate crime and harassment via the UniSafe applet on iLancaster, there does not yet seem to be a systematic way for staff to do the same, apart from directly emailing Security.


Thinking of applying to Lancaster to study or work? Well, make sure your credit history is immaculate, you don’t have any problems obtaining a UK bank account and you don’t have any problems accessing your funds, because campus outlets are going cashless.

Since last week, four bars (Fylde, Grizedale, Lonsdale and Pendle) have been refusing to accept cash, and subtext is told that the plan is to roll this out across all bars, shops and cafés from the start of the next academic year.

The university is enthusiastic: ‘by going cashless, customers will be able to pay for transactions quicker and more conveniently via their card or phone.’

subtext is not entirely sure how it’ll be quicker or more convenient to pay for a £1:30 cup of coffee by card, rather than by just handing over £1:30, but we’ll let that objection slide. And, hey, surely no-one uses cash these days? What next, do you want us to accept payment by postal order?

Well, yes, people still use cash, and not everyone has a choice in whether or not to use it. Many people at Lancaster have poor credit histories. Some people may not want family members or partners to potentially track where they’ve been spending their money. Others prefer to use cash as a way of imposing self-discipline on their spending. A large number of international students will not get a UK bank account until several weeks after their arrival, and will depend on cash until their account is set up.

We’re not sure how they’re going to get served in Welcome Week. We’re not entirely sure whether the university cares. We look forward to reading the relevant Equality Impact Assessment.


Dear subtext,

I was interested to see Lancaster University mentioned in the news today as one of 23 universities with an unconditional offer scheme and to also read that this is based in part on references. It reminded me of someone I once knew, who had not only been offered an unconditional place at medical school when he was 18, he hadn’t even had to apply. Such were the benefits of being the son of a doctor in the 1960s.

Bob Sapey


Dear subtext,

I have been following the debate over the revised Code of Conduct on Protests since criticisms were first made clear in subtext 185. I very much agree with the concerns over the content raised in that issue, and also by others such as Lancaster UCU. Despite following the debate, I still remain puzzled as to why a new, revised code is needed at all. What is the evidence that the previous version was inadequate or failing? University management’s only hint is their description of the previous code as ‘outdated’ and their saying that the revised version would be a ‘simpler document more tightly focused on… practical steps.’

While the justification for the revision is still slightly murky, one thing that is clear is a strength of opposition to the revised code. But mixed messages seem to have been given by the Strategic Planning and Governance department and no public statement seems to have been made in response. LUSU have told me that the university is now creating guidance for the implementation of the revised code (so much for a simpler document!). Meanwhile, the student collective snappily-titled ‘No to the new Protest Code of Lancaster University’ (or NTTNPCOLU for short) have revealed that Mr Simon Jennings, the Director of Strategic Planning and Governance, has ‘agreed to consider forming a committee representing staff and students to redraft the code document.’

Quite what the university is doing, if anything, as their response to the concerns, no one actually seems to know.


Andrew Williams


Dear subtext,

Former University member of staff, student and Bailrigg FM MANCOM member here…

I’m not sure what the SU have been smoking, but the OFCOM fees for a long-term RSL on low-power FM, which is what Bailrigg FM falls under, is only £140 per year. See page 16 of:

The only other saving I can see would be would be £548 per year for the PPL music licensing subscription.

Given that the studios, playout, and other costs would remain the same this would appear to be a hugely retrograde step for one of the oldest student radio stations in the UK and the first to hold an LPFM license.

Ian Anderson


Dear subtext,

I was bitterly disappointed to read your report outlining the cuts to Bailrigg FM.

Student Media at Lancaster University dates back to the 60s – with a tradition for holding the university and the union to account. Ronnie Rowlands’ piece on the importance of student media as a ‘playground’ for future journalists was spot on: but let’s not forget that student media has made a genuine impact on the student experience in its long and illustrious history. Exposing shoddy landlords, keeping students informed on strike action, questioning dubious university claims. Student media is, and always has been, a ‘pillar of democracy’ at Lancaster. Time and time again, they have shown their knack for making the university and the union sit up and take notice.

These cuts are the start of what will undoubtedly be a descent into oblivion for student media. With no FM licence, and SCAN gradually coming out of print, it won’t be long before student media ceases to be. How the full time officers allowed this to happen should astound me – but with a VP Campaigns & Comms who showed no regard for student media while campaigning, and an officer team that has a record for whiney facebook posts lambasting those that have the audacity to criticise them, I’m somehow not surprised.

That the Students’ Union stealthily made these cuts, without so much as a Facebook post for an explanation, is appalling and gutless.

Best wishes,

Michael Mander
Former Associate Editor of SCAN