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Ivory Tower: Personalised videos featuring your favourite higher education and research stars

We visit the website where A to Z list celebrities will record a message in return for cash. There are some surprising people on there…

To: JaneResearcher
From: Dominic Raab

Price: £25.75

“Hi Jane, this is Dom Raab (two a’s and a b) secretary of state at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office. Your friends at UK Research and Innovation have asked me to send you a message to say that they are cancelling your grant. I know this might come as a bit of bad news but look on the bright side, it’s not as if you had actually started it yet. Just to let you know that we are all so proud of you, doing research that helps some of the poorest people on the planet. Is that what the money was for? I had not appreciated the full extent of this.”

To: Mrs Robinson
From: Patrick Vallance

Price: £37.50

“Here’s to you Mrs Robinson, your children love you more than you will know. This is me Paddy Vallance, the chief scientific adviser, wishing you a happy Mothers’ Day. You might recognise me from such shows as “The Downing Street Press Conference”, “The Science and Technology Select Committee” and the soon to air “Coronavirus Public Inquiry”. I’m wearing a silk dressing gown and drinking a glass of sparkling British white wine, available at my website vallance.com, now I’m going to slip into a bubble bath. God bless you please Mrs Robinson.”

To: Emmanuel M
From: Chris Whitty

Price: £18.99

“Hi there Emmanuel, this is Professor Christopher Whitty, chief medical officer for England. Your friends across the channel have asked me to send you a message to remind you to book an appointment for your Covid-19 vaccination. I understand that you live with an elderly relative so you should make sure that she has booked her jab as well. There is plenty of vaccine available, and I can particularly recommend the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab for a man of your age. However, I cannot stress enough that although you will be vaccinated that does not mean you can relax the rules: keep washing your hands, wear a face covering, and don’t make inflammatory speeches about vaccine efficacy. Next slide please.”

To: Kate Barker
From: Arnold Schwarzenegger

Price: £240

“Hello Kate, Arnie here. Your friends at Universities UK have asked me to tell you that you may be the Regulator, but I am the Terminator. Oh wait, you’re not the Regulator that’s the other one I’ve got to do, some guy called Mike Birch…I’ll start again…Hello Kate, Arnie here. Your friends at Universities UK have asked me to tell you they’ll be back…to ask you to review your actuarial assumptions and to come to a workable compromise over joint contribution rates to the pension scheme…Really? That’s what they want me to say? Well, they are paying for it. Literally as it happens, at 56.2 per cent if you get your way…There’s other things here they want me to say, let’s see… “opportunistic pitting of stakeholders against one another”, blah, blah, blah, whatever…Hasta la vista Katy.”

To: JoeStudent
From: Michelle Donelan

Price: £6.95

“Hi Joe, this is Michelle Donelan, universities minister and Conservative MP for Chippenham. Your mum and dad have asked me to send you a message to tell you how sad they are that you won’t now be going on your year abroad as part of your degree course. They’ve now read the detail of the new exchange scheme and the bad news is that it doesn’t look like you can afford to go. They say you’ll understand that as a milkman and a care worker they only share a modest income, but it still makes you in ineligible for a travel grant. They also say they can’t afford to pay tuition fees at a foreign university for a year, now that the exchange scheme doesn’t do that. Chin up, Joe. I just want you to know that everyone at Her Majesty’s government sympathises with your plight. Maybe you could apply to our new Turing scheme for a work placement in cyber valley, or is at a troll farm in North Macedonia? I can never remember. Ciao for now.”

To: Gavin Williamson
From: Neil Lennon

Price: £37.50

“Greetings Gavin, this is me Celtic and Leicester City legend Neil Lennon. Your friends in the department have told me that you are having a bit of a hard time at work right now and that you face daily calls for your resignation, following a string of poor results for which you have mostly blamed other people. I’d just like to say that I know exactly how you feel and now that I have quit as Celtic manager, you are probably the one person in the country that people are pointing at and saying, “how is that guy still in a job?” Believe me it never gets any easier, until you do the right thing and finally go. I heard that Steven Gerrard has his eye on a big job down south. He might not be ready for the Premier League, but he’d probably do OK at the Department for Education”.

To: Amanda
From: Rick Moranis

Price: £120

“Hi there Amanda, this is Rick Moranis. You might remember me from such films as Honey I Shrunk the Kids, Honey I Blew Up the Kids, Ghostbusters, and Ghostbusters II. Your friend Dom has told me that you are starting something new at work and that he wishes you all the best with the launch of Arpa…no wait Ariel…no Aria, that’s it. So, I guess you are an opera singer or something. Dom says he hopes that you are up to the job of delivering his baby…are you a midwife, then? Maybe, I’ve got confused, he asked me to wear the lab coat and head gear, thought it was a science thing. Look, I’m not really a famous inventor, so I’d just like to say if you Brits want a real inventor, Wulf Lunn will do a message for £7.50, which apparently is also the chief executive’s salary at Aria.”

To: James W
From: Piers Morgan

Price: £99

“Hello James, this is Piers Morgan here, your best friend Gavin has told me that you are starting a new job at the Office for Students. I didn’t know they gave students jobs in offices but there you go, best place for them. Gavin says the really important thing is that you get to grips with the culture. I couldn’t agree more, it’s really important that when you start somewhere new you try to blend in. When I worked at the News of the World, I went out of my way to impress Rupert Murdoch, and when I worked at the Daily Mirror, I went out of my way to really annoy Rupert Murdoch. When I worked in American TV, I was best friends with Meghan Markle, when I worked on British TV, I…well you get the idea. But enough about me, as a student starting a new job you’ll want to cleanse yourself of all that woke nonsense they taught you at whatever Mickey Mouse university you went to. Says here Durham, never heard of it, is that near Barnard Castle? And another thing…hold on do these things run out of time?”

To: Ottoline L
From: Boris Johnson

Price: £55

“Salutations Ottoline, this is your prime minister speaking. Things are a bit tight at the moment without the old Telegraph column and the after-dinner circuit so Carrie said it would be a good idea to raise a few bob on this internet malarkey. She needs a new macrame side table or something. Anyway, let me start again…salutations Ottoline! Your friends at work have asked me to tell you that you should watch your back. Bit dark that one, have I read that right? Let’s see…apparently, there is some bloke going around promising you all sorts of stuff, telling you that he is going to make you lot world-leading and all that jazz, but he has no intention on making good on his promises and there is in fact no money left after it’s all gone on…sorry can’t read that…all gone on sushi, apparently. Sounds like a bit of a rum cove Ottie, don’t believe a word he says.”

Terms of use: this is a free email for fun on a Friday, it should be shared widely in exactly the same way that the Global Challenges Research Fund isn’t. Want to order a Mother’s Day gift from vallance.com? Want to say hello? Email ivorytower@researchresearch.com