‘Truth: lies open to all’


Issue 128

5 February 2015


Fortnightly during term time.

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CONTENTS: editorial, council report, court report, pensions, REF, more REF, continuing membership, free speech, alumni, engineering, labour leaflets, John Drew, buses, lost and found, KCL, Jack Hylton, letters.



Perhaps the most striking aspect of the debate on the fees and rents increases at last Saturday’s University Court (see report below) was the evident incomprehension of the university managers of what was upsetting the students. Had they not explained in their ‘background briefing notes’ (appended to both motions and in no way intended to sway votes) that as undergraduate fees for Home/EU students were pegged at £9K, they had to raise fees for international and postgraduate students ‘to cover increasing costs’? And was it not clear that the university’s agreement with UPP required us to match their rent levels, even if they were being increased at well above the inflation rate?

None of this cut any ice with the student representatives. They pointed to the increasing financial burdens being borne by students to maintain the university and their fears for future recruitment, particularly of postgraduates. They were particularly incensed by the way the concerns voiced by their representatives on Council and UMAG had been ignored. Not only that, those same representatives were gagged by confidentiality restrictions so that they could not even discuss the issues with other LUSU officers. These concerns were blithely dismissed. Costs were rising faster than income therefore students had to pay more. End of story.

The gulf in understanding was underlined by the reports from the Vice-Chancellor and Director of Finance. Last year the university had a surplus of £16.2m (7.2%), and is about to start on the largest self-funded capital programme in its history. The new Innovations Campus will cost us £40m, of which we’ve already amassed £22m. A close look at the 2014 Annual Accounts shows where most of this money is coming from. Over £113m, 52% of total income, came from student fees and rents. This year, with HEFCE teaching grants all but gone, that proportion is likely to be close to 65%. The student body is by far our biggest funder and the implications of this have to be taken on board by the university’s managers. They imagine that by treating students as ‘customers’ this will keep them satisfied. This hasn’t happened with the banks, utilities and mobile phone operators and is unlikely to be any more successful here. Yes, better sports and social facilities, better catering and accommodation and so on are important but they will not address the central issue that emerged at Court. Students now want a direct say in decisions, particularly financial decisions, that impact directly on them. They expect to be treated with the same respect as the university has always afforded other funding bodies.

This is a political reality that senior managers have yet to grasp, as was evident by their demeanour at Saturday’s Court. Casually justifying swingeing increases in rents and fees by the need to cover increased costs, while at the same time glorying in an expensive campus expansion, is not acceptable to the people who have to pay for it through a lifetime of debt.   Responding to these changing student expectations is likely to require a re-balancing of budgets and a re-ordering of priorities, as well as a fundamental change in the way the university engages with its students. The George Fox Lecture Theatre is not Omonia Square or the Puerta del Sol, and LUSU is certainly not Syriza or Podemos, but that meeting of Court may come be seen as a significant turning point in the life of this university.



The Council meeting began with a lengthy presentation on the REF results by Professor Stephen Decent, the PVC for Research. His report confirmed that Lancaster is by far the best place to do research in the UK. However, with the VC pointing out repeatedly that Lancaster was scoring higher than most Russell Group members, it became quite clear that this presentation was simply a back-patting ego boosting exercise to prove to ourselves that we’re really as special as we claim to be. When told that research contributes only 10% - 15% towards Lancaster’s league table ranking, Baroness Pauline Neville-Jones remarked that while it was good that Lancaster was excelling in research, clearly the university was going to need to excel in other things as well if it hoped to climb the rankings further. Overall, Council spent a considerable time examining what the university was already doing right, and very little time examining the areas needing to be improved.

The College Review Panel Report was tabled and Student Union representative Colin Mang raised his concerns over first, the proposed expansion of the Assistant Deans’ role to include greater welfare responsibilities which he saw as simply duplicating the College Advisor system, and second, the appointment process for College Principals, in which he criticised the notion of selection panels, “consensus” candidates, and unanimous decision making that essentially gives each panel member a veto. As the report also recommended that Principals should play a greater role in contributing to formulating university strategy, he warned of the danger of selecting “group-thinkers” rather than independent minded individuals who could offer a diversity of views and could contribute to better strategic debates. He concluded by calling for Principals to be selected by majority vote. Professor Amanda Chetwynd, the Provost, reminded Councillors that no final decision was being taken that day and all aspects of the report would still need to be considered further with other stakeholders from around the university.

University Secretary Fiona Aiken presented a proposal calling for an end to the conferring of “continuing membership” on retiring staff members because it was not clear what institutional rights continuing members would have once they leave the university. Mr. Mang spoke against the proposal, arguing that the university was a community and rewarding long serving staff with essentially a tokenistic continuing attachment helped to build that community and did no harm. Instead, he proposed that continuing membership is retained and that Council instead draw up a specific framework that makes clear the rights of continuing members. However, Council chair Lord Liddle dismissed the counterproposal without any discussion or vote. It seems that Ms. Aiken’s proposal has become the new policy and no new continuing memberships will be granted.

Lastly of note, Council considered the university’s Risk Management Framework. At the end of last term, Councillors were asked to complete a risk appetite form where they ranked their preferences for the risk levels of various university activities. However, Deputy Pro-Chancellor Hadfield noted his confusion in the exercise as he was not clear on exactly how he was being asked to rank his risk preferences, in part because different risks might be interrelated. Other Councillors expressed the same confusion, and Neville-Jones pointed out that while identifying risks appetite was important, identifying risk-mitigating strategies was more so. Overall, Councillors came to the conclusion that further work in this area would be needed.



The University Court held its annual meeting last Saturday (31 January). The quality of Court meetings has varied wildly over the years, but this one looked like it would be special. And so it proved.

The weather was fabulous - a beautifully clear day - as members arrived at the George Fox building to be greeted by a large and enthusiastic group of students, urging support for LUSU's motion opposing excessive rent and fee levels. Their leaflets were well-designed and to the point: rents were rising by 2.5%, meaning that next year only one block on campus would have rents below £100 per week, while postgraduate fees were rising by 5%, pricing many students out of further study.

The meeting was opened by the new Chancellor, Alan Milburn, in his first official engagement for the University. Now, we know that many of subtext's readers will be deeply suspicious of the new Chancellor, given his New Labour pedigree and links to the private healthcare industry. We found, though, that Mr Milburn was really rather impressive and - dare we say? - charming. His passion for his alma mater came through and it's pretty clear that he intends to be an activist Chancellor.

Looking around, subtext was struck by the strong turnout from external members of the Court and from LUSU Council, but more so by the low turnout by University staff, particularly members of the Senate.

Onward to the motions, and first up was LUSU's motion opposing rent and fee increases, moved by Vice-President (Education) Joe O'Neill. Joe's speech was concise and to the point. The Deputy VC responded on behalf of management with a solid, if rather dour, explanation of why Joe's motion wasn't going to be possible. Costs were rising faster than income and had to be covered by increases such as this. But it looked like the vote would be close . . .

. . . until William Brooks stood up to speak. Mr Brooks is an affable former student and longtime Court member, now running his own management consultancy in London. His speeches are usually long and loyal. That was, we are sure, his intention this time also. But things didn't quite go to plan. There was a "market opportunity here" for the University, he confidently claimed, and as someone with a portfolio of student houses in Lancaster, he knew that it was fair for the University to say to students, "if you don't like the deal on campus, you walk!" Rumblings of "conflict of interest!" from Court members became audible. And still he kept speaking. By the time Mr Brooks sat down, everyone in the room - except Mr Brooks - knew how the vote would go. And so it proved, with the motion carried overwhelmingly. Notably, the Chancellor raised his hand in support of LUSU.

Next up: another motion from LUSU, this time on the College system, and in particular the University's continuing failure to appoint Principals for Bowland and Lonsdale Colleges. The motion called for college principals to be elected democratically by the colleges and to do away with search committees. Amanda Chetwynd, Provost of the Student Experience and Colleges, responded with what amounted to a description of the appointments procedure for college principals as if this in itself was sufficient refutation of the arguments put by the proposer. Julia Sammons, Bowland JCR President, described the disastrous effect on the College of being without a principal for nearly a year. As before, the room wondered how the vote would go.

Two longstanding Bowland members gave speeches which were soon seen to be decisive. Stanley Henig, who was present at Bowland's foundation, was amazed that Bowland had now been without a Principal for almost a year - he was sure that this could be sorted out in the VC's office on Monday morning, with a new Principal in place by Monday lunchtime (it is now Thursday. It seems Prof Henig’s certainty was misplaced). Ian Saunders, Bowland Principal for many years, spoke at length about the dedication of College officers and the shambles that had been made of the Bowland non-appointment. When the vote came, it was carried by a larger majority than the first motion.

And so on to reports, with presentations from:

- the Pro-Chancellor, Lord Liddle (enthusiastic);

- the LUSU President, Laura Clayson (really very impressive indeed);

- the Director of Finance, Sarah Randall-Paley (her best presentation so far to a Court meeting);

- and, lastly, the headline act, the VC.

Prof Smith spoke well (somehow managing to drop the scowl that had disfigured his usually sunny features during the previous debates) on the REF, on the new Health Innovation Campus, on the future of USS, and on the uncertain nature of future funding.

Questions followed. Rory Daly, newly-elected President of Lancaster UCU, took the opportunity to invite the VC to withdraw the University's recent threat that staff could be made personally liable, in the event of a claim by a student arising from the UCU marking boycott. The VC's reply was conciliatory, though he did confirm that the legal threat would have been enacted if the industrial action had continued. He would consult with colleagues about whether the threat should now be formally withdrawn. The room seemed content.

And so the Court ended for another year, as members joined the queue for lunch.



There was some degree of shock at the outcome of the UCU national ballot which brought to an end the industrial action over pensions. What was particularly surprising, and for UCU activists, dismaying, was the detail of the ballot. On a turnout of 39.1%, 67.1% voted to accept, and 32.9% to reject, the employers’ revised offer. This is in marked contrast to the original ballot on industrial action that showed 87% in favour of an assessment boycott on a turnout of 45%, the largest in UCU’s history.

It’s not as if the revised offer was significantly better than the original proposals put forward by the employers’ side of USS. The final salary scheme is ended for everyone from 2016, defined benefits are salary-capped at £55K and individual contributions are to increase. Colleagues who used the UCU pensions calculator discovered that they stood to lose tens of thousands of pounds over a retirement lifetime. Moreover, the size of the projected deficit claimed by USS is being used as the justification for the changes, despite the methodology producing it being discredited by most pensions experts. There is a real fear that if the extent of the funding 'black hole' remains unchallenged it will be used as a pretext for further benefit reductions.

UCU activists are asking what went wrong. How could the union not make more of its strong hand? Was it the pusillanimity of the national leadership? Was it, as a letter to subtext suggests (see below) the indifference of academics? Might it have been the threat of punitive pay deductions and, in Lancaster’s case, of legal action against individuals, if the marking boycott was continued?

All of these? In a message to members the local UCU branch stated that there will be many views on the conduct of the dispute and its outcome, and stressed its determination to continue to defend its members’ interests. An acknowledgement, perhaps, that this was a battle lost, but that there will be others to come.



In all the rejoicing (at Lancaster) about the REF our eye seems to have been taken off the ball regarding the continuing liberalisation of English Higher Education. You will recall the Coalition announced the ending of student number controls for England back in 2013. This year universities in England will be able to recruit as many students as they like. By 2015/16, George Osborne declared, institutions will be free to recruit as many full-time undergraduate students as they can attract.

subtext thinks there are some serious challenges facing Lancaster, driven by continuing movements in student demand, and the upcoming changes to the recruitment structure. For example, lifting the cap on student numbers has started a process whereby quite a few Russell Group and research intensive institutions are making large numbers of unconditional offers to UG applicants. The initial indications are that, while this may help bolster student numbers in those universities, it is having a seriously negative impact on others, who are seeing significant falls in application numbers. Nick Hillman offers some interesting views on this topic in his Higher Education Policy Institute Report 69. He reports on what happened in Australia when that policy ( paper1.pdf) was rolled out in 2012 and warns that it’s naive to think uncapping student places will be a simple process in the UK – especially if the sector suffers further cuts after the election this year.



What makes the REF so great, for policy nerds and marketeers alike, is that there's no "overall official rating" for a department or a university, just a hell of a lot of data - data that cries out to be analysed in a spreadsheet and converted into a ranking order. Plus graphs. Graphs are definitely a good thing when writing REF reports.

If the PVC (Research)'s recent report to Council is anything to go by, we'll soon have more measures of REF performance than we have departments. We've spotted 14 so far:

Overall Grade Point Average (GPA)
Environment GPA
Impact GPA
Outputs GPA
Overall % of 4*
Environment % of 4*
Impact % of 4*
Outputs % of 4*
Overall % of 4* plus 3*
Environment % of 4* plus 3*
Impact % of 4* plus 3*
Outputs % of 4* plus 3*
Research power; and
Intensity-weighted GPA.

With this many metrics, every department in every university can be happy - just pick the one that ranks you highest, and plaster this all over the front page of your website. Easy!



Maybe it shouldn't need to be said, but subtext is very fond of Lancaster University. It is - most of the time - a great place to work and study.

Many of our retired staff like to maintain their links with Lancaster, as demonstrated by Bette Nichols's letter in this issue of subtext (see below) in response to subtext’s report that retired members of staff were losing access to their email accounts. “On the contrary!” said many readers. They often retain email accounts and library access. In addition, retired staff are normally granted continuing membership of the University - a ceremonial status, certainly, but greatly valued by those who secure it.

Until now!

A paper passed at University Council last Friday, following at least thirty seconds of debate, concludes that this situation needs to end (see Council report above). Submitted by the University Secretary, it notes that the power to award continuing membership is vested in the Council, and that "by custom and practice, continuing membership has come to be offered to all staff who retire." Why was this a problem? Well, "continuing membership has become entwined in some people's minds with access to the resources and services of the University, particularly in the form of the use of email accounts, access to electronic library subscriptions and the ability to present themselves as part of Lancaster University. There are currently 288 continuing members of the University, to whom membership has been granted for an undefined period. If no action is taken, this number will continue to grow, as would the potential administrative overhead associated with the facilities they use. This would not have been intended when Statute 2 was written and it is proposed that access to resources and services should be separated from continuing membership."

In future, it is intended that retired members of staff "should have no automatic entitlement to digital resources," as part of a "more robust approach." As for their membership, "it seems inappropriate to create a group of people for whom the relationship with the University is diminishing, and for whom there is no clear role or accountability." The Council thus resolved "to stop exercising this power in anything other than exceptional circumstances."

subtext hopes it is not alone in seeing this move as shortsighted and rather mean. At the very least, it deserved proper discussion and debate. We wonder what members of University Court - which met the day after the Council - would have said on the matter.

A more farsighted approach might have concluded that Lancaster gets, on balance, a great deal more out of former staff than it puts in. Continuing email and library access is a small, but significant, way to show respect for many years of service. Indeed, it's a pity that the same generosity is not normally shown to those who are made redundant by the University - their email accounts are usually terminated immediately.

As a postscript, we were pleased to see that Bette Nichols has just been elected to serve as a member of the University Court. Her relationship with Lancaster is certainly not diminishing.



When the following link –

- found its way into the subtext warehouse, more than a few drones descended into a short-circuited frenzy of excitement, nerves and trepidation. Strikingly, for once we find ourselves limping a long way behind the University of York in a league table. More strikingly, the University of Lancaster appeared to have been named as a University with an appalling record for the protection of free speech; we had been put into a table which said so, and it has measurables, data, analysis and everything! With fingers trembling over the scroll button, the drones wondered what exactly Lancaster had been publicly pulled up on; the George Fox Six? The removal of troublemakers from committees? The David Craig Affair??

Apparently not.

A deeper perusal into the ‘measurables’ made clear the largely political motivations behind the research, as well as an idiosyncratic interpretation of free speech. The University of Lancaster has, according to Spiked online, an appalling record on freedom of speech due to its bullying and harassment policy; “A general definition of harassment is that it is verbal or physical conduct that denigrates or shows hostility or aversion toward an individual because of a specific characteristic of that person such as their age, disability, gender reassignment status, marriage and civil-partnership status, pregnancy or maternity, race, skin colour, national origin, religion or belief, gender or sexual orientation.”

By the website’s ‘traffic light’ ranking system, our bullying and harassment policy is rated amber. Does this mean that Lancaster is firing up the engines of free speech in anticipation of ‘green’ (which goes to Universities with the most hands-off approach to free speech), ready to freely show hostility or aversion toward an individual because of their specific characteristics? This is very difficult to understand.

The Students’ Union has borne a great deal more slings and arrows for its measures to prevent discrimination. It receives a red rating for banning lads mags (it didn’t. It resolved to campaign to raise awareness of sexism), the Sun (ditto) and initiation ceremonies (a standard mix-up between political correctness and ‘elf ‘n’ safety, there). This is unsurprising when you realise that the project is sponsored by The Tab, a franchise of tabloid student news websites with an emphasis on clubbing, pulling and complaining about being challenged for sexism. The franchise has been endorsed by Kelvin Mackenzie and proud celebrity stalker Paul McMullan, who made his name defending phone hacking during the Milly Dowler scandal.

Looking at the ‘Green’ rated Universities in more detail than a brief Google search offers, one can easily rake up a whole raft of policies that the table somehow managed to miss.

Just as an example, subtext will cite the University of Buckingham’s disability policy - - and the University of Exeter’s harassment policy

Also consider the possibility that some Students’ Unions are perhaps more robust in publicising their own policies than others. Also consider the possibility that all Universities are acting in legal compliance with the Equality Act 2010.

Crushing disappointment and a vague desire to reach through the screen and strangle the internet ought to have overcome us upon clocking the name of the website. Spiked, of course, is the resurrected form of 'Living Marxism' (a magazine forced into closure after being heavily sued for by ITN in response to accusations that they falsified coverage of the Bosnian war in 1992), which itself first sprung into existence as the official journal of the ‘Revolutionary Communist Party’ which, despite its name, had more in common with the Moonies than with Marxism-Leninism.

There are some tables that you just don’t want to be at the top of. A Green rating from Spiked may to some be the academic equivalent of the Razzies.



Google ‘Lancaster University’ and one of the first things to come up is a link to photos of well-known Lancaster Alumni. The first is of the actor Andy Serkis whose world-wide fame is based on his CGI-assisted depiction of Gollum (though many would argue that his brilliant portrayal of Ian Drury is a far better example of his acting talent). When you think of all those potential international students checking out Lancaster on the web it certainly makes sense to put our better-known alumni in the top positions.

However, Mr. Serkis’ tenure at Number 1 is actually quite recent. Until January that honour had fallen to Mr. Jon Moulton, the multi-millionaire investment fund entrepreneur, who chose 25th December as a good time to put into receivership the City Link parcels delivery firm. The first that the 2,700-strong workforce heard that their jobs had gone was when they tuned in to the radio on Christmas morning. Within days he was replaced at No.1 in our alumni line-up by Andy Serkis. But Mr. Moulton was not scrubbed completely (after all, we’re not air-brushing Stalinists). He was, however, demoted well down the list and a careful check found him languishing around the 35th position, just one ahead of Mr. Neville Thurlbeck, recently out of the slammer having served a six-month sentence for his part in the News of the World phone hacking scandal.

But never rule out the possibility of redemption and rehabilitation. subtext is pleased to report that this week Mr. Moulton has raced back up the rankings and now occupies the no. 17 position, two places ahead of our new Chancellor, Alan Milburn. We are confident that it will not take him long to regain the top spot. How Mr. Milburn’s recent public knifing of Ed Milliband will affect his positioning is yet to be seen.



The Engineering Department started work on Monday 26 January in its new building, on the site of the old Sports Centre.  This date had been put back several times, but finally the move took place over the weekend of 24-25 January.

Equipment had been moved across from the old building in preparation, often with nowhere much to put it. The University appears to have come to the view that a date had to be fixed and the Department had to move in on that date, otherwise the builders would dally for ever. The builders in question, Eric Wright, are currently working on the cTAP (Collaborative Technology Action Programme) building, attached to Chemistry. It’s due for completion in autumn, but don’t hold your breath.

It is of course early days, and a few people have complaints, but the majority view of students and staff is that Engineering’s move has been a success. All admin and academic staff packed everything up in labelled crates (hundreds of them) before leaving for home on Friday 23 January, and when they arrived first thing Monday morning the crates had all been moved to the right rooms in the new building. By mid-morning staff and students were at work in their new places. Most of the crates had been unpacked by that evening.

The building has a large amount of glass, both in windows to the outside world and in internal glazing, which allows one to view activities in the labs whilst climbing the stairs - and at present the building is fairly well packed with people. If Engineering continues to grow (numbers of UCAS applications are up again this year), the building will soon be too small.

One glitch: the gate to the yard at the back of the building is supposed to admit an HGV with semi-trailer. Unfortunately, there are two young but robust trees growing right in the way. One wonders how this was missed at the design stage.



Households in Lancaster and Morecambe will recently have received through the post a four-sided glossy leaflet from the Labour Party outlining its policy on the NHS. Produced by Labour HQ in London, the leaflet promises 20,000 more nurses, 8,000 more GPs, GP appointments within 48 hours, and cancer tests and results within a week.

Fine, though where all these new doctors, nurses, technicians etc were to come from was not stated. But that's electoral politics for you. However, what really caught the eye was a section headed 'Labour's tough new approach to immigration' which was oddly out of kilter with the upbeat messages in the rest of the leaflet. This lambasted newly-arrived immigrants for claiming welfare benefits and pledged that Labour would put a stop to it. In addition to all those new doctors and nurses there will 1000 extra border staff to 'count people in and out of the country' and fingerprint new arrivals.

It appears that this leaflet was sent out without any reference to the local Labour party, which tried in vain to stop its distribution. Party members and supporters were appalled by this crude attempt to out-UKIP the Kippers with populist anti-immigrant rhetoric. However, it transpires that it was much worse than that. This version of Labour's NHS leaflet was targeted at specific post codes marked by higher deprivation and unemployment, places where Labour would expect to do well in an election. Other areas were sent a different version, shorn of its blaring anti-immigrant appeal.

It's hard to think what is more depressing about this episode: that Labour, traditionally the party that champions the downtrodden and the marginalised, should send out such a message, or that it has such contempt for its working-class supporters that it deems them susceptible to this kind of appeal. What must be particularly worrying for Labour activists gearing up for the General election campaign is that someone high up at Labour HQ thought that this leaflet was a good idea.



It was standing room only on 29th January for the talk given by John Drew C.B.E. on the reasons for the remarkable reduction in the imprisonment of children since 2009. In that time, numbers of children in custody have fallen by 64%, and now stand at an all-time low. This fall is in stark contrast to the general rise in imprisonment of adults in the same period. As former Chief Executive of the Youth Justice Board for England and Wales, and as someone who was at the heart of the youth justice policy-making process, he offered a unique perspective on changing trends in youth justice and particularly those relating to the numbers of children in trouble that we choose to lock up.

John is a former Lancaster student (History & Politics) and former President of the Students’ Union. After his talk a few audience members retired with him to County Bar and later to Lancaster House for a bite to eat. Inevitably, the talk got round to life as a student at Lancaster in the early 1970s. As the evening wore on John regaled the company with tales of high jinks, including the story of the mass ‘flush in’. Students occupied every toilet on campus and, at the designated hour, flushed them in the mistaken belief that they could drain the University of all of its water. In the days before mobile phones this was doomed from the start. By the end of the evening your correspondent had convinced John that he should put pen to paper and relive these reminiscences in order to share them with subtext subscribers. We hope to be able to do that soon.



Spotted: A female bus inspector on 22nd January 2015 at approximately 9.20 in the morning at the Common Garden Street stop. It was a very cold morning – what the Irish call a brave day. The inspector was heavily wrapped up against the chill wind with a scarf wrapped around a balaclava leaving a pair of bright, bespectacled, brown eyes visible She was in the entrance to the bus and appeared to be counting folk as they got on, offering a muffled ‘morning’ to each passenger. She skipped off the bus as it departed to await the next batch of passengers to count. Your correspondent desperately wanted to mark this occasion down in his I-Spy book of travel but, alas, fifty years have gone by since such things were to hand.

Your travel correspondent is concerned generally about the state of the brakes on most of the Stagecoach fleet. Most buses seem incapable of arriving at a bus-stop without giving a little lurch or shudder before stopping. Seated passengers experience a very gentle push forward whilst those standing have to shift the weight from one foot to the other and grip
the stanchion or strap that bit harder – even after four or five times they retain a look of mild surprise that plays across their faces at being forced into this involuntary dance. Occasionally these passenger or straphangers (to use the technical term) will forget to hold on tight and as the bus judders to a stop they find themselves spun around and finish face-to-face with a fellow straphanger. I am sure on one or more occasions this has resulted in some romance or other but for the most part people just look embarrassed.

Another perplexing thing about travelling to the University on the bus is the ringing of the bell. Generally this is fascinating - your correspondent is sure you could get a grant to study this. At what point do people ring the bell for their stop? This seems to vary a great deal. Why do people ring the bell when the red/orange light is on informing them that the bus is stopping?

Most intriguing of all, why do people ring the bell as the bus approaches the underpass? New arrivals to the university could be excused alarm and confusion as to where the bus was going after entering the underpass - whilst the destination board clearly states ‘Lancaster University’, a nervous passenger could be gripped by the idea that the driver thinks no one is getting off there and is aiming to continue down the M6 to Kendal. Allowing for the fact that a number of newcomers to the university will ring the bell at this point in the journey does not explain why it happens so often. Illumination, as always, to the usual address.



More that somehow didn’t make it into LU Text’s ‘Lancaster in the media’ roundup:

Lancaster’s new Chancellor, Alan Milburn, has seen a surge in his media presence as of late:

subtext’s recent commentary on voter registration becomes the definitive one of the local community:



£300,000 on a logo described as ‘Lidl Value’ later, and King’s College London’s attempted rebrand to the niftier ‘King’s London’ has been ditched. Still, if you’re not going to have a slab and a sans serif typeface to provide depth to your institution’s personality, then what were they expecting? Perhaps if they’d bothered to field the opinion of 8 sixth formers at a private school in Leicester, maybe None Of This Would Have Happened.



The bandleader Jack Hylton died in 1965, exactly 50 years ago last Thursday, 29 January. This anniversary was marked by performances in the Great Hall of a number of the arrangements used by Hylton’s orchestra in the 1920s and 30s.

There are at least two reasons why Jack Hylton’s life should be marked at Lancaster University. First, he was from the north-west:born in Bolton in 1892, the son of a millworker. And second, on his death in 1965 a gala concert under the title ‘The Stars Shine for Jack’ was given in his honour at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, featuring performances by well-known artists including Morecambe and Wise, Russ Conway, Arthur Askey and Shirley Bassey: the proceeds of this concert helped to fund the construction
of the Jack Hylton Music Rooms on this campus. As the date-stone in the foyer says, the building was opened by Jennie Lee, Minister for the Arts (who was the wife of Aneurin Bevan).

Jack Hylton directed the most successful British dance band of his era - his name appeared on the label of just about every British recording of dance music at that time. Yet, although he played the piano, he was not a brilliant musician. His real talent lay in his personality: his charm, his ambition, his self-belief, his energy and drive, and his capacity for getting his name printed on every label.

The Great Hall concert on 29 January featured the Piccadilly Dance Orchestra, a 23-strong group that specialises in playing music of the 1930s in authentic arrangements, and they certainly did justice to the Jack Hylton music. Their music director, Michael Law, sang some of the songs of the time, in a light, rather inconsequential voice, which was just right. Projected behind the band were fascinating images of Hylton himself, of his band, and of the performers.

The University Library is the repository of the archives of Jack Hylton and his band. This has been the subject of research, notably by Deborah Mawer (late of the University Music Department), and by Pete Faint, whose Music MPhil thesis of 1998 was on the subject of Jack Hylton. Faint runs anactive web site which offers MP3 downloads, sheet music and much more besides. He also masterminded Thursday’s concert, aided by Jack Hylton junior (see the web site for images of the concert).

At the end of the concert, Pete Faint made an impassioned speech in which he criticized the University for allowing the Music Degree to be closed, and pointed out that graduates in Music had gone on to successful careers in a wide range of fields - not only in music. The Vice-Chancellor was present. It is very much to his credit that, in the speech he made at the
reception given after the concert, he went just about as far as he could in support of music at Lancaster and of the preservation of the Jack Hylton archive.




Can anyone explain why the turnout in the UCU ballot on whether to settle for a substantial cut in pensions was less than 40%? What does it say about academics?

Andrew Sayer




I eagerly await my copy of subtext and was surprised to find an item that I can comment on; re internal mail envelopes. Many years ago (or so it seems) when we had a Procurement office in the Finance dept. it was decreed that a charge would be put on internal envelopes owning to the amount being used. This means that the first user has to pay for them, and as no-one wanted to do this the usage has dwindled. The envelopes are still available from the Facilities Stores upon receiving a Stores Order Ticket because we used to be the central stationery stores for the campus, before desktop deliveries were put in place, and this is the final item that we still keep.

James Smith

Facilities Stores


Dear subtext

Firstly may I say how much I enjoy reading subtext, even though I am now a retired member of staff, so please keep up the good work!

After reading the contents of the paragraph entitled Strategic Thinking I was surprised to learn that long serving members of staff are having their email addresses and library cards suspended on retirement. I just want to advise that this did not happen in my own case when I retired from the University last May after 14 very happy years. Prior to my retirement I received a letter from the University Secretary thanking me for my years of service, wishing me a happy retirement and asking if I would like to remain a member of the University whilst keeping my email address and library card. I promptly replied that I would like to do this and at the same time sent a brief email to ISS to ensure that my email address would not be suspended. I don't know if things have changed in the few months since I retired but keeping the email address means that I have been able to

forward work related emails to my successor as some of my contacts still haven't realised that I am retired. It is also a great way for my work friends, students and ex-students to still keep in touch if they want to. I can still support the University and my college (County) by attending events and my fellow College Officers know that I am always there to be

contacted if they need any help or support.

I have to say that I am thoroughly enjoying my retirement but I do miss the camaraderie of the day to day interaction with my colleagues and students plus I don't think anyone really leaves the University. Retirees have a wealth of knowledge and experience still to share so I hope that this is just a glitch and that retiring long serving members of staff will continue to be invited to remain members of the University and to retain their email addresses and library cards. Please pass on my comments to the powers that be in the hope that if a decision has been made to stop this happening, then it could be reversed.

Best wishes

Bette Nichols

Former College Administrator of The County College

(Still doing it for the tree!)


Dear subtext,

I recognise that as a ‘mature’ student I might be a bit out of touch but I thought the library was a place for books and quiet study. I was quickly disabused of the latter idea in my first term - trying to read ‘The Communist Manifesto’ with the enlightening background chatter of the previous night’s antics proved to be a challenge (albeit an apposite one considering Marx’s own history). As to the books… where have they gone? I was informed by a librarian this week that it is now policy to buy only the e-book when a new title is requested – apparently ‘that is what everyone wants now’ and ‘this is how people learn'. Putting aside my troglodyte tendencies, I have not met one person (not even a Young One) who agrees with this sentiment. E-books are insanely frustrating, soulless and impossible to use (forget reading).

I understand, (as I try to negotiate my way round the ever increasing barrages on campus) that maintenance is necessary but I cannot help wondering to myself how many books (touchable ones) could be bought if endless meetings hadn’t been spent discussing the colour of the new chairs to be installed in the new library, which looks as though it is going to be equipped with everything for ‘a new learning experience’… everything, that is, except books. And all in the name of progress.

Maybe the university should do away with the library altogether - it could be called the ‘Rare Books Café’ - with comfy colourful chairs - and hey let’s have a tree in the middle of it - and people sitting at computers swearing to themselves, wondering if someone could invent something that enabled you to flick through pages without waiting for them to load.

Fiona Perris


The editorial collective of subtext currently consists (in alphabetical order) of: George Green, James Groves, Ian Paylor, Ronnie Rowlands, Joe Thornberry, Johnny Unger and Martin Widden.