Ah, 1 April – the day that you can trust the Internet *even less* than usual. Yes folks, it was April Fool’s Day on Monday and most of the web was looking to catch you out, ourselves included (#sorrynotsorry).
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Find out more: https://t.co/p7bPJ8OjJE pic.twitter.com/V9Nl8jNaaU
— The Access Platform (@TAPlatform)April 1, 2019
And, without naming any names, a couple of you did fall for it...at least momentarily!
Anyway, we’ve rounded up some of our favourite Fools from the sector – and a few from outside it too – for you below, before offering some final thoughts.
Higher Ed Fools
First of all, who else spent the whole day waiting for something from Glasgow, only to be disappointed?
So @UofGlasgow doesn't appear to have done an April Fool this year and I'm honestly feeling a bit lost
— Dave Musson (@davemusson) April 1, 2019
April Fool’s Day with TeamUofG is like Christmas without watching Home Alone – incomplete!
Anyway, elsewhere in the sector, there was a range of foolishness on offer.
Sheffield revealed ambitious plans to extend their beloved Arts Tower.
Designs for the modification of our Arts Tower have now been finalised, with an additional 10 floors to be put in place. Work will begin later this year 🚧 pic.twitter.com/Wf0aG8c5XG
— The University of Sheffield (@sheffielduni) April 1, 2019
Southampton set out a proposal for a monorail, and even resisted the urge to quote the Simpsons.
Very excited to announce @SouthamptonCC has finally approved plans for a new cross-campus monorail system. Facilitated by @unilinkbus, the network will begin with a trial route between Highfield and Boldrewood campuses, before expanding to include our other sites around the city. pic.twitter.com/msOnbIXSDt
— University of Southampton (@unisouthampton) April 1, 2019
Dundee and Nottingham Trent *both* announced ground-breaking research around invisibility.
Nobody saw this coming https://t.co/EBdYVkufyv @UoDLifeSciencespic.twitter.com/izheJ5T2cd
— University of Dundee (@dundeeuni)April 1, 2019
BREAKING NEWS: We are proud to have invented the world’s first invisibility cloak. #MadeAtUni pic.twitter.com/iEms5by7g1
— Nottingham Trent University (@TrentUni)April 1, 2019
Students in Edinburgh got excited about the prospect of a zip wire to cut their commute.
Today 1 April, the @EdinUniEstates & the Students’ Association are delighted to announce ambitious plans for a zipwire from central to King’s Buildings! Find out more...😄⬇️ pic.twitter.com/FL0KmkbhqO
— EdUni Students (@eusa) April 1, 2019
Manchester revealed some special new graduation gowns.
🎓 We are delighted to unveil our new Graphene Graduation Gowns 🎓
➡ https://t.co/2InDTOSH2o pic.twitter.com/rfjo6BgAeR
— The University of Manchester (@OfficialUoM)April 1, 2019
Nottingham came up with a special brew.
Coffee collaboration has all the right elements - the perfect way to kick-start a Monday! #Poliakoffee @NottsChemistry @UoNScience @200Degs@periodicvideos https://t.co/07zxtu0Z8g pic.twitter.com/MrRRGqau9K
— UoN Press Office (@UoNPressOffice)April 1, 2019
Oxford did some snappy AI work.
After Deep Blue beat @Kasparov63, and @DeepMindAI's AlphaGo defeated Lee Sedol, there was only one game left standing in the way of AI... until now. pic.twitter.com/FQP0fjZ3LT
— Oxford University (@UniofOxford) April 1, 2019
A creative solution for finding more student housing was put forward in Cornwall.
Russian ship Kuzma Minin at Falmouth bought for luxury student housing https://t.co/M9JQNWWRT2
— Eric Stoller (@EricStoller)April 1, 2019
And, of course, Brexit got a mention.
Breaking: #Brexit uncertainty could see several top UK universities relocate to a windblown North Sea island https://t.co/mb5BxUfZ7Y via @timeshighered
— Phil Baty (@Phil_Baty)March 31, 2019
Beyond the sector
Obviously, it wasn’t just higher Ed getting involved with early April fun. Elsewhere on the web there was *plenty* to choose from; here’s a few standouts…
BBC iPlayer offered you the chance to make watching TV with family less awkward.
Introducing @BBCiPlayer’s #SkipTheSex button.
For those mortifying moments when a surprise 🍆 or 🍑 makes you 😳… pic.twitter.com/eM9rQ6LNFi
— BBC iPlayer (@BBCiPlayer) April 1, 2019
Starbucks came up with THE BEST IDEA EVER.
We're so excited to announce our newest concept stores: Starbucks for your best fur-iend. #Pupbucks pic.twitter.com/xgAEn0Dxss
— Starbucks Coffee (@Starbucks) April 1, 2019
Followed closely by the US Open.
BREAKING: The US Open to add puppies to the ballperson team at the 2019 tournament for the first time.
All breeds welcome. pic.twitter.com/Yu5ySEhriF
— US Open Tennis (@usopen)April 1, 2019
McDonald’s gave their weirder customers exactly what they wanted.
FINALLY! 🙌 pic.twitter.com/v89REJTLXi
— McDonald's UK (@McDonaldsUK)March 31, 2019
The international Cricket Council tried to make themselves more #relevant.
As part of our efforts to make the game more appealing to younger generations, the ICC will be applying both numbers and Instagram handles to kits from the beginning of the World Test Championship. pic.twitter.com/XnvantQfc9
— ICC (@ICC)April 1, 2019
Nakd came up with some interesting new flavours.
Has Lent left you craving something a little bit naughty… why not try our sizzling new Indian FakeAway Multipack, stuffed with our first ever savoury flavours! pic.twitter.com/RDnQXRuvNl
— Nakd Wholefoods (@nakd) April 1, 2019
Kit Kat made a very on-brand teabag.
KitKat expands its range with a new tea product, designed to perfectly complement its chocolate.
See more: https://t.co/7mnnrVDnEZ #AprilFoolspic.twitter.com/wXDIgsJRh3
— The Drum (@TheDrum)April 1, 2019
Subway became the first brand to openly admit listening to our conversations:
Tourism Australia taught us something new about koalas.
It’s a little-known fact that some #koala joeys are born with leopard print fur 🐨
We don’t yet know why only certain joeys are blessed with such incredible fashion sense, but we’re sure little April here is the envy of her friends. #seeaustralia #wildlife #australia pic.twitter.com/FJUDwdRk9E
— Australia (@Australia) March 31, 2019
Visit Scotland’s low budget effort made me actually LOL.
⚠️ BREAKING NEWS ⚠️
Nessie has been spotted by salo_marin on Instagram!
📍Loch Ness, #Highlands 🎥 IG/salo_marin #Scotlandpic.twitter.com/kO4qMcAvZJ
— VisitScotland (@VisitScotland) April 1, 2019
Metro had probably the best idea of the day.
Straight white men to be banned from comment sections https://t.co/BGi3aAjGvn
— Metro (@MetroUK) April 1, 2019
And, last but not least, this primary school teacher trolled their entire class – true #teachinggoals.
How long should I leave them looking for words that aren't there?! 🤷🏻♀️🤣 #AprilFools pic.twitter.com/wFXHNFIysO
— Class 7 KW (@Class7KW)April 1, 2019
So, is the effort of coming up with, creating content for, actually implementing an April Fool’s gag actually worth it for Universities any more? Based on this year’s efforts, it’s pretty tough to say.
Let’s face it, a lot of the jokes on offer from within the sector were either safe, trying a bit too hard or, if we’re being honest, a bit dull. You only need to compare the examples above from the sector with those from outside it to see a real difference in tone of voice and actual levels of fun in each. Generally speaking, those from outside the sector are far funnier.
What April Fool’s Day has underlined emphatically is the importance of knowing your audience and creating content that will resonate with them. The most effective and best-received examples from within the sector tend to have an internal focus; they’re an in-joke, they focus on something relevant to their own campus and don’t concern themselves with making the wider world at large laugh. And, weirdly, this tends to make them funnier than the multitude of fake research stories we see every 1 April, which increasingly tend to be ‘meh’ at best. They're not forcing it.
1 April has quickly become a date where brands and organisations on social media are expected to take part, and expected to actually make people laugh. That’s what Universities have to remember; people won’t care if you manage to sneak a fake story out there and con people into believing it – particularly in this age of fake news, it’s actually pretty irresponsible.
What people on social media want from 1 April is something quick, stupid and funny. They want to laugh and they want to be able to share it with the 😂 emoji. Which is why, as a sector we tend to over-think it. We’re often trying to be too clever for our own good.
Also, with the fake news/research April Fool’s pranks it’s difficult to know who you’re trying to reach. If you’re trying to boost your profile with the trade press and a small section of The Guardian, then please carry on in the same vein next year. But, I’m guessing you’d like to reach a few more real people, wouldn’t you?
So, if you’re already planning for 1 April 2020, take the time to understand what’s hot on your campus and has the best chance of making your students chortle. That means really immersing yourself in campus life and staying on top of trends. Get your student ambassadors to help you stay in the loop (we can help you work with ambassadors by the way, no joke). And, most of all, as Singing in the Rain taught us… make ‘em laugh.
Failing that, simply don’t take part. Just because everyone else is doing it, doesn’t mean you have to do the same – especially if your idea is only a five out of ten. Or, you can follow Reading’s lead and take part without really taking part.
Uhhhhhhhh we don't know. @RUBagelman is now Chancellor? Sure, why not. Phew, just in before the deadline. #AprilFools
— Uni of Reading (@UniofReading) April 1, 2019