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Your Call 2024

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Ivory Tower: The party leaders leave messages for the general election campaign

This is the Ivory Tower answering machine. We are all out trying to secure some voter IDplease leave a message after the tone. BEEP.

Rishi Sunak: This is your prime minister speaking. Vote for me. Listen, guys, I just wanted you all to know that I was only joking about the graduate route visa thing. I love universities.

I used to be an international student. I wasn’t going to study an MBA in this country, gosh no. I could afford the fees at Stanford. And yes, I worked in the US after graduation.

But I was the brightest and the best, just like the talent I’ve appointed in my government: Lee Anderson, Jonathan Gullis, Esther McVey…I could go on. But I do spend much of my time thinking about extremists on our campuses, abusing our liberal values while intimidating and threatening others. That’s what I admire most about vice-chancellors.

I’ve been listening hard to them in the past few days because there is an outside chance that come September I may be teaching in California. If anyone has a spare syllabus for a module called Practical Hedge Funds: An Introduction, do get in touch.

Look, I’ll be honest, universities are full of people who don’t vote for conservatives anyway. It is increasingly rare to find the sort of people who make up the modern Conservative Party in a university. That’s what I’m looking forward to most about California. That and the lack of rain, obviously. BEEP.

Keir Starmer: At long last, the wait is over. The phone was ringing for ages—you ought to delete some messages.

But the election campaign has finally started in earnest. I am excited about it because at long last I’ll get to find out what Labour’s policy on higher education actually is.

Sue Gray tells me that universities are on her sh*t list. I told her that was a bit harsh and that maybe she should give an adult education class a go before ruling them out entirely. But she told me that she is worried that universities might be about to close. I explained that these days the libraries tend to stay open 24 hours during exam time.

I asked Bridget Phillipson about it and she said she didn’t know what Labour’s policy on higher education was either. But I can say that we’ll definitely, maybe, possibly, when conditions allow, in the fullness of time, be promoting arts education. Learning to play the recorder has made me the man I am today: hard to listen to and slightly grating.

I told Sue about my deep love of Beethoven and it turns out she was a fan too. She said she had seen the big dog on Netflix. I think she means Churchill, who nods along to whatever you say. A bit like David Lammy. BEEP.

Ed Davey: This is the leader of the Liberal Democrats, just in case you don’t recognise the number. I know that my party and students have had their disagreements in the past, but I want you all to know that undergraduates can trust me, just like the subpostmasters could.

Look, obviously universities need to be sustainable. That’s why I think tuition fees should have risen at the same rate as a first-class stamp. When I was minister for postal affairs, a first-class stamp was 41p; now it costs £1.35. That means tuition fees should now be…er, anyone got a calculator? Gosh, £29,634 a year. Hold on, not sure about that, let me get back to you. BEEP.

John Swinney: Hello. We haven’t spoken before but I’m the new first minister of Scotland. I’m not a Scottish minister in the Presbyterian sense: a dour man in a suit telling you that we are all doomed unless you change your ways and believe in something intangible. Oh, wait, that does sound like me.

But believe me when I say I love universities. I used to be the Scottish education secretary. I’m the guy who was responsible for making Scotland internationally competitive. But like every other guy before me, I couldn’t close the attainment gap and get us out of the group stages either. The draw with Iran was particularly painful, but Archie Gemmill running past the Dutch was a highlight.

I’ll need to order a postal vote because if Scotland make it to the quarter-finals of the Euros in Germany, I’ll need to attend and it will clash with election day. Not much risk of that happening though—maybe I’ll save the price of a stamp. Have you seen the cost of first-class post? £1.35! It’s a disgrace. I wonder if they do stamps in Lidl. BEEP.

Rhun ap Iorwerth: Hi, this is the leader of Plaid Cymru. Don’t worry, I had to google myself too, just to check. In Wales, the weeks of the election are going to be a bitter fight between implacable rivals, and that’s just within the cabinet of the Welsh Labour government.

But let me reassure you that Plaid is 100 per cent committed to science in Wales. That’s why I’ve asked the Archdruid to conduct a review of infrastructure. He said he had found a nest of dragons. I told him that was no way to talk about the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales.

He then told me that one of our top places of learning was a pile of standing stones. That’s the last time I let him visit Swansea University. Our top science pledge for Wales? Keep Dr Who in Cardiff! BEEP.

Michelle O’Neill: In the past, you might have worried about receiving a phone call from Sinn Féin, but don’t worry. I do want to remind you that in this election we will be standing on an abstentionist platform, which means that after the summer we won’t be taking up our places in your London institution—just like all those international students who will have headed for Australia and Canada. BEEP.

Richard Tice: The leader of Reform UK here—no, not Nigel Farage or the one who used to be married to Billie Piper. That’s Laurence Fox or Liam Fox or Chris Evans or someone. We used to be the Brexit Party, but we are not just obsessed about Europe any more—we are obsessed about lots of other things too.

We promise to cut funding to universities that undermine free speech. That’s why we will be banning critical race theory and gender ideology from the curriculum. We’ll also be supporting free speech by removing all books on the EU from the libraries and banning students from protesting in tents. Free speech is an immutable British value, like vaping in your car and tax cuts for millionaire property tycoons. BEEP.

Carla Denyer: As co-leader of the Green Party, I just wanted to let you know that I am making this call using sustainable green technology. But I might lose you—there isn’t much juice left in this potato battery. Like Research England and sourdough, we are big in Bristol. Pity this Maris Piper wasn’t a bit bigger. BEEP.

George Galloway: Let me put it to you, Research Professional News, that it is I, the indefatigable leader of the Workers Party of Great Britain, who is the true champion of our historic universities and this country’s renowned and extraordinary research institutes.

Furthermore, I find it beyond rational comprehension that you have also overlooked my own gargantuan academic achievements as an honorary graduate of the Universities of both Tehran and Baghdad, where I presented to rapturous applause, and no little public enthusiasm, my justly famous lectures on tractor manufacture in the twin socialist republics of Venezuela and Dundee.

This is why, when I am returned as MP for Rochdale, I will pass a private members’ bill to convert the Office for Students into an anarcho-syndicalistic collective of quality assurance commissars dedicated to the rigorous regulation of higher education in these British Isles, free from the capricious interruption of global capitalism and the imperialist aggressor entity known as the Department for Education. BEEP.

This tape is now full, thankfully. To re-record your message, please return after 4 July.

Terms of use: this is a free email for fun on a Friday. It should be shared widely, like memes of the British prime minister announcing an election in the pouring rain to the strains of the opposition party’s well-known anthem. Want to pass on a module outline for Practical Hedge Funds: An Introduction? Want to say hello? Email ivorytower@researchresearch.com.