Exclusive: Nancy Rothwell personally tracked social media of student protestors

Security reports show CCTV was also used to track student occupiers’ movements

Manchester Vice Chancellor Nancy Rothwell has been checking the social media accounts of student protestors and emailing senior staff about specific protestors, The Manchester Tab can reveal.

Internal emails reveal that Dame Nancy was drawing attention to individual students involved in protests and occupations as well as criticising others for not praising the uni enough.

In one email she highlights that student activist, Lucy Nichols, is speaking at a “demilitarise the University” event, critical of the university. 

Lucy told The Tab: “I’ve always been incredibly proud of my activism especially at UoM and clearly it rattled Nancy Rothwell if she thinks she needs to email all of senior management every time I speak at an event.”

During the occupations of the Owens Park tower and Sam Alex building last year it’s also been revealed that CCTV was used to monitor student’s movements outside of the occupations.

One security report states: “Observed on CCTV that one of the main ringleaders of the occupation…Ben McGowan (the author of this article) walked off towards Oak House and entered a flat in Chestnut Court”. 

Students Mattie Shannon and Izzy Smitheman’s tweets were also mentioned or shared both in emails from Nancy Rothwell and in security reports. In one email Nancy says: “The Nancyout campaign has reemerged somewhat…(eg…Mattie Shannon comments that were retweeted).”

Mattie Shannon said the evidence showed a Vice Chancellor “Completely out of their depth.”

Mattie added: “I think for a Vice Chancellor to feel the need to personally go through students’ Twitter feeds and send their tweets round to senior management shows someone who has their priorities completely wrong and is clearly ego driven.

“She shouldn’t be surprised she lost the confidence of 89 per cent of students when she’s spending most of her time obsessing over any student who dares to criticise her & her failures.”

In other email chains, the Vice Chancellor notes that certain named students are “very well known to us” after having asked “did you pick up any names?”  to another member of staff.

In one email about online backlash to one of the uni’s mental health communications, she notes particular students who she believed led the criticisms and adds that she believes a certain student hadn’t praised the university enough.

UCU General Secretary, Jo Grady called the actions of the university “pathetic behaviour”.

It also appears Nancy Rothwell is a keen Manchester Tab reader (hi if you’re reading this) as she sent articles to other members of senior management, including one comparing her unpopularity to Carole Baskin and black pudding.


A University of Manchester spokesperson said: “The individual students mentioned in the Subject Access Requests were prominent ‘activists’ at the University and therefore it would not be surprising that members of the senior leadership team were aware of them.

“It is absolutely normal practice for different departments and teams work collaboratively to liaise, report and inform each other of any activities that disrupt campus life. The safety and wellbeing of our students, especially those on campus, always has to be a top priority for the University.

“This kind of cooperative working across departments for safety and security reasons isn’t at all unusual for any organisation, especially for one the size and scope of our university.

“Regarding Twitter monitoring, we would point out that a number of the students involved in the UoM Rent Strike occupation were tagging the official university twitter handle into their individual tweets, with some tweets asking questions of the University and a number being retweeted by the ‘UoM Rent strike’ campaign account. The activity flowing from individual accounts was therefore completely visible and in the public domain.

“We strongly reject any suggestion that we have been spying on individual students.”

Related stories recommended by Nancy Rothwell:

From Carole Baskin to black pudding: 10 things officially more popular than Nancy Rothwell

Revealed: Manchester Uni decided to ignore referendum result weeks before the vote

UoM students occupying Sam Alex building say security have been ‘hostile and threatening’