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Ivory Tower: Live coverage of the HE Euro 2020* final [*2021]

Gary Presenter: Welcome to this historic occasion in which England take on the rest of Europe in the final of the HE Euros 2020 2021. With me in the studio to set the scene is Rio Ferdinand and Alan Shearer, and one of our world-class vice-chancellors. Let me turn to you first, vice-chancellor: did you ever think you would see anything like this in your lifetime?

VC: What, sitting next to Alan Shearer?

Gary: England in the final stage of a European showdown.

VC: Well, there was the Brexit negotiations.

Gary: And the creativity of this England squad has really captured the imagination.

VC: Don’t tell Gavin Williamson, he’ll stamp that right out.

Gary: It’s been a tournament of ups and downs—some of it has been unwatchable at times.

VC: Yes, the ITV coverage has been shocking.

Gary: Alan, England has some of the best players in Europe right now.

Alan: In the world, Gary.

Rio: One hundred and ten per cent, Gary, definitely.

Gary: Who has been outstanding for you?

Alan: Obviously, Oxford and Cambridge are reet canny stand-outs.

Rio: One hundred and ten per cent, Gary, definitely.

Alan: But other big players at the moment include Manchester and Birmingham, UCL, King’s, the LSE, the Castl’ obviously, so much outstanding talent, Gary.

Gary: And Liverpool has had another great season.

Alan: Not so much, Gary.

Gary: Vice-chancellor, some people say big business has ruined the game, but do you think all the money in our universities is now paying dividends?

VC: Our academies have been rightly praised, Gary, but it’s not true to say higher education is awash with cash.

Gary: We’ve got some of the biggest salaries in Europe?

VC: I did not attend the remuneration committee, Gary.

Gary: We can go live now to Westminster where we can speak with Priti Patel. So, home secretary, do you think it’s coming home?

Patel: It might be coming home, Gary, but if it doesn’t have a certificate of sponsorship, proof of English language ability and £10,000 in the bank, then it will be arrested and transported to a detention centre in Rwanda.

Gary: But it’s great to see our universities competing at the highest international level, home secretary.

Patel: That’s why we introduced the Tier 1 exceptional talent visa route for Nobel Prize winners, so we could be competing at this level.

Gary: And the two-year graduate work visa, that’s proving very popular.

Patel: We have giv’n out three-hundred thousand, and thirty four, nine hundred and seventy four thousand visas. I’m very happy about that.

Gary: You don’t seem very happy, home secretary.

Patel: I’m missing the pandemic restrictions, Gary.

Gary: Really, I thought everyone was fed up with them and the Euros have brought us all a bit of cheer.

Patel: They were the best thing—they meant universities could recruit international students but lots of them weren’t actually in the country.

Gary: Great to hear your thoughts, home secretary. Do you have a prediction?

Patel: You’ll all be locked up come the autumn.

Gary: Locked down, you mean?

Patel: If you say so.

Gary: Lads, what do you make of that?

Alan: All day long, Gary.

Rio: Three hundred thousand, and thirty four, nine hundred and seventy four thousand per cent, definitely, Gary.

Gary: Also, over in Westminster, we can hear a message of support to the England team from prime minister Boris Johnson.

Johnson: Salutations to the stout yeomen and yeo-ladies of England. Congratulations on making it all the way to the final of this tournament thingy, whatever it is. Some people are saying that the Bozza is just jumping on the bandwagon and cheering when the results come good. Tish and tosh. I’ve always been a big fan of our universities. Yes, some in the cabinet might have characterised them as being Marxist and said it was OK to boo their frequent displays of gesture politics, but that was when we thought they wouldn’t get out the group stages. But I always believed that our world-class players would make us proud. So best of luck in the HE-ball final, and stick it to those sausage-eating Eurocrats or whoever we are playing. I’m just sorry I won’t be there, I’ve just seen the Amber list and the Amber who works in Conservative Party headquarters is second on it. And if Carrie is watching this, what Amber? I don’t even know an Amber.

Gary: Not long now before kick-off. It’s worth remembering how England got here, Alan.

Alan: By playing all their games at home?

Gary: There was Ukraine in Rome.

VC: I don’t think that’s right, Gary, we might have closed our geography department but I’m pretty sure the Ukraine is not in Rome.

Gary: We won 4-0 in a quarter final.

VC: Now, that definitely can’t be right.

Rio: One million per cent, definitely, Gary.

Gary: We can go over now to the fan zone in one of the Euro host cities, Glasgow, where first minister Nicola Sturgeon is waiting to speak to us. It looks a bit quiet there. Where are the fans?

Sturgeon: It’s the sabbath, Gary, everyone is at home reflecting on the wickedness of the world.

Gary: But surely that hasn’t been a tradition in Scotland for years.

Sturgeon: It is now.

Gary: The Scots of course brought so much to this tournament.

Sturgeon: Aye, 10,000 coronavirus cases.

Gary: What was the highlight for you, first minister?

Sturgeon: Obviously, when we gubbed ye’ 0-0 at Wembley, that was like winning the World Cup.

Gary: Just not the Euros, unfortunately. What’s your prediction about this evening?

Sturgeon: That if England win, then we’ll be having an independence referendum by Christmas.

Gary: Do you have a good-luck message for the England team, first minister?

Sturgeon: I think I’m losing the line, Gary; the satellite has just gone out of position. You’re breaking up. Oi you, switch the bloody camera off.

Gary: We seem to have lost the first minister there. We were also planning to go over to Cardiff to speak to the first minister, Mark Drakeford, but he says he can’t speak to us as the internet hasn’t made it to Wales yet, along with free-speech culture wars in universities. We’ve just had the team news in. What do you make of it, Alan?

Alan: Not many surprises there, Gary.

Gary: Would you go with Jo Grady so far out on the left and Alistair Jarvis as a false nine?

Alan: I believe that’s what they call him over at UCU headquarters. Well, a false something anyway.

Rio: Fifty-six per cent, all day long, Gary. And that’s just the contribution rates for the Universities Superannuation Scheme by next April.

Gary: Do you think Leyser will provide focus for the team?

Alan: Ever since the Durham boy Cummings was dropped from the squad, Leyser’s been lacking support. Hopefully, Solloway can provide back-up.

Gary: And it’s good to see Donelan back in the team after so many own goals from the Department for Education.

Rio: One hundred and ten per cent, Gary, and that’s just the percentage of kids passing A-level maths this summer.

Gary: Some people thought this would be Dandridge’s last match, but she’s been handed a year’s contract extension.

Alan: That’s so important to this England team, sitting in the middle regulating everything. I’m not sure if the mix with Wharton is the best pairing though.

Gary: A bit like Lampard and Gerrard, can they play in the same team together?

Alan: With all the Zooming that’s going on, I’m not even sure if they’ve been in the same room together.

Gary: And Rio, the European side seems to be putting a lot of trust in Bologna.

Rio: Yeah, they seem to be sticking with that formation even though, ironically, they only adopted that system so they could be more like the English.

VC: And you wonder why we can’t get a point at Eurovision?

Gary: Before the teams come out, let’s just get your predictions. Rio?

Rio: I’m totally confident, one hundred and ten per cent, England all day long, five-nil, easy win, Gary.

Gary: You said that about the Scotland game. Alan?

Alan: It’s gannin yem, Gary.

Gary: Sorry?

Alan: It’s coming home.

Gary: The HE Euros?

Alan: No, coronavirus. I’ve just had the results of my lateral flow test.

Gary: Vice-chancellor, what’s your prediction for English universities?

VC: Penalties.

Gary: The game is just about to start, so over to our commentary team of Guy Mowbray, Danny Murphy, and two-time universities and science minister Chris Skidmore. Well, he pops up everywhere these days.

[Whistle blows…]

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