British university staff boycott Dubai campus as MPs say military should no longer train UAE forces

      Published on Sunday, 25 November , 2018      45 Views      Comments Add Comment
British university staff boycott Dubai campus as MPs say military should no longer train UAE forces


Academics at Birmingham University voted today to boycott its new campus in Dubai in protest at the jailing of Matthew Hedges.



Birmingham-based lecturers will refuse to teach in Dubai and will not provide the campus with any academic support, such as course materials and marking exams.

The move – following a vote by the University and Colleges Union (UCU) – was the first tangible evidence of the backlash against the United Arab Emirates (UAE) over the jailing of Mr Hedges, a phd student at Durham University.

The tensions between the UK and its close ally UAE over Mr Hedges’ imprisonment prompted MPs to demand Britain re-examine its military ties with the Gulf state.

Conservative MP Johnny Mercer, a former Army captain and member of the defence committee, said: “Our Defence assistance, mentoring and intelligence relationships alone with this country should preclude absurd things like this happening. From a friend and partner, it is simply unacceptable and consequences must be immediate until he [Mr hedges] is released.”

The Royal Military Academy Sandhurst is thought to train about ten Emirati officers each year while the UK has about 200 armed forces personnel stationed permanently in the UAE. Port Zayed on the UAE coast is reportedly the most visited foreign port used by the Royal Navy.

The furore may also hit tourism to the Gulf state. Dubai in particular has spent the past decade diversifying from oil to turn its self into a popular resort but travel experts believe holidaymakers could be put off.. 

One travel company today pulled a promotional Dubai holiday deal from its monthly newsletter to customers.

Mark Hodson, the co-founder of 101holidays, said: “We had a newsletter go out to 30,000 subscribers and we decided to pull it.

“People are starting to think there’s a lot of things that could happen to me in the UAE and maybe I should go somewhere else.”

A million Britons went on holiday to the UAE in 2017, making it the UK’s 13th most popular holiday destination just behind Greece and Turkey.

Radha Stirling, the founder of Detained in Dubai, which aids victims of injustice in the UAE, said:

“I have noticed over the past year people choosing to rearrange or cancel holidays to the UAE. I think it’s seriously having an affect on tourism.”

Sport may also be hit if the row continues.

Abu Dhabi is hosting the F1 grand prix this weekend although any dignitaries from the UK who had planned to go are likely to stay away.

Manchester City Football Club, which is owned by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, a member of the Abu Dhabi royal family, tried to keep out the furore, refusing to comment Mr Hedges’ sentence in the face of calls on social media for a boycott of the club.

The academic links between Britain and the UAE will likely come under further threat if Mr hedges remains jailed. 

James Brackley, Birmingham’s UCU branch president, said that academics are “outraged” at both Mr Hedges’ treatment and the university’s “refusal to address the serious issues we have raised regarding its campus in Dubai”.

He urged the university to “provide guarantees about the safety and academic freedom of staff and students in Dubai.”

British universities have long had ties to the UAE, with several setting up satellite campuses in the region including Middlesex, City, Heriot-Watt, Bolton, Stirling and London Business School.

But Sam Gyimah, the universities minister, said the he would not support an academic boycott of UAE, adding that student exchanges should continue with countries even if there is a “profound policy disagreement” with the UK.

“One of the issues that can actually help facilitate a change of outlook in ideas is student exchange programmes,” he said. “It worked during the cold war, I don’t see why it can’t work now.”

He said that any kind of academic boycott would mean “potentially undermining our ability to positively influence what is going on in these countries by getting their future leaders to understand experience and share the values that we hold dear”.



A Birmingham University spokesman said the institution “respects” the views of staff who “do not wish to engage with our Dubai campus”.

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Category Dubai News, PR Paid | 2018/11/25 latest update at 9:24 AM
Source : Telegraph | Photocredit : Google
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