Ivory Tower: We are a fly-on-the-wall at the Death Star’s higher education committee
In a galaxy far, far away, there is a meeting in the council chamber of the Death Star
Palpatine: Alright, let’s get started. The galaxy won’t run itself. Any apologies for absence?
Clerk: No one would dare. Can I just ask for the minutes, do you now prefer supreme ruler of the galactic empire or vice-chancellor?
Palpatine: Emperor Palpatine will suffice. Now, do we accept the minutes as an accurate record of the previous meeting? Yes, Admiral Piett?
Piett: It says here that I volunteered to write the REF 3 for the engineering department, but I don’t remember… [he starts to choke]
Palpatine: And do you have a problem with that Admiral?
[Piett, turning blue, shakes his head]
Palpatine: Very well, release him Vader.
Vader: Yes, my master.
Palpatine: You know my young apprentice I’m still not convinced we needed to apply for degree-awarding powers as a provider of higher education.
Vader: My master, this way we can train our own staff to meet our own business needs.
Palpatine: Bit of a James Dyson vibe, I see. I’m beginning to regret sending you to do that MBA.
Vader: You don’t know the power of the DAP side.
Palpatine: OK, any matters arising from the minutes? Grand Moff Tarkin?
Tarkin: It’s Professor Tarkin now chair.
Palpatine: Give me strength.
Tarkin: I can report on our outreach programme on the ice planet of Hoth.
Palpatine: Where’s that? Never heard of it.
Tarkin: It’s an educational cold spot.
Palpatine: What are we doing there then?
Tarkin: Access, my Lord.
Palpatine: The only thing I want to access is that rebel base wherever it is. Just send some droids to this Hoth place, that ought to keep the Office for Students happy.
Tarkin: Just so we are clear—because I remember what happened when I got something wrong last time—do you mean mechanical scout droids or assistant deans?
Palpatine: Is there a difference? Anything else from the minutes? Yes, Admiral Veers?
Veers: You asked for a report on participation rates on the wookiee planet of Kashyyyk?
Palpatine: Did I? Why would I do that?
Veers: You thought they might be low.
Palpatine: Are they?
Veers: The current rate of wookiees—who are traditionally one of the under-represented groups in higher education—in Galactic Empire-backed university courses is zero.
Veers: I don’t think that will look good on our access agreement.
Vader: We could say it is part of our levelling-up agenda, my master.
Palpatine: Yeah, but first just make sure you level them down with a few thousands stormtroopers and laser canon. Then they can have a university technical college or something. Ok, anything else from the minutes? Yes, General Grievous?
Grievous: I was wondering if we had learned about our HEIF allocation for this year?
Palpatine: What’s that?
Grievous: Knowledge exchange funding, supreme Lord. It comes after submission of the higher education business and community interaction survey.
Palpatine: We don’t bother with that do we?
Vader: It is a statutory return, my master.
Palpatine: Alright, who is responsible for that then?
Vader: It would usually be the responsible officer.
Palpatine: And who’s that?
Vader: You are, my master.
Palpatine: Oh right. Well there was no Hibiscus return this year or whatever it’s called. Just send a fleet of star destroyers to round up all the research and knowledge exchange money and bring it to us.
Tarkin: My Lord, we are not the Russell Group!
Palpatine: Fair enough, got to be a bit image conscious these days, don’t want people to start asking questions about executive pay again. That was a pain in the neck. These minutes are taking forever, let’s get on. Yes, what is it Count Dooku?
Dooku: I hear there are is a challenger institution in the outer rim.
Palpatine: I thought we had recruitment sewn up there with our new marketing campaign, join the Imperial army or die.
Dooku: I believe the regulator has granted registration to a Skywalker University.
Palpatine: Vader, do you know anything about this?
Vader: Well, it’s complicated, my master.
Palpatine: Who’s in charge of it?
Dooku: His name is Luke Skywalker, dark Lord.
Palpatine: Dark Lord? Isn’t that my name? What’s going on here Vader?
Vader: No you are the dark Lord, young Skywalker has been trained by Obi Wan.
Palpatine: Is that one of those funny sounding agencies like AdvanceHE or something?
Dooku: He says he is a jedi, my master.
Palpatine: Not the woke brigade again. I thought we’d got rid of them.
Tarkin: Speaking of which, my Lord, is there any news on the Galactic Empire Freedom of Speech Bill?
Palpatine: It’s in committee stage.
Tarkin: And when will it come into law?
Palpatine: Just as soon as the committee agree.
Vader: Shall I release them from my force hold now, my master?
Palpatine: Yes, my young apprentice, we do not want people to think we rule by intimidation and fear. We are not the Office for Students.
Grievous: But the jedi, my Lord. They are a problem. It begins with searching their feelings and it ends with them levitating statues and wanting to decolonise the galaxy.
Palpatine: I refute that accusation.
Vader: What accusation, my master?
Palpatine: That the Empire is in any way colonial.
Vader: Well, it kind of is, my master.
Palpatine: You have much to learn my young apprentice. The Empire is not colonial, at least not in a bad way. You have to put our subjugation of the galaxy in historical context. Understand the benefits we have brought to parts of the universe like the outer rim and this Hoth place, wherever it is. After all, you cannot rewrite history Lord Vader.
Clerk: That’s JJ Abrams’ job.
Palpatine: There will be no renaming of buildings on my watch.
Tarkin: Well, about that.
Tarkin: A few of us on the estates sub-committee…
Tarkin: Well, it’s really more of a task and finish group. We meet informally to discuss ideas about the future of the Empire.
Tarkin: I mean university, the future of the university programmes and the students and things.
Palpatine: OK, go on.
Tarkin: Well, we wondered about the name really.
Palpatine: What about it?
Tarkin: Is it really reflecting our values? Does it send out the right messages on inclusion and the like?
Palpatine: What’s wrong with Death Star University? I’m telling you; I’m not going on another away day to come up with a new one.
Piett: It’s the whole “death” thing really. Survey feedback finds that some applicants find it off putting.
Palpatine: Send them a squad of imperial stormtroopers to help them fill in their Ucas forms at gun point, that will sort them.
Veers: The thing is, supreme Lord, if we adopted a more student focussed approach…
Palpatine: They all get jobs, don’t they? The DfE should be happy.
Veers: Yes, 100 per cent of graduates go on to work in the Imperial army.
Palpatine: And administration, don’t forget the administrators. You can’t run an empire with administrators.
Veers: Yes, but we think that raising student satisfaction could in fact help us improve retention and maximise recruitment further.
Palpatine: Why? I literally rule the entire galaxy, already.
Piers: The jedi are offering an alternative curriculum.
Palpatine: Alright, let’s call it DSU. Everybody happy?
[Murmurs of discontent and the shuffling of papers]
Palpatine: I said everybody happy? Or does Vader have to do the chokey thing again?
[Nodding of heads and expressions of content]
Palpatine: Thought so. Right, are we finally done with these minutes? Yes, Darth Maul, I didn’t realise you were back.
Maul: Can I ask about our compliance with Open Access?
Palpatine: Don’t start me on that one.
Vader: You remember what happened to the first Death Star when someone published the architectural plans in green open access format in the research repository.
Dooku: I just hope no one has been stupid enough to do that again.
Grievous: And show the fatal flaw at the heart of its design.
Tarkin: Maybe we could put a commercial sensitivity embargo on it.
Veers: Just like the tractor beam impact case study in the REF.
Palpatine: Look, can we come back to this. Time is pressing, item one on the agenda, quality assurance
[Flashing lights and alarms sound]
Palpatine: What is that?
Clerk: We are under attack by the rebel alliance.
Vader: The University Alliance? They are no match for a battle station of this magnitude.
Palpatine: He said, “rebel alliance”, try taking that helmet off once in a while and listen to what people are saying. Weren’t you supposed to have dealt with these rebels?
Vader: Very well, my master, I’ll go and sort it out.
Palpatine: Oh great now we are inquorate as a committee. Let’s reconvene in about an hour when he’s sorted out these teddy bears or whatever they are. Be back here at 3.00pm.
Maul: But the open access thing? I wonder if I should take those plans down.