Tag Archives: staff survey


FROM: Mike M. Shart, VC, Lune Valley Enterprise University (LuVE-U)
CC: Hewlett Venklinne, Senior Staff Happiness Ambassador
SUBJECT: Well done all!

Dear colleagues,

Thank you to each and every one of you who didn’t immediately delete the 2018 Staff Survey, whilst cursing ‘pointless BS consultation exercises.’ We are pleased to share a careful selection of the results with you. The redacted report, which you can read in full below, was prepared at great expense by some faceless consulting company, so you can be sure that it exactly reflects the will of the people, which we promise to uphold throughout the coming year.

Some headline results:

– 90% of you clicked vaguely positive ratings buttons, whilst reserving your wrath for the free text boxes which we ignore.

– 94% of you are desperately clinging on to your youthful academic aspirations, despite endless admin, funding bids and REF cycles having reduced your beloved profession to a mentally and emotionally exhausting drudgery.

– 96% of you would recommend the university to a friend as a place to work, as your eye begins to twitch and you desperately fumble for the corkscrew to open a second bottle of wine.

– The majority of you are content with diversity issues, overlooking gender inequality, a mental health crisis and an upswing in racism, both on campus and affecting society in general.

Overall, these are results of which we can be extremely proud, particularly given that people are still licking their wounds following our harsh and intractable response to strike action over pensions devaluation, and our continuing commitment to lowering pay and pushing workers onto temporary contracts.

Thanks to the majority of academic staff deciding that this survey was not worth their time, we are extremely surprised to see that 75% of you say you feel you have a good work-life balance. In today’s working climate, where many of us work 6-day weeks, neglecting our personal health and well-being, we are pleased that so many of you have given up on the idea that there is a life beyond work. We feel that the balance is right between your 60-hour working life and your limited time away from the University (during which there are emails to fill the void). After all, family, love, hobbies, relaxation, time to think, imagine, or merely sleep – these things are for those losers who don’t work at a top 10 university. This is something we will continue to work at to make sure all staff feel this way.

Once again, many thanks to all of you who took part, and for sharing your meaningless tickbox feedback with us. You have played an important part in providing guidance to improving our University, and after this thorough democratic exercise, we feel confident to proceed without listening to you for another year.

Your beloved Vice Chancellor,


who thoroughly deserves his enormous remuneration package


The 2018 staff survey is now live. This has been covered by subtext already (see subtext 178 for example) but the real excitement for us this month is whether UCU’s call for a boycott will gain any traction. After all, our staff traditionally take the path of least resistance with the biennial survey and ‘just do it’. It can’t hurt, can it? Presumably the university takes our comments on board.

A look at the current staff survey results page at:


is not very encouraging, opening as it does with ‘the results are in for the Lancaster University Staff Survey 2014,’ and linking to Capita’s report from January 2015. Turnout – 63%. Hm, can we find any record of the 2016 exercise anywhere? After a bit of work, we found it on Box. Turnout – 73%.

Rather like the National Student Survey, staff surveys consist of statements to which we can ‘agree’, ‘tend to agree’, ‘tend to disagree’ or ‘disagree’. Responses in 2016 were generally ‘positive’, although subtext wonders whether it is really so positive that 26% agreed with ‘relationships at work are strained’, while 36% disagreed with ‘I feel fairly rewarded for the work I do.’

Whatever their misgivings, UCU has actively participated – as HR is keen to remind people – in the Staff Survey Planning Group all year, so why the boycott now? According to the email sent to Lancaster UCU members by the branch Vice-Chair, UCU ‘sought to engage with the management response to the last survey, but this was not made possible for us to do in a meaningful way. […] A questionnaire-based staff survey could conceivably be used to support collegiate workplace improvement, but the current approach does not lend itself to doing this.’

Specifically, UCU feels, benchmarking our results against other institutions is flawed, because management will think, ‘if we do not get worse result than the rest of the sector, then all is fine,’ and benchmarking requires standardised questions which ‘severely limits what we can say freely due to the lack of open-ended questions and what we can learn about local conditions.’ Benchmarking also relies on using Capita, and LUCU ‘has ongoing concerns about relying on Capita, given their track record.’

Improvements to the staff experience due to the 2016 survey do seem to be rather limited. On the 2018 staff survey site, examples given are a revamp of the Employee Assistance Programme, more flexible benefits, a ‘clearer PDR process’ (ahem! – see subtext 153) and, thanks to the faculty professional services project, creating ‘a more positive environment for thinking and talking about change which, in turn, has created a more positive platform for change.’ Feedback from those for whom ‘change’ meant ‘P45’ does not seem to have been highlighted.

Will the UCU boycott have an effect? If it reduces the turnout compared with 2016 then, just maybe, the university might consider something different for 2020. Or maybe not.


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.










The University is planning its next staff survey, and this time we have been assured that they will engage in proper consultation. This is good news, because if you remember, lack of consultation was one of the key concerns in the last staff survey. subtext understands that the first round of discussions have already taken place, and that things have not quite gone the way the consultees envisaged. The fundamental question was, of course – who is to conduct the survey? That would be Capita. OK – well the other important question that needs to be agreed at this stage is cost. No – senior management have already decided on an (undisclosed) amount of money allocated to the survey. OK – well an elementary thing to agree on is the actual questions that will appear in the survey. No – senior management have already decided what the questions will be. OK – well, if that is the case then obviously it will be vital that we have input into how the findings will be interpreted. No – senior management have already decided how the survey will be construed. Further meetings are planned, their purpose unclear. Consultation is not a difficult word to understand but it obviously has a very different meaning on D Floor than anywhere else.



subtext wonders why the university continues to do business with Capita, the ‘runaway commercial monster’. Notwithstanding the latest complete shambles that is Capita’s Defence Recruiting System for the armed forces which has been described as ‘utterly disastrous on so many levels’ (https://on.ft.com/2mX9VIF – paywall), Capita is an organisation that has endured years of criticism by the media and the government. The Labour Party has recently called for the government to ‘oversee the activities of Capita’, criticizing its pension deficit, which had been allowed to balloon even as the company paid dividends. There are numerous reports of Capita’s rather cavalier attitude to contracts, delivery, methods of working and treatment of people. These include Capita not fulfilling its £330 million contractual obligation with NHS England in 2015; taking excessive fees for administering contracts including non-compete clauses in contracts with SMEs, preventing them from getting further work from Government without the explicit permission of Capita; and deliberately and systematically making late payments forcing firms to cease trading. Then of course there are the systems actually installed by Capita that are just not working: the electronic tagging debacle, the inadequate Co-op bank IT system, gas compliance services and fire incident dispatch services… their incompetence is putting people’s lives at risk.

Capita has the £58m a year job of collecting license fees on behalf of the BBC, but one BBC report described Capita as operating an ‘aggressive incentive scheme’ – or, targets for how many members of the public you can prosecute. More recently the staff employed by Tascor which is part of Capita were revealed to have used excessive restraint on low-risk asylum seekers on a removal flight out of the UK, according to inspectors from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons.

These are just some of the cases that we know about. subtext has read of several companies who are having ongoing problems with Capita that request to remain anonymous. Are we one of them, or is it the case the university has stupidly tied itself into one of those binding contracts that Capita is infamously renowned for tying organisations into? Why else would they use this company year after year to conduct the staff survey?