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The Big Results Show


Ivory Tower: all the results as they come in across the country

Presenter: Welcome to Britain Decides. No, you haven’t tuned in by mistake to a late-night Danny Dyer quiz show. I’m Huw Edwards, the Welsh Dimbleby, they gave Clive Myrie Mastermind and Fiona Bruce Antiques Roadshow, but I got this. I should have put my name down for corresponding from Kyiv. 

Don’t switch off, it was either me or Gary Lineker, but he goes to bed at eleven. Right, let’s get on with it. It’s gone midnight and the first results are coming in. These results haven’t been up for grabs for several years and we have all the main parties involved here in the studio. We have a panel of three to start us off. First, let me turn to you vice-chancellor, how do things look for you?

Vice-chancellor: It’s very much a mixed picture, Huw, but that’s the Research Excellence Framework for you.

Huw: For viewers who have tuned in thinking it was a Danny Dyer quiz, can you just explain to us what the REF is.

Vice-chancellor: It is a periodic review of research performance across all universities in the UK, the results of which inform funding calculations for the next five years.

Huw: And why would you want to do that?

Vice-chancellor: I don’t understand the question.

Huw: Why? I was told this was like the Olympics and the Premier League rolled into one for universities, isn’t it a lot of fuss for results which barely change from one time to the next?

Vice-chancellor: Yes, you could say the most interesting question about the REF is who comes third.

Huw: So, a lot like the Premier League, then. Let me turn now to a representative from the University and College Union. What do you think of all this?

UCU: It should be scrapped.

Huw: Give it a minute, we’ve only been on air since midnight.

UCU: No, we believe that the REF should be scrapped.

Huw: You mean replaced by some sort of more accurate video-assisted REF?

UCU: By a more co-operative way of distributing research income in a way that supports all universities.

Huw: That sounds reasonable, do you agree vice-chancellor?

Vice-chancellor: I don’t understand the question.

Huw: Sadly. Also, with us is someone from the funding councils who run this whole thing. How are the results looking?

Funding council: It’s very exciting. We’ve never had so many results before.

Huw: Are you expecting any upsets?

Funding council: I think quite a few people will be upset.

Huw: It’s a bit of a circus, isn’t it?

Funding council: But it’s a very well-run circus.

Huw: Thank you all for the moment. Don’t get comfortable, we need to keep this visually stimulating so at one in the morning you’ll be replaced by Michael Portillo and a Spiked columnist. Now we go over to Jeremy Vine who is at the REF wall.

Jeremy: Thank you Huw, I’m not in the red wall—I don’t go beyond zone two—but here at the REF wall our computer-generated results suite where we’ll be breaking down all the data for you. Here is the famous swing-o-meter which will show how the results will swing from one way to the other or more likely stay exactly the same as last time. 

Over here, we have a map of the UK, which we will be lighting up as the results come in. Here’s London, there’s Oxford, over here is Cambridge, that’s Colchester. Is there a university there? Really? OK then. And over here is our results board where we’ll show you who is top of the league and who shouldn’t have wasted their research support office’s time.

Huw: Right, thank you Jeremy, turning to our panel, are you looking forward to seeing the league table result?

UCU: It should be scrapped.

Huw: I think we’ve established that. Person from the funding council, you must be excited to see who tops the table?

Funding council: We do not endorse the creation of league tables from the data we provide. We deliver the information as a profile so that it is contextualised and nuanced.

Huw: And are you against league tables vice-chancellor?

Vice-chancellor: I don’t understand the question.

Huw: Right, let’s go over to Belfast and our correspondent there, where the counting has just begun. How are things looking in Northern Ireland?

Correspondent: The results were unsealed at midnight and now teams are poring over them.

Huw: And when do you think we’ll get the results? Early morning? Tomorrow lunch time?

Correspondent: Probably in about five minutes.

Huw: Really?

Correspondent: There are only two universities.

Huw: And for years the results have always been predictable with the outcomes divided along historic and tribal lines, unchanging from one generation to the next.

Correspondent: That’s one way of putting it.

Huw: But will we see seismic change this time round?

Correspondent: No.

Huw: We’ll be back in Belfast later to see those results as they unfold. Let’s go up now to Edinburgh, where the results are always dominated by one big question.

Correspondent: That’s right Huw and it’s no different this time round.

Huw: Have the results gone as expected?

Correspondent: The big wedge question that dominates results in Scotland once more rears its head, Huw, but tonight we might get a definitive answer, who is better: Edinburgh or Glasgow?

Huw: And up there you’ll be using the STV system?

Correspondent: Yes, the results are available on STV as well as the BBC.

Huw: Let’s go to Wales now, land of my fathers, God bless Gareth Bale. How are things looking in Cardiff?

Correspondent: We are waiting with bated breath for the most interesting result in many years.

Huw: But doesn’t Cardiff University always come top?

Correspondent: Yes, of course, I mean the scores for the Sociology and Social Policy Unit of Assessment where Mark Drakeford’s handling of the pandemic was submitted as an impact case study.

Huw: Do you think it is world-leading?

Correspondent: Like Matt Hancock and Boris Johnson’s handling of the pandemic?

Huw: Hopefully, not. Anything else we should be looking out for in Wales?

Correspondent: The exit ramp to the Severn Bridge?

Huw: Catherine Zeta Jones doesn’t have to put up with this. Right, we have our first results coming in, so we are going to go to Red Wall University… sorry, we are going to Reading University, that’s quite different. Reading, or as it’s known in our house, the gateway to Port Talbot. Let’s go over to the count. What’s can you tell us about Reading?

Correspondent: Good evening, Huw, the results down here are really interesting.

Huw: Are they?

Correspondent: Reading is real bell-weather in REF terms, neither really good nor really bad, mid-table respectability, steady as she goes.

Huw: And what are you hearing tonight?

Correspondent: Neither really good nor really bad, mid-table respectability, steady as she goes.

Huw: So, no change then?

Correspondent: The producer told me to jazz it up, otherwise we wouldn’t get on until after Sunderland.

Huw: Thank you, joining me now to explain what on earth is going on is John Curtice, the Brian Cox of social science. John, how are things looking?

Curtice: Politics at Strathclyde has done very well, and my own case study was rated 4*.

Huw: But what about the bigger picture?

Curtice: Well, I expect to be doing a lot more telly as a result.

Huw: What do these results tell us about the mood of the nation?

Curtice: Very little.

Huw: And what do they tell us about universities?

Curtice: I think the situation could be best described as, no overall control.

Huw: this is going to be a long night.

Terms of use: this is a free email for fun on a Friday, it should be shared widely among colleagues like blame for poor local election results in the South of England. Want to post your results on Jeremy Vine’s REF wall? Want to say hello? Email ivorytower@researchresearch.com