issue 60

27 November 2009


'Truth: lies open to all'


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CONTENTS: editorial, news in brief, never ending Storey, campus charges, senate report, council report, strategic planning again, foreign words, 1966 and all that chapter 4, letter.



In praise of ... staff and the Staff Association

From its earliest days the university has had a Staff Association, with dedicated space in a custom-built Ash House, near the Great Hall, where members could meet and socialise, and which gave them a sense of place and identity in the institution. Library, cleaning, catering, portering, estates maintenance, and clerical and secretarial staff made up the majority of its membership, although not exclusively so. That its existence may have passed many people by, since such activities rely on the dedicated work of a few volunteers in their own time, should not surprise us or diminish the sense of the Association's value.

Increasing pressures of the day job for such volunteers, coupled with pressure on space in the 1980s, saw Ash House being given over to other activities, and the Association on the move. Their first destination was Lonsdale College, accompanied by two of their four snooker tables. It was a blow, but accepted with more or less good grace, especially since the college also actively encouraged them to use its bar and associated space, an arrangement that worked well. However, with the move of Lonsdale College to Alexandra Park in 2004, and the refurbishment of the space left behind for teaching use, the Association again found itself under pressure. This time it lost all its dedicated space, other than the Gordon Inkster Room for the last one of its snooker tables. Now even that has disappeared, although a less-than-generous offer of £1,400 for compensation has been made. Perhaps this is better than the proverbial poke in the eye with a sharp stick, but not by much, since there was a time when the university used to give the Association £5000 a year as a contribution to its running costs, support that was withdrawn during the cash crisis of the 1990s and never restored.

Does all this matter? The short answer is yes. Support staff are crucial to the effective functioning of the university and the achievement of its objectives, but all too often they are ignored and forgotten. A small recent incident illustrates this attitude well. When Lake Carter was drained over the summer, ostensibly for landscape improvements, many of the fish within it died. Perhaps this was inevitable, but what those who planned this initiative forgot was to inform or consult the Staff Association beforehand, since one of its functions is to issue permits to its members to fish there. Similar concerns were being felt about the bowling green as the new Sports Centre came closer to being let out to contract, and no assurances about the future of this facility had been given to the staff who play there. Is it any wonder that support staff feel they exist on the margins of the institution? Lancaster trumpets itself as a people-based organisation, as shown in the People Strategy and the Staff Charter. All too often, though, the rhetoric fails to live up to the reality, which helps perhaps to explain why such documents were often derided or quickly forgotten.

At a recent meeting of the Staff Association, the members made clear that they did not wish it to fold, and a decision was taken to relaunch it. Tangible and moral support from the university would be enormously helpful and long overdue, and its value would far outweigh its cost. We await the outcome, and shall let you know what it is.



A third reactor for Heysham?

A public consultation on a possible third nuclear power station in the area is taking place at Lancaster Town Hall this week, after the Government announced that Heysham is on the list of potential sites for new reactors (see subtext 50). The existing power station with its two reactors is owned by French company EDF, but they have been told that they will need to sell some of their land there to a competitor to build and run any new reactor there. The new reactor could create 3000 more jobs, but critics are concerned about intensifying and prolonging the nuclear presence on this built-up peninsula. In 2002 British Energy said that a geological fault in the land next to the existing reactors would make a new reactor impossible, but this assessment seems now to have been brushed aside.

There is an exhibition explaining the draft Nuclear National Policy Statement, and presenting an assessment of Heysham as a site (today 9.00-20.00, tomorrow 9.00-4.00). Tomorrow (10.00-12.00) there will be a public discussion, but participants have been told that they need to register in advance by visiting or calling 0845 0048841.


Student protests continue to build

Last week saw a number of protest actions by Lancaster students over higher education funding and the vexed question of fees. Coordinated by LUSU working closely with college JCRs, they are part of a national campaign which is likely to continue at least until next year's General Election. The local MP, Ben Wallace, experienced student feeling at first hand at his surgery and pledged his support but University Council became the main focus and the Vice-Chancellor the target. Students at Lancaster have been particularly aggrieved by some of what they regard as ill-timed comments by Lancaster's Vice-Chancellor on these issues and wanted to make it clear that he was not speaking for them or, indeed, reflecting their views as important stakeholders. Last Friday's action began with a rally in Alexandra Square and a march to Lancaster House Hotel for the Council meeting. On the way other students joined and several hundred eventually gathered outside and made their presence felt in a noisy, good natured way, but few members of Council seemed prepared to walk past let alone speak to them, most preferring instead to slip into the hotel via other entrances. The level of security and policing appeared heavy for the occasion, suggesting the possibility of another 'George Fox' moment (see subtext 1), but good judgement seems to have prevailed. The blinds in the meeting room were drawn but this didn't prevent the loudest chants from coinciding with whenever the Vice-Chancellor spoke. The accuracy was uncanny, much to the amusement, it seems, of some of those present, though not the Vice-Chancellor, who was reported as looking visibly and physically discomforted. In the meeting the LUSU President presented the Vice-Chancellor with 1500 letters signed by students, explaining their position and requesting that he be more circumspect in his future public utterances. Assurances are also sought that he press for the fees review (see last issue) to be wide ranging, transparent and for all affected parties to be consulted. His response is not yet known but his volatile temper was hardly likely to have been improved by a further peaceful demonstration the following day. This time students gathered outside the Ashton Hall in Lancaster to hand out leaflets and other information about the issues. The occasion was the annual prize giving of the Lancaster Royal Grammar School, the guest of honour one Professor Wellings. The Vice-Chancellor may have been taken by surprise but again found a side entrance to use. Whether he speaks for students may be debatable but it seems clear that he doesn't want to speak to them.


'Stand up for Research' campaign.

More than 12,500 academics have now signed the UCU statement which calls on HEFCE to withdraw its proposals to make 25% of the assessment of research dependent on its 'economic and social impact' (see the editorial of subtext 58). It represents the biggest ever such petition UCU has run and has attracted signatories from all disciplines and every kind of university. The deadline for responses to HEFCE's consultation is 16 December. The petition can be signed at:



We reported back in March that the Storey Institute on Meeting House Lane was due to reopen during the summer as the Storey Creative Industries Centre ( Last month saw the last few pieces of the jigsaw put in place, and a new phase of the Storey's fascinating history has begun.

The Storey has long played an important role in the cultural and intellectual life of Lancaster. It was opened in 1891 on the site of the old mechanics institute, as a gift to the people of Lancaster from local oil-cloth magnate Thomas Storey on the occasion of Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee. Over the years many people have passed through its doors to take advantage of the educational and cultural opportunities it offered, and many lives were transformed. It initially housed an art gallery, technical and art colleges, a museum and a library; Lancaster Girls Grammar School was also based there from its foundation in 1907 until it moved to its present premises in 1914. In recent years it also housed for a while the University's Departments of Archaeology and Continuing Education, and the Open College of the North West.

This year has seen it reopen in stages in its latest incarnation after a major refurbishment part-funded by the European Union's European Regional Development Fund. The new vision is as a combination of public arts and creative industries: its slogan is 'where art and industry spark'.

The Storey is a fine Victorian building, with many interesting features inside and out, and boasts striking views of the Castle precinct and across the city, and a secret garden. The refurbishment has managed to enhance the surprising lightness of the interior, especially in the now rather open-plan ground floor. Here the visitor will find, appropriately, Lancaster's re-housed Visitor Information Centre, but also a convivial bar and restaurant run under the name of the Northern Institute of Creative Eating (NICE), a lecture theatre and the Auditorium - a well-apportioned black-box performance space, now home to Lancaster Literature Festival, the Spotlight Club with its regular live-writing performances and workshops, and many other events.

Upstairs once again is the Storey Gallery, which has been exhibiting innovative contemporary visual art in this splendid space since 1991, with shows by nationally and internationally significant artists. Also upstairs is Litfest's latest initiative the Poetry Bookcase, a growing selection of contemporary poetry from small and independent publishers. On this floor and that above are also spaces being rented by a range of various 'creative industries' ranging from writers, theatre companies, filmmakers to graphic designers and craft manufacturers, and also various rooms that are available for one-off meetings and workshops.

So the Storey continues. There are perhaps some identity issues still to be resolved for its new incarnation. Is it an art centre or a business centre - or can it find a way of being both in a way that will create genuine synergies? Will the new commercial ethos for the building encourage rather than stifle inventive practice? Nevertheless, the refurbishment is a triumph. subtext wishes the Storey well, and encourages readers to enjoy and support it as it reinvents itself once again.



Back in 2003, when the University proposed giving control of lettings to the Private Finance Company UPP, there were those who wondered whether such an arrangement would ultimately be for the benefit of those who live and work here. (The arrangement indubitably got the University out of a financial hole, and has given us some very smart new facilities. It has also turned the University into a building site for a decade, but maybe you don't get one without the other. Anyway.) Those who questioned the UPP PFI deal were dismissed as Luddites, naive nay-sayers and financial innocents. It was hotly denied by the University that the arrangement would allow UPP to, say, double student rents at a stroke. Of course, no-one actually thought that this was likely to happen. The devil was always much more likely to be in the detail. And so it proves.

Earlier this year a research centre based in County Main needed an extra key for one of its offices. The cost of this turned out to be £17.26, half of which was carriage. Over eight pounds to cut a key does seem rather a lot (about £3 in Timpsons); a further eight pounds to get it here, particularly when UPP representatives go to and from the site every day, makes one wonder how they sent it - by unicorn?

The research centre queried the amount, and was informed by the University that nothing can be done. It seems that the University has no leverage in the matter. Which leads the researchers to muse; is this the tip of the iceberg? The end of this particular road is the US Air Force being charged thousands of dollars for a spanner that costs $2 in Walmart. What other similar charges are being levied?



18 November 2009

(Note: subtext apologises for the fact that our regular Senate Reporter has been indisposed and some of this report has been written by our occasional Football Correspondent. Readers unfamiliar with the technical language of Association Football can obtain a glossary of key terminology by sending a postal order to the value of 5 shillings, with a stamped addressed envelope, to the subtext warehouse.)

In the absence of the Great Helmsman, the chair of November Senate was taken by Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Bob McKinlay. So eager was he to crack on that he went straight to the Information part of the agenda, before returning sheepishly to approving the minutes of the last meeting. He was delighted to be able to report from 'thoroughly good news land' that LUMS/Maths&Stats had won a bid of £4m to fund 40 new PhD students in a Doctoral Centre, and that for the third time Lancaster had won a Queen's Anniversary Prize, this time for our work in developing water saving techniques. 'It's all downhill now, folks', he observed cheerfully. How right he was. We had a brief report on Mandelson's dreadful 'Higher Ambition' paper for HE, an explanation of the coming review of HE Funding, and the implications for Lancaster of the HEFCE report on teaching, quality and the student experience. All seem to indicate that a lot of Bad Stuff is heading our way.

There followed a discussion of a paper from Professor Chetwynd on the University's follow-up to the recent National Students Survey. There was a fascinating exchange involving Dr. Catherine Fritz (Fylde College), Professor Chetwynd and some of the LUSU reps on what exactly constituted 'constructive feedback' to students and how it should be given. Professor Chetwynd was of the view that when students are in transition from school to university they needed to be treated gently, while Dr. Fritz believed that if her students were writing rubbish she should feel free to tell them so. Professor Chetwynd agreed to take these and other comments on board and amend her recommendations accordingly.

We now came to a proposal from the University Secretary that Senate should comment on, and approve, changes to Statute 20. (This is the Statute that sets out, in some detail, the procedures for redundancy, discipline and capability for academic and related staff). It was by any measure a hefty item. It involved, inter alia, the creation of three new ordinances, the amendment of six other statutes and six existing ordinances, and a new definition of 'academic staff'. As senators had had nearly five days to consider these proposals (including the weekend) they would undoubtedly be fully prepared to make a wise, considered and fully-informed decision on these weighty matters.

However, someone seemed set to spoil the fun by trying to get the match postponed. Professor McKinlay informed Senate that the previous day a motion had been proposed by Mr. Joe Thornberry (Bowland College), seconded by Professor David Smith (County College), that the Statute 20 proposal 'be not put'. This is a procedural device, not often used, to delay discussion and decisions on controversial matters. If Senate accepted this procedural motion, said Professor McKinlay, there could be no discussion at all on the University Secretary's proposals. Mr. Thornberry explained that he was not trying to prevent discussion but to postpone it until Senate had all the information required to make an informed judgement. On two previous occasions when the University Secretary had reported to Senate on this issue, she had given an undertaking that proposals to change Statute 20 would not be brought forward until the procedures to replace what was in the Statute had been negotiated and agreed with the campus trade unions. These negotiations had come to a standstill earlier in the year, but they were shortly to resume, starting with a clean sheet. Senate was now being asked to approve widespread changes but without knowing exactly what the changes would be. This was clearly wrong. Professor Smith, seconding, stressed the need to allow the re-opened negotiations to proceed, then to amend Statute 20 in the light of what had been agreed. In all, a solid start from the home side, putting the away team under some pressure.

The University Secretary's response was tame. Yes, she had given that undertaking, and yes, it would be better to have agreed alternative procedures, and yes, those negotiations were about to resume. However, Statute 20 urgently needed to be updated, the University had already spent nearly two years in fruitless negotiations and could not afford to delay any longer. Support for her came from a number of distinguished senators. It soon became clear that Senate was unhappy with being denied the opportunity to even discuss the matter, and a couple of probing runs down the wing soon exposed the weakness in the Thornberry/Smith defence. Their problem was that in choosing to use this procedural device they left themselves open to the charge that they were stifling debate, and even denying Senate a voice in this important matter. A rather embarrassing position for these two hitherto stalwart defenders of the rights of Senate.

Sometimes, though, a game can turn on a single incident. Help came in the form of Dr. Tim Dant (Sociology), one of Senate's new signings this season. He proposed an amendment to Mr. Thornberry's motion that would allow discussion of the proposals but without a vote being taken. Ms. Aiken seemed to be caught in two minds. Usually, when faced with a counter-attack down the wing like this one, a defender has two options: move out quickly to close down the attacker, or hold back in the six-yard box to block any cross into the goal area. In the event, the University Secretary did neither, stating that for the moment she reserved her position on the amendment. Gratefully trapping the ball from Dr. Dant's deft flick, Mr. Thornberry announced (piously) that, if this was the will of Senate, he would accept the amendment. Goal!!!!! But was it.......? Older hands on the terraces would have spotted that Dr. Dant was clearly in an off-side position when he played the ball (you can't amend a procedural motion once it's been tabled). However, the linesman's flag stayed down, and Mr. Thornberry stayed shtum (as we say at White Hart Lane). This was all too much for match referee Professor McKinlay. He took from his pocket his version of the yellow card - The Finger - and jabbed it at Mr. Thornberry. Had he not been asked the day before (jab jab) if his 'be not put' motion was to apply to the whole Statute 20 proposal, or just the part about taking a vote? Mr. Thornberry reacted with all the wounded innocence of an Italian centre-half caught taking the legs from an opposition striker. He was simply responding to an amendment proposed from the floor, that's all. Dr. Dant and other senators joined in, verbally surrounding the referee and claiming that all this was within the rules of Senate procedure (although it wasn't). One could almost hear from the back of the main stand the first strains of 'Who's the ******* in the black?'. Bowing to pressure, the referee put away his Finger and allowed the goal. The game restarted with a vote on Dr. Dant's amendment, overwhelmingly carried. Discussion could now proceed, but no decisions on the proposals had to be taken today. Goal number two!

Ms. Aiken opened the debate with a litany of what was wrong with Statute 20. It was not compliant with current legislation and its procedures put the University at risk. For example, provision for dismissal on grounds of medical incapacity was clearly in breach of the Disability Discrimination Act (although she did not say why a law passed in 1995 was only now causing the University such concern). The sections on grievance and discipline were also contrary to recent employment laws. What was more, because Statute 20 was in conflict with the legal rights of staff on fixed-term contracts, the University was being taken to court by UCU, the notorious football hooligan 'firm' (motto: 'we come in peace - we leave you in pieces'). Anyway, even if there was a failure to agree new procedures with the unions, the terms of Statute 20 would continue to apply as they were part of the conditions of service of the majority of staff (those same terms that we had just been told were violating so many laws). Baffling, quite baffling.

The discussion that followed revealed widespread disquiet with the proposals themselves, though to be fair (as they say on Match of the Day), no one spoke in favour of keeping Statute 20 as it is. Contributions came from a broad cross-section of senators. The proposed Ordinances were 'vague and unspecific' and needed greater detail. There was unhappiness with the new definition of academic staff, the lack of definition of 'senior managers' and 'professional staff', the ambiguity over access to legal representation, the complete absence of explanation of exactly how the need for redundancies would be demonstrated. Ms. Aiken responded that these were matters of detail - Ordinances should contain only 'high-level' statements. Professor May (FASS), replied that, on the contrary, for many they were matters of principle. These and other comments were duly noted and would be reported to Council, and in the fullness of time further proposals would come back to Senate.

There then occurred one of those incidents that have football managers tearing their hair out. Your team is in possession, the ball is being passed between the back four, only seconds left to play, when up pops an opposition striker to intercept a lazy pass and shoot for goal. With the ref just about to blow his whistle for full time, Mr Thornberry asked Ms. Aiken if there was anything in the proposed Ordinances on redundancy and discipline that was not already a legal right which the University was obliged to observe anyway. Ms. Aiken conceded that this was indeed the case and that there was no 'added value' in terms of additional rights for the individual. However, she thought that it was worthwhile to set out in Ordinances those legal rights for staff to see. Goal number three! Without a doubt, she has left her team with a mountain to climb in the return leg of this fascinating tie.

Final score: Senate Spartans 3, Uni House Legal Eagles 0

For his deft footwork and 110% effort, awards for Man of the Match and Senator of the Month go to Joe Thornberry (Bowland College).

There followed a report by PVC Professor Trevor McMillan on preparations for the forthcoming Research Excellence Framework, a subject close to all our hearts. After some discussion the report was accepted, with Professor McMillan signing off with a grim reminder that the REF is not far away and in two years time we'll be making our submission.

The session finished with yet more 'collaborative provision' agreements with international institutions for Senate to approve: with the Polish Academy of Sciences, the Federal University of Lavras, Brazil, and the Kazakh-British Technical University. Senators were particularly intrigued by this last one, and wanted to know more. Professor McKinlay pointed to the mineral wealth and growing strategic significance of Kazakhstan as reason why we should be involved in this area (ie they have oodles of gas and oil and Russia, China and the US all want to be their best friends). Dr. Fritz wanted to know more of the risk in delivering degrees because of 'travel advice', mentioned in Professor McKinlay's covering paper. Did this mean there would be risks to members of Lancaster staff? Sighing with exasperation, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor went into his John Cleese mode, explaining tetchily that though there ARE risks (unspecified), at this moment these are not SIGNIFICANT risks. Clear?

The meeting closed at 3.45.



The November meeting of Council took place against a background of singing and chanting courtesy of a large group of students protesting about proposed increases in student fees. The meeting opened with a presentation from Andrew Neal describing the structure and the operation of the new Central Services organisation. All of the university support services have been grouped together under one umbrella with the aim to provide a more effective and efficient service provision across the university. Central Services comprises of seven Divisions each with a Divisional Head who reports to Mr Neal - the Chief Operating Officer (COO). Whether the reorganisation results in savings and faster service remains to be seen but his increase in power and influence appears to be quite a 'COO' for Mr Neal.

John Hadfield, a long-serving Council member, was selected to be the new Deputy Pro-Chancellor. Mr Hadfield was assured that the student protest had nothing to do with his appointment.

The Vice-Chancellor had plenty of good news to report. Admissions figures were very close to target, with particular satisfaction in the number of post-graduate research registrations being the highest ever achieved by the University. Other news was Lancaster's excellent performance in the THE Awards, being short-listed in the Best Employer Engagement category and the Award for Best Research for Bill Davies' work on water use by plants. This work has also won the Queen's Anniversary Award - a major coup for Professor Davies and the University. Further good news was the winning of a Doctoral Training Centre for collaborations between mathematics and management science. The VC also reported on the purchase of a site to the North of campus by the NWDA for Lancaster City Council, allowing the Science Park project to proceed. The LUSU President reported on the reasons for the student demonstration and emphasised the concern about potential fees increases by presenting the Vice Chancellor with 1500 signed letters from anxious students. The VC said he was happy to receive the letters. A personal reply to all 1500 is probably unlikely.

The reports from both the internal and external auditors were presented and found to be very satisfactory. The Annual Accounts of the University were presented and signed off by Council. The refinancing of the debenture that took place in August 2009 will be reflected in the 2009/10 accounts.

The Vice Chancellor then made presentations on two recent reports; Lord Mandelson's 'Higher Ambitions: The Future of Universities in a Knowledge Economy' and the 'Review of Higher Education and Student Finance', by a panel chaired by Lord Browne of Madingley. The first of these discussed how universities can continue to maintain excellence under tighter public funding constraints. This report listed 17 key changes of which the VC highlighted two. The first was the idea that teaching funding could become more competitive, being based on a number of criteria including drop-out rates and also recruitment shifted to areas of national need rather than simply recruitment of students with the highest A level grades. The second key change was the possibility of research funding being concentrated into large groups with world-class reputations. The second report discussed the future of student finance. The VC is hoping to be heavily involved in the discussions of Lord Browne's Review. The LUSU President commented that the people most affected by these deliberations are not being allowed representation - the excuse being that the NUS might not be 'open minded'. The Review is expected to report in August 2010 with the earliest change being in 2011. Funding models based on a Graduate Tax or on a Loan system will be discussed. The VC stated that whatever the repayment method he fully supported the principle that education should be 'free at the point of delivery'.

A proposal from the University Secretary to amend Statute 20 and associated Ordinances was withdrawn following the defeat of the same proposal at Senate. A small group is to set up to attempt to produce an acceptable resolution.

The meeting concluded with the approval of new emeritus positions and continuing membership appointments.



We continue our commentary on the University's new Strategic Plan ( This issue we move on to 'The Strategic Planning Framework'

This section is accompanied by a rather nice graphic in the shape of a triangle with four layers. The bottom layer, representing the next 3 years, has a picture of grass behind it. (Symbolising grass roots? or cash cows?) The next 3 layers (3-6, 5-15 and 15-25 years respectively) are backed by blue sky. (Ah, that's clearer.) The near future has a few small wisps of cloud, the medium term has the wisps amalgamating into approaching showers, and the long term is nearly half obscured by cumulo-nimbus. We're all, apparently, doomed. Still, written above the Triangle of Impending Disaster, is the assurance of Council's approval for the 'key performance indicator set', so that's all right then.

There are, we learn, Seven Areas of Strategic Development, and for now we deal with three. The first is 'International', including international students. They bring in more money, so no surprise there. There is then a fascinating reference to further 'teaching partnerships', by 'increasing our delivery of Lancaster degrees overseas'. This interesting and unusual use of the word 'delivery', usually used to mean 'teaching', seems here to mean 'boxes of pre-printed Lancaster degree certificates delivered to places abroad'. (The international area is one into which the University has galloped all too enthusiastically. Ah, if only we had a body drawn from across the University, to interrogate decisions like this, decisions with a potentially fundamental effect on its nature; a scrutinising body resembling, oh, maybe the Roman Senate - hang on, I know what we could call it ...). The Management School in particular is bracing itself for an influx of students who will have spent the first 2 years of their degree elsewhere, being taught in a way that may or may not resemble Lancaster's style and substance, with just one year left to remedy the situation. But perhaps appropriate arrangements are in place to ensure that the education these students receive abroad will be indistinguishable from that received by students here? To allow these degree schemes to go forward otherwise would devalue the Lancaster Brand we hear so much about, not to mention being ... well, potentially dishonest. So we look forward to confirmation of these students' high standards from our subscribers when the time comes.

The next section is 'Research and Impact'. Some promising stuff here. The University apparently commits itself to 'providing support for personal and professional development of researchers at an early stage in their careers', and 'ensuring that our staff have appropriate time and resources to do their research'. A frisson of excitement ran around the subtext bunker on hearing this. Unfortunately the crucial terms in these promises, in particular 'support', 'ensuring' and 'appropriate', are neither defined nor quantified. Let's find out. We encourage colleagues to claim their promised support, time and resources as early and as often as possible, to refer any complaints to the Strategic Plan people, and to tell us how far they get.

And thirdly, we reach the section on 'Teaching'. Our main priority, we understand, is 'to improve the employability of our students in national and international job markets'. Few would object to that in principle, but in practice it represents a depressing shift in philosophy and agenda. In fairness, it is a shift in which the University is only reflecting government pressure and policy, but it is also one which the University has embraced with depressing enthusiasm. We will also, we read, 'provide our students with enthusiastic and knowledgeable staff...who are at the cutting edge of research', which is plain wrong and Pollyanna-ish at best. Let's be very clear. The University repeatedly makes a connection between 'excellent teaching' and 'high-end researchers', but what they don't say is that this connection only applies for post-graduate students. If undergraduates were ill-informed enough to choose Lancaster for that reason, they would quickly find those internationally-famous researchers were far too busy addressing conferences in Hong Kong, working on the Hadron Collider, or advising high-achiever PhD students, to do more than nod to them in the corridor. There is a direct and obvious relationship here: the less ordinary you are, the less you will be asked to do ordinary things. It would be like buying a Ferrari just to take the kids to school. So let's get real about this.

More in the next issue, when we will tackle the section entitled 'People'. You'll like it.



A distinguished colleague of mine (late of Lancaster University) recently informed me that Bournemouth Borough Council has issued a Diktat that all official correspondence, letters, notes and other internal or public announcements and memoranda emanating therefrom must not contain any foreign words, phrases or expressions, because the general public, or hoi polloi, might not understand them. I also noticed in your penultimate Senate Report (subtext 57) the popular adage (or (maxim?): Mutantur omnia, Nihil interit. My thoughts, inter alia, led me to ponder how we would get by without such linguistic immigrants, themselves émigrés, sometimes in the form of calques, et cetera, which are part of common and literary English parlance (French word). I have briefly checked this out in my copy of The New English [sic] Dictionary and its addendum entitled 'Foreign Phrases and Words in English Literary and Legal Use', which contains over 2,500 entries from absit to Zeitgeist. How much poorer would our language be without the useful polyglot additions of ad hoc, ægrotat, agenda, à la, Amen, avant-garde, bête noire, café au lait, caveat, chef, chercher la femme (that one is a definite sine qua non), déjà vu, de jure, en suite, ergo, étude, ex gratia, hubris, faux pas, fellatio, in camera, sputnik, virgo intacta, vodka (the last two definitely sine quibus non) and many, many more that I won't bore you with in case of inducing ennui, getting close to a nasty case of reductio ad absurdum or wandering into a terra incognita. (On second thoughts, our culinary lexicon would be much diminished by the banning of coq au vin, Sauerkraut, the smörgåsbord and other sundry items either on the menu or à la carte.) Anyway, if Bournemouth Borough Council's proposal is turned down, I shall regard that with a soupçon of Schadenfreude. If it does get its perverse way, it will make it more difficult to find le mot juste to describe it with the right nuance. Q. E. D.


Alan Wood, Ph.D. (Philosophiae doctor)

2 November, A.D. 2009

P.S. Bournemouth's civic motto is Pulchritudo et salubritas

P.P.S. R.S.V.P.



David O'Dell was amongst the first students to study at the newly-founded University of Lancaster. Here we continue his story - as he remembers it.

Chapter 4: Year 1, Michaelmas Term 1966 ... Diary of a Nobody

* Life begins to take on a comforting sense of predictability. Nine hours of teaching a week, six hours preparing and writing an essay, hockey training twice a week, matches on Wednesdays and Saturdays and a big dance on Friday or Saturday night.

* Discover the poor man's black velvet (stout and cider). Walk up and down the last bus home introducing myself to people I have never met.

* Lancaster itself is either somewhere you pass through on the way to Bailrigg or a stopping off point for lectures. However, according to John of Gauntlet, one of the two student newspapers, 'Within the boundaries of the city of Lancaster are 37 pubs providing between them, ten different brews'. Recommended are The King Edward (Cheapside), the King's Arms (Market Street) and the Martin Street Vaults (off Cheapside).

* As for food, the JCR is cheapish, and Bowland refectory gives me my first, and last, taste of tripe and onions, but, you can get egg and chips, tea and three slices of bread and butter in the case opposite St. Leonardsgate for 2/- (2/6d for two eggs). The Littlewood's Cafe in the Market Square offers a lamb chop, new potatoes and peas for 3/6d, but is beyond my means, even though all the sweets, including the adventurous gateaux and chocolate mousses, only cost 10d. The Woo Ping, across the road from the JCR, is more my line, though not their top-of-the-range lunches and evening meals at 9/-. Down from the Town Hall the Casa Ba Ba doubles as both cafe and nightclub, but the dining possibilities are limited - about six options, all with chips. The days of a prawn cocktail and steak and chips with a bottle of Mateus rosé are some way away. Most nights it is fish and chips on the way home from the Morecambe bus garage.

* Academically the expectations are clear: three essays per subject per term and exams at the end of the year which will be graded M (you can major in this subject for Part II), N (you take the subject as a minor for Part II), F (don't even think about it).

* Urban myths begin to circulate: the Physics Department has been built over a spring and there is a bulldozer buried under one of the college quads because the workmen forgot to remove it before they built the walls.

* The November 5th Dance - Zoot Money's Big Roll Band, Jimmy Powell, 5 Dimensions, bonfire and fireworks display, tickets 7/6 - at Bailrigg is big news. I get home crammed into a Morris Minor 1000 with six others, but the next morning discover that, according to the national papers, 75 students have spent the night locked up in the Lancaster bus garage overnight. Apparently, the conductor on one of the late buses coming back from the dance had refused to accept the university bus passes because it wasn't a 'regular' service. After 40 minutes all but four students agreed to pay, but then tended £1 and £5 notes for the 4/- fare until the conductor ran out of change. At this point he discovered that he was 15s 10d short and when the bus got to Lancaster, it drove straight to the bus garage where the bus doors were locked. The police were called who said that unless the 15s 10d was forthcoming, all 75 students would be taken to the police station. As if. After a stand-off lasting an hour, the rebellious passengers were freed and allowed to go back to Morecambe - on foot. More fuss ensued and eventually they were taken back to Euston Road.

* The Michaelmas Ball is a very formal affair: dinner jackets and Princess Alexandra as a special guest. Tickets are two guineas each. Do not possess a DJ or a spare 42/- so don't get to hear Georgie Fame and Monty Sunshine's Jazz Band. Later there is criticism that Princess Alexandra didn't buy her own ticket.

* With the money saved from not going to the Ball, invest in a bright red Bri-Nylon track suit with cotton lining for £5.12.0. An expensive but necessary item when training on Morecambe prom at 8.30 p.m. in November, though how effective the training has been is a moot point. The 2nd XI's record is far from impressive: one win and seven defeats. Our goal tally of 3 for and 28 against tells its own story. According to the records, ten of those were in one game against Manchester University, but I stopped counting after seven. At the end of term we all offer up silent thanks for Pilkington 3rds, the only side we have been able to beat.

* Back at the digs we decide to hire a black and white TV for a year from a local shop. There is a slot in the back that has to be fed with 6d bits. Suddenly we become very popular.

* In search of entertainment in Morecambe we try out the Polynesian Room with its UV lighting. No one smiles after the first few minutes.

* Other attractions include the Winter Gardens and in successive weekends I watch the stars of Saturday afternoon TV wrestling - Jackie Pallo, The Royals, Dr Death and Mr Universe - and listen to Messiah with Thomas Round and a chorus of 120.

* Afternoon movies are another favourite. Watch Goal! (1966 World Cup), After the Fox with Peter Sellers and Alfie with Michael Caine. The summer blockbuster is The Sound of Music. As it is the end of the season, when I go there are only ten people in a cinema intended for a couple of thousand. The lady selling tickets at the box office (who doubles as usherette and also sells ice cream during the intermission) encourages us buy the cheapest tickets and sit in the best seats. I note in a letter home that I wouldn't mind seeing it again.

* All of a sudden the end of term is rushing towards us at an alarming rate. Send home Christmas present list which is made up almost entirely of requests for warm clothing.

* December 16th and the last day of term. My money has lasted, but taking the train back south would cost £3. By bus would be half that price, but take 9 hours 40 minutes. Put notice up in the JCR offering to share the cost of petrol for anyone heading towards London and get lucky. Morecambe to my parents' front door costs me 27/6. I walk in the house, exuding the air of a seasoned undergraduate, but no one seems to notice.



Dear subtext

I read with interest your article about the increasing numbers of students on campus and the static number of catering seats. The situation is even worse when one wishes to eat a takeaway bought on campus, or lunch brought from home. Sadly not many members of staff are able to afford a full sit-down meal every lunchtime. And yet we heed the warnings about work-life balance, about eating at our desks causing obesity, and the slaps round the lugholes we get from our technicians when our keyboards end up wet or covered in crumbs.

My two closest SCRs are Fylde and Furness. Fylde is booked as a seminar or meeting room most lunchtimes (though it is physically possible to walk in and sit down if it is not). Furness is locked when it is not booked. I am a member of one of the colleges now to be found on SW campus and even if they had a physical SCR, I am not sure who would go down there at lunchtime. We have a small coffee area in my Department but it has 10 seats for 30+ members of staff and 25+ postgraduates; it would be rather impolite, what's more, to eat in there with a friend or colleague from another department.

It is possible to eat a takeaway or sandwiches in some of the JCRs or college bars. Until this week I have been eating in Furness JCR. Often I will take advantage of a sandwich plus drink deal in one of the shops; last week I was told that this was not acceptable, and that bringing one's own drinks into the JCR was not allowed.

Would the University like to advise us where, exactly, 1000+ members of staff are supposed to eat their lunch when the sit-in places are taken? Where, indeed, is one supposed to eat the food and drink the drinks the University is happy to sell us from their takeaway outlets? Alexandra Square and the Bonington Step are not very appealing in November.

Katie Alcock


The editorial collective of subtext currently consists (in alphabetical order) of: George Green, Gavin Hyman, Bronislaw Szerszynski and Alan Whitaker.