The best higher education April Fool's Day stories

Chris Havergal rounds up some of the funniest university pranks

April 1, 2016
Queen's University Belfast's 'dragons'
Source: Queen's University Belfast/Twitter

There are a few events that spur every university press office across the country into action: the publication of the research excellence framework, a new set of National Student Survey results and, it seems, April Fool's Day.

Scores of higher education institutions did their best to dupe readers into believing a false story, with some attempts proving more successful than others. Here is a selection of the best.

Glasgow's helter-skelter

The University of Glasgow put plenty of effort into its offering, creating a two-minute video revealing that it had constructed a 500m-long helter-skelter inside the tower of its Gilbert Scott Building. 

Frank Coton, who really is Glasgow's vice-principal (academic & educational innovation), was quoted as saying: "They said it couldn’t be done. Then they said it shouldn’t be done. But we did it anyway, and we’re thrilled to be the first university in the world to fuse education and entertainment in such an exciting way."

Hally McHallface

Edge Hill University had a topical offering, claiming that its newest halls of residence had been named Hally McHallface. The university was taking its lead from the suggestion of Boaty McBoatface for the Natural Environment Research Council's new polar research ship, which quickly went viral when suggested online.

Edge Hill's vice-chancellor, John Cater, was in on the gag, cutting the ribbon outside the new "hall".

Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed

Animals always do well online, so the University of Nottingham was guaranteed success when it claimed that a miniature gym was being built for campus squirrels, after concerns were allegedly expressed about their bulging waistlines. The facility would include wheels, ladders and parallel bars – as well as a sound system, drawing on "research" which found that the animals were encouraged to exercise by music with an upbeat tempo.

Dan Tilley, Nottingham's director of physical recreation and sports, was quoted in the story. "The university is invested in healthy futures for our campus community and the animals that live in our estate are no exception to this," he said.

Back to the future

Queen’s University Belfast claimed a world first with its April Fool, claiming that scientists had created dragon eggs, by splicing DNA from iguanas and komodo dragons and implanting it in ostrich eggs. The eggs were due to hatch later this month, the university said.

The prank took its inspiration from the television series Game of Thrones, much of which is filmed in Northern Ireland.

And finally...

Of course, Times Higher Education got into the spirit of things with its own April Fool's Day offering, claiming that universities may be required to let out their office space overnight to Airbnb travellers.

On Twitter, Jac Billington claimed it was "Almost believable" while Micheline Campbell said: "This might be my favourite #aprilfoolsday gag. Nice one @timeshighered."

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Reader's comments (3)

Some great examples here, thanks for collecting them! Of course, April Fool's Day is just getting started here in North America... I sum up the best and worst in recent years in my video podcast this week: But I am also assembling a Youtube playlist of higher ed April Fools videos, and so far have a dozen or so from today: Adding more as we speak! Ken
Across the pond, we are just getting started with the April Fools shenanigans across campus. Proud to have worked on this one for our College. Introducing SJCPrime! The hottest news from on and off campus >>
Check out Trinity University's!! Interactive!

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