issue 6

13 March 2006

'Truth: lies open to all'


Every fortnight

All editorial correspondence to: subtext-editors [at]

Please download and print or delete as soon as possible after receipt. Back issues and subscription details can be found at The editors welcome letters, comments, suggestions, and opinions from readers. subtext reserves the right to edit submissions.

CONTENTS: editorial, George Fox Six trial opening; post-George Fox Six committees; HEFCE funding allocations for 2006-7; the no rumours column; pressures on heads of department; spinal tap; Wallups' World; synergy!; letters; editing subtext



Having acquired a motto (see subtext 3), subtext now has a Coat of Arms to go with it. Our subtext 3 competition asked readers to devise a new University Coat of Arms more in line with the modern university ethos than the old Lancaster one. The competition was won by Mike Cowie (see who was awarded a 'Q' from QinetiQ, the firm that, amongst other things, adopts a 'flexible and innovative' approach to weapons development, and with whom the University has a 'partnership' arrangement (see subtext 1). Mike's verbal coat of arms so intrigued the people at the local online guide, Virtual Lancaster, that their cartoonist Nick Miller designed a Coat of Arms for us based on it. This, along with what it signifies, can be seen at As with the motto, we are happy to swap our Coat of Arms with that of the University, if a suitable place for hand-over can be arranged through an intermediary.

And now for a confession of failure. Our attempts at modernisation, venturing forth into the 21st century and becoming Team Subtext, as announced in subtext 5, have come to naught. Attempts to develop a bright Team Subtext uniform for editors to wear on campus for easy identification failed miserably, as various individuals insisted on clinging on to their old clothes and identities. Emails between the editors indicated that everyone was continuing to use outmoded terms such as 'the collective' rather than 'the team'. We sought a meeting with our line manager and team co-ordinator, only to discover that they did not exist. Consequently, in failure and sadness, we have abandoned the push forward into the blue skies of the 21st century. We have dispensed with Team Subtext, and have regressed instead to our old status of an editorial collective. The Team Subtext mascot has been brutally massacred.

As subtext 6 goes into e-production, much is up in the air: a strike on campus on March 7th followed by a boycott of assessment by the unions, while the George Fox Six appeal is underway at Lancaster Crown Court. See below for an account of the opening of the appeal, an event which has come to symbolise a struggle over key values held by the university community. We also include an update on the three committees set up in the wake of the initial outrage following the George Fox 6 affair.

subtext 6 also looks at the University's allocation of funding from HEFCE for 2006-7 and growing concerns about the increasing strains being put on Heads of Department and Department Officers, plus some of our usual features.

We also announce a new venture: the first of an intermittent series called the No Rumours Column. Rumours often fly around campus with no justification whatsoever, and subtext, as befits an organ committed to probity and openness, would never wish to fan such flames or contribute to a culture of gossip and innuendo. Therefore, even when such rumours and gossip are passed to us, we will not deign to give them credence by passing them on here. Rather, in the No Rumours Column (see below), we will, when appropriate, demonstrate our scepticism by asking simple straightforward questions that will dispel any concerns that people may have about such obviously groundless rumours.



The long awaited hearing began this morning, having been switched at very short notice to Preston Crown Court. Judge Stuart Baker, sitting with two magistrates, heard the prosecution outline the charge of aggravated trespass under Section 68 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act of 1994.

Keith Richardson, Lancaster postgraduate; Matthew Wilson, St Martin's College student ; Joanne Moodie, Lancaster postgraduate; Rhiannon Westphal, Lancaster graduate; Rachel Jackson, Lancaster undergraduate and Anthony Ayre, Lancaster undergraduate, are appealing against their conviction and sentence for aggravated trespass at the George Fox Building on 10 September 2004.

Neil Addison, prosecuting, told the court that aggravated trespass involved intimidating, obstructing or disrupting people carrying out 'lawful activities'. The lawful activity in this case was a corporate venturing conference, something he said which was 'somewhat new to academia'. This particular conference was being addressed by Lord Sainsbury, the Parliamentary Undersecretary of State for Science and Innovation at the Department of Trade and Industry, and Prof Paul Wellings the university's Vice Chancellor. This was, he said, a private event for ticket holders only. At the point where Lord Sainsbury was about to speak the defendants entered the conference hall and unfurled banners and began speaking to the audience, objecting to the conference and the presence of Lord Sainsbury and his association with 'GM food'.

The conference could not proceed and when the defendants were ejected the disruption continued in the building's foyer where whistles and a loud hailer in siren mode were used until they were then ejected from the building by the police. The demonstration then continued lawfully outside the building, he said.

The university had the right to close off parts of the campus and restrict access to students, who were 'not owners but have a licence to be there'. When that licence is exceeded they become trespassers, he went on. The prosecution will submit that at no time in advance did the defendants indicate their intention to demonstrate.

The court then watched a video of the demonstration which had been made at the time by one of the Six; this video was 'agreed evidence' the court was told, because all the defendants admitted they had entered the George Fox lecture hall. The video showed the conference being interrupted by protestors who went onto the stage and addressed the audience. One delegate was heard to shout, 'Why don't you sod off?' at the protestors, which was followed by a joke and general laughter around the hall. Much shouting and whistling was heard before the action moved to the foyer.

The first prosecution witness was Richard Crawley, Director of External Relations and Corporate Communications at the university's Management School, who described his role in the conference organisation as 'peripheral'. Commenting on his feeling during the protest he said, 'ironically, at the time I thought it was bad for the reputation of the university that the conference was being disrupted.'

Andrew Fitzpatrick, defending, asked whether corporate venturing events and the role of business within educational institutions was controversial and provoked opposition. 'There are people in every university in the country who are opposed', he agreed. But he added that this event was not especially controversial; there were companies coming onto the campus every day. The court heard that universities had a special obligation under the Education No 2 Act to ensure freedom of speech was facilitated. Asked if he was aware that universities were obliged under the Act to set up a Code of Practice to maintain freedom of speech, Professor Crawley replied, 'I am now, I wasn't at the time'.

The witness agreed that no tables were knocked over, no-one was physically jostled or pushed, the only physical act by the defendants was passive resistance, no protestor struck out or kicked out and no one had since complained of being assaulted. 'It was not that sort of protest', he said. However, he went on, 'The nature of the protest was in a domain which had been the subject of violet protest, so there was anxiety, but that dissipated'. Asked about the tradition of student protest he said, 'If this was 20 or 30 years ago this would have been a common occurrence. We have got out of practice.'

The trial continues.



In the furore that accompanied the George Fox Six case last autumn, the University set up three working groups as follows:

* The (existing) Research Ethics Committee, chaired by PVC (Research) Professor Trevor McMillan, would (a) examine the university's guidelines on the commercialisation of research and on work with companies and institutions in civil society; and, (b) consider the broader management of ethical issues in higher education and where within the institution they should be considered.

* A new working group, chaired by Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Robert McKinlay, would examine Senate and Council's current position on protests.

* A further new working group chaired by the University Secretary Fiona Aiken would, in consultation, examine whether any changes are required to clarify the code of Freedom of Speech and the rules of the University.

Although some cynics (surely, not subtext?) were concerned that the establishing of new groups and committees might be a typical institutional response to problems of the 'set up a committee and hope the issue runs out of steam before it reports back' variety, subtext has heard some hints that the groups are actually engaging with the issues at hand. Here we report what we have heard about their progress, with a certain amount of talk, drafts, and redrafts, to the stage where the definition of a camel as a horse designed by committee springs to mind.

(i) The McMillan group on Research Ethics

The committee has developed a set of proposals, based on a number of key principles, that will be made available for comment in due course. In the proposals 'research' is broadly defined as 'all forms of research investigation and experimentation, including consultancy, Third Mission and blue skies research, that contribute to a body of knowledge or theory.' The fundamental premise of the proposals is that it is the individual researcher that is charged, in the first instance, with ensuring that the research (including research partnerships) is conducted in accordance with the code of conduct. This 'bottom-up' approach means that the judgement about the ethical appropriateness of the research (or collaborative partners) is left to the individual to decide—with the provision that potentially controversial work has to be forwarded to the Research Ethics Committee. The institutional guidance for such an ethical evaluation is the 'code of conduct.' The code of conduct embodies very broad statements such as 'funding from any source that is likely to be controversial shall be carefully considered.' It seems likely that there might be a wide range of interpretations of the phrase 'likely to be controversial.' Indeed the George Fox protests are an example of such competing interpretations. So, too, might links with groups such as QinetiQ, which subtext has reported on before (and to which one committee member has research links via a research project, albeit one that is clearly not linked to QinetiQ's arms-related activities). As it stands based on discussions of this group thus far, problematic and contentious issues (e.g. QinetiQ and its associations with the University) might remain as before, while it seems highly likely that the George Fox incident would have happened even if these proposals were in place.

(ii) The McKinlay group on protests

This group has had two meetings (a third is scheduled for March 9th as subtext 6 is being written). The inaugural meeting discussed the 1971 Senate/Council ruling, which recognised the right of students and staff to engage in peaceful demonstrations, but not to obstruct or impede the work of any group. This was examined in the context of the current legislation and the rules of the university, including where 'lines' denoting conduct should be drawn, and what should happen if there were to be crossed. In the second meeting Tony Evans (security officer) gave an overview of the security implications, explaining what the security team should do in certain circumstances and what they cannot/will not do. He confirmed the current security team's contingency plan is the Security Department Plan Number 6 on Protestors. A draft document has been drawn up that deals with issues of 'Approach', 'Guidelines' and 'Procedures' relating to protests, with the first two having been discussed (although some committee members feel not in great detail) at the first two meetings, and the last of these (probably the most important) being discussed in the third meeting.

(iii) The Aiken group on freedom of speech

This group is awaiting the outcome of Professor McKinlay's report on protests before embarking on its discussions.

Comments and concerns

Clearly, these groups are working on a highly problematic set of issues and their work is still in progress. We do not know what they will finally recommend. However, we have heard some voices of concern about issues relating to both groups thus far. Naturally, while committees and working groups are still in progress, it is difficult to assess the extent of their work, or where problems might arise. However, subtext has heard of questions being raised in some quarters about the emphasis placed on a 'bottom up' system reliant on individualised interpretations about what might be 'controversial'. Yet alternatives might be equally difficult without confronting far bigger questions.

It seems obvious that it is not possible to have all proposals for research and research collaboration reviewed by the ethics committee. Nor might it be possible to compile an exhaustive list of ethically controversial topics or partnerships—for which there might always be justifiable exceptions. Thus, it seems clear that a 'top-down' system might create its own problems. Nevertheless, there is concern that if the proposals are accepted in their current form they might not help us steer through an increasingly complex ethical environment. Some consider that it is exactly this question that should come first. What are the values and principles that should underpin the work of the university and guide the choices it makes?

As for the McKinlay group on protests, this clearly has more work to do, but there is a concern that it may not address the fundamental issues raised by the George Fox Six case threw up. Re-stating the 1971 Senate/Council ruling and Security's contingency plan number 6 leaves us in exactly the same position as before. The situation is more complex than in 1971: the idea of respecting the right to protest without disrupting the 'normal working of other groups' is much more problematic than it was in 1971, if for no other reason than that there are now a lot more 'groups'. For example, private companies have a range of relationships to the university, and a variety of protest groups may object to specific activities carried out by said companies. It may not be possible to square the circle here, without further thought and movement beyond the 1971 guidelines, between companies whose activities which have, under those guidelines, protection to carry out their 'normal working relationships', and groups that strongly object to that working, and seek the right to protest against it.

Moreover, whilst security is clearly an important matter, we should be wary of attempts to transpose a political problem, such as the nature of legitimate protest, into a security problem. This is reminiscent of an earlier response from the university which sought to transpose the political problem into one of harassment and bullying. Such transpositions do not enable serious debate: indeed they foreclose it. We will have to wait and see if the McKinlay working group on protests will start to tackle such fundamental issues before handing their findings over to the Aiken group, or whether it will just tweak the draft report and leave us in a situation not far removed from the current climate of confusion.



The Higher Education Funding Council for England has recently announced its funding allocations for each university in England for the year 2006-7 (ending July 31 2007). Lancaster receives as its total teaching grant (the lump sum for teaching home undergraduates) £25.38 million (in real terms, a decrease of 0.2% from the previous year); the sum reflects student numbers and is weighted (according to the Times Higher Education Supplement) depending on student, subject and institutional factors. For research funding Lancaster gets £17.29 million, up 5.6% in real terms from the previous year. Overall, our block total resource from HEFCE (this includes all Home and EU undergraduate fees, HEFEC grant money- but not part-time OS and such undergraduate fees) is £51.4 million.

The real terms increase is 1.9% overall - an increase that appears not to match the rising costs of running the institution over the year. (Just to put that picture in perspective, since salary costs make up a sizeable part of university running costs, even if a minimal salary increase were agreed with all unions across the campus of under 3%- that would be more than the overall resource increase, although there is also the increase in income from tuition fees to factor in as well).

This year, Lancaster does not appear to have received much of an increase in its allocation - perhaps not enough even to keep up with inflation. Lancaster's 1.9% overall real-terms increase looks rather low when compared with HEFCE's overall total resource increase, in real-terms, of 5.8% above the previous year. Some institutions got less than our 1.9% (UCL in London, for example, saw its total resource increase in real terms by 1.2%, Brunel by just 0.5%) but the majority got more. Our nearest neighbours, UCLAN (total resource increase 2.0%) and St Martins (2.6%) did marginally better, while York (up 4,5% overall), Leeds (2.2%), Sunderland (3.5%), Warwick (3.4%) and Bolton (4.8%) all did rather better- though none as well as Teesside (10.9%) and the OU (7.6%).

subtext is not especially clued in on matters of university finance to comment much beyond outlining these figures. It is aware that HEFCE funding allocations may be something of a snakes and ladders game (maybe we just have to slide down a snake this year because of previous good allocations?) and is, indeed, unsure whether there is any sustainable logical rationale behind such HEFCE allocation processes. However, it would be helpful to hear whether readers think that the 2006-7 allocation is good or bad news for the University, or just what was expected- and whether there are any factors that might have led to the seemingly low allocation for the coming year.



subtext, of course, would never stoop to disseminating rumours and unfounded gossip so we'll have to await actual news about whether the costs of the North Campus Project (see subtext 2) remain as planned in the budget, or whether they have begun to spiral out of control at what appears to be a tight time financially for the University.



subtext hears of anger and revolt among Heads of Department about increasing demands made on them by various parts of the administration. Sparking the recent anger was a request from the Careers Service for information on careers destinations for past students - a form per student and a request that involves an immense amount of work for individual Heads. This comes on top of numerous other 'wanted asap' requests from University House and beyond, such as responding to job evaluation questions within a very few days, replying to a host of other surveys seeking data, and requesting materials and data sets relating to the RAE. The same is true of Departmental Officers, who report that the demands placed on them for information and data coming from all over University House have been increasingly exponentially. The pattern, as a former HoD we spoke to notes, goes like this: a request for some task to be done within a very short period of time, usually couched with the phrase 'this will only take a few minutes of your time', and often from a branch of University House itself charged with managing data. Even if such tasks did take 'only a few minutes' (itself untrue - very few demands are so simple), when combined they add up to significant amounts of time for people already suffering massive workloads.

What infuriates HoDs is that such demands – invariably with unrealistic deadlines – come from all parts of the administration without there being any hint of planning involved. Thus, if a demand is made for a huge set of RAE-related data to be provided with a very short deadline, another demand (e.g. for destinations data, with a similar deadline) invariably comes along at the same time - evidence of a lack of joined-up thinking in University House. If systems are actually being managed at the University, why are Heads of Department being subjected to constant and unreasonable demands in this way? Are we seeing managerial style which uses the notion of 'devolving' work as a way of passing the buck?

It is worth reflecting that, a couple of years back, there was talk among senior management and in University strategic plans, of 'organisational excellence' – a term that apparently meant devising an efficient management system so that people aren't constantly faced with increasingly fatuous demands on their time – that would 'lift the burden' from Heads of Department. The move to three faculties and its so-called 'devolution' of powers, was supposed to help in this process and take time-draining administrative duties away from departments, their heads and officers. It has not.



('Important Notice: Communications on the University's north and south spines may be monitored and reported to ensure the effective operation of democratic systems and for satirical purposes' [apologies to 'Message of The Day']. In an occasional column, we report on overheard conversations on the university's beloved byways.)

(Fellow 1) Have you seen this week's Times Higher? Apparently our VC has not only had a pay rise of 11% over the last year but over the past three years it has risen by 31.3%. That's well over the average for VCs of 25% and I thought we were broke!

(Companion, sounding more than a little irritable): I'm saddened by this constant carping at the modest pay increases awarded to our VC. 31.3% is very little compared with the increases to other VCs such as Professor Dowling at Surrey who has received over 61% (though I'm sure he's worth every penny). You'll recall that when he arrived at Lancaster one of the first things the VC did was to commission a staff satisfaction survey which showed that only 27% of staff were satisfied with the performance of senior management. Yet when the survey was repeated two years later this had soared to 34% - seven whole percentage points! I trust you'll bear this in mind the next time you're tempted to express an immoderate opinion on our VC's remuneration.

(Fellow 1) I think you're right! How could I have been so wrong? A 4.5% pay rise for every 1% increase in 'staff satisfaction with senior management' seems wholly fair. I look forward to him receiving a further 297% increase when he finally achieves, as I am sure he will, a 100% staff satisfaction rate with senior management.

(Fellow 2) Which will take him.......let's see now.......18 years at his current rate of progress...



From: Professor Nigel Wallups, Lune Valley University of Enterprise LUVE-U
To: Roger Jones, AP Consultancy
Regarding: Lune Valley Enterprise University: The way forward


Thanks for your latest consultancy report on Lune Valley, or LUVE-U as we are now rebranding it. It hit the mark and is enabling us to lead the way forward with a new strategy that will effectively define who we are as a brand that appeals to modern business and customers. Of course, the report was greeted in some quarters with screams of protest: no prizes for guessing where from! Moaning academics and whingeing unions: I could run this whole show far better without them, if you ask me!

Of course the academics made the usual howls of protest when we unveiled our new acronym at a recent meeting. Something about LUVE-U being 'tacky' and setting a bad example, through its spelling, to our 'students' (as some of the older staff around here still insist on calling them). Aren't they always complaining about how the 'students' can't spell anyway? So why moan about 'LUVE-U'? Don't they see it shows we are in tune with the needs of our 21st century customers!?

As for product placement advertisements on clothing and glasses ... you'd expect they'd all be moaning about the imposition of a uniform but no- it's all about discrimination and equality. You offer incentives - the more you advertise, the more bonuses you get! - and all they do is talk about equality. We've got unions asking whether willingness to use torsos for the promotion of LUVE-U contributes to our current new schemes for performance assessments and re-grading of staff. And if so, is torso size linked to the size of bonuses and other incentives awarded? Of course it is! We think this would positively raise staff morale as people gain comfort from high volume consumption of relevant foodstuffs, while increasing their advertising space contributions and get financial rewards as well. (And, of course, would help with Phase 3 of the Plan, when we negotiate the next lot of high calorie food outlet franchises across campus ...).

And I just found that thin people can be a danger - during the meeting with the above academics, some fellow from the English Department asked me if I agreed with Caesar on this issue. I thought he was trying to be funny but no, someone in the office tells me that there is a famous play where this fellow Caesar goes on about wishing another chap was fatter: apparently the chap is thin and reads a lot and Caesar thinks he's a danger. And then the thin chap helps kill him - which makes the point in a way. It made me wonder about some of our staff: fattening them up won't just increase advertising space but make life safer for us all!

But now we've got the unions complaining that the new incentives regime will discriminate against the thinner members of staff (I think we are going to have to call them 'staff of lesser bulk' or SOLB for short) who have less square feet of torso space to contribute. We've pointed out that many of the SOLBs on campus seem to be short-sighted, and hence are more likely to have advertising space on their glasses than bulkier staff, but even then they complain. The Head of Personnel was apparently confronted by a furious and very thin chap who'd just changed to contact lenses, and felt doubly disadvantaged.

Still, we want to go full-steam ahead with the plans: just need to think of ways to head off the moaners first. We could ask the union to send people along to a focus group, but knowing them they'd deliberately send along a bunch of skinny people with good eyesight ... So, how about another report from AP, advising on how to handle the resistance? Usual terms, of course- and no, as promised before, you won't have to meet any moaning academics this time. Wish we could get by without them! I think we're getting there ...





In subtext 5 we announced a competition or, rather, called for you to send in examples of the most vacuous examples of management speak that you come across, so that we could (advised by our consultants) create a new game called Synergy! Entries have begun to come in, and the work of sorting them out is under way. Our consultants are considering establishing a focus group to pilot them before unleashing them on the general public, and while they are doing so, there is still time before subtext 7, to add your contribution.

Thus far we've had plenty of the more routine terms (customers, mission statements, ways forward, anything to do with brands and (re)branding) and where, appropriate have been translating them into English: from missions and rebranding ('call in the consultants') to 'robust' (a word that has to be used whenever talking about structures and systems and which seems to mean that it looks good on the surface, but there are ways around it) and 'transparency (see above, 'robust'). 'Impact' seems to be another term that is taking on a life of its own.

There are a few, though, that have been harder to fathom. One postgraduate sent in a comment by a 'line manager' who, facing student complaints about course provision, stated 'I have no disinterest in students'. Perhaps this view might not be as bad as all that, given the levels of postgraduate student complaints about treatment and provision (see the Letters in subtexts 3 and 4).

One correspondent, George Green, suggested that Synergy! should be more like Scrabble, with different words and phrases awarded different scores according to their degree of hideousness, inappropriateness, violence done to the language, potential for misunderstanding, confusion, vapidity, etc. He also drew our attention to the comments issued by the financial institution funding the (lack of) construction of Wembley stadium:

'We're below management guidance in terms of what we expect in our numbers ... Basically we have factored in further downside.'

In a Scrabble-style Synergy! that would, indeed, be a triple score, combining incomprehensibility with a wonderful degree of understatement: we think it means something like: 'They set us a target and we've missed it. We think we'll miss the next one too.' This rivals the Japanese Emperor's famous statement to the nation after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as he announced that Japan was surrendering, with words of archaic Imperial Japanese that translated as 'The war has developed not necessarily to Japan's advantage' - a term that could be amended and adopted by management when discussing red ink and league tables, etc (e.g. 'the financial situation has developed not necessarily to Lancaster's advantage').

Anyway, keep the suggestions, phrases and examples coming in - we hope to pilot Synergy! before long ...



I came across subtext today and want to say how good I think it is. All universities need this sort of publication in today's climate of corporate uniformity. Well done and I hope you keep going.

C.R. Owen, University of Birmingham



We are now drawing towards the end of subtext's first 'term' in existence. It has been our aim to create a space for debate and dissent and to reflect a range of opinion from within Lancaster University and its wider 'environment'. To keep this process going we rely on the support of our readers for articles, letters, information and other contributions. To this end we invite readers, as ever, to write in to us and, especially, to consider joining the editorial collective - if you are interested let us know at or contact any of us in person.


The editorial collective of subtext currently consists (in alphabetical order) of: Lenny Baer, Steve Fleetwood, Patrick Hagopian, Gavin Hyman, John Law, Maggie Mort, Rhona O'Brien, Ian Reader and Bronislaw Szerszynski.

Home | Archive | Subscribe | Editors | Contact