Tag Archives: impact


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.










With the REF looming, our leaders’ thoughts turn to imaginative strategies for increasing our research ‘impact’ other than simply adequately funding and allowing researchers the time to do it.. These range from University-wide projects such as IDEAS for Impact, to the neoliberalisation of funding via the sacred concept of competition. Across the faculties, FASS apparently likes impact from ‘mew’ projects (sic), and FHM pronounces a ‘Biannual Impact Audit and Report’. Leading the way is FST, which promises ‘Research Impact Fund-Grants of up to £5000… to support academics in the generation, tracking and evidencing of impact, linked to excellent research… enhance the Faculty’s impact return to (REF)… supports the impact environment… internationally-leading outputs and a rolling set of impact cases’. Well quite. Here’s hoping they don’t roll away pre-REF.

So, in order to assist going forward in the impact environment, what does the researcher have to do? Firstly, hold meetings (obviously) with departmental and faculty impact champions and managers, and fill in an application to be assessed by a committee ‘comprising the Faculty Impact Manager and 3 nominated members of a designated RESEARCH IMPACT FUND SUB-COMMITTEE of the FST RESEARCH IMPACT COMMITTEE’ (our capitals). In this example, a psychologist, an ecologist and a botanist could be judging an astrophysics project. Does anyone REALLY think that this is a sensible idea? Is the free market ethos so firmly embedded that just funding good research without introducing some element of competition is anathema to the facultocracy? Or are they simply accepting that they aren’t wise enough to take the decisions, so delegate to subcommittees in an attempt to show ‘due process’?

Experience has shown that any success involves many follow-up meetings with both impact champions and managers, where beleaguered academics find themselves repeatedly explaining their work and why it has yet to feature in the FTSE index despite faculty assistance. Apart from the risk of funding inappropriate projects – the ones written by the best sales-people and not the best researchers – this policy has another unintended drawback (wasting huge amounts of time in form fillings and meetings is assumed to be regarded as a plus – a mutual job creation scheme for those who prefer talking to doing). Unfortunately, many good researchers find the meeting-heavy process so aversive they might just get on with their research and not engage with the process at all – possibly no bad thing for the march of progress but unlikely to be what our leaders intended.