The UK HE sector has championed the importance of ensuring that academic freedom and the imperative to throw security of students and staff first, next following the United Arab Emirates sentencing a British PhD student to life imprisonment for alleged spying.
Durham University PhD student, Matthew Hedges has said that he was researching the country’s protection strategy and is innocent of the charges.
UK foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt has said he is” deep shocked and disappointed” by the verdict, while Abdulla Al Naqbi, head of the Department of Legal Affairs for the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, has said that Hedges was treated” moderately and according to the constitution of the UAE”, following reports that Hedges’s human rights were breached.
University and College Union members at the University of Birmingham have voted to turn down teaching at the university’s Dubai campus unless explicitly required to in their contract, largely from the consequences of Hedges’s sentence.
Director of Universities UK International, Vivienne Stern, said academic freedom is fundamental to British universities, and UK professors should be able to work in countries where” academic liberty may not always be respected “.
” As the national torso representing UK universities we regularly raise concerns about the protection of academic liberty with representatives of the many governments which would like to see a greater degree of collaboration in research and education with the UK ,” Stern added.
” We have raised Matthew Hedges’ instance with the government and sought reassurances that they are doing all they can to clarify the facts of the case and seek his liberation .”
This travesty of justice puts the UAE squarely in the ranks of the most severe violators of academic freedoms and human rights. Students, stay away from the UAE. https :// t.co/ lQb2ccPeQk
— Marc Lynch (@ abuaardvark) November 21, 2018
Chairperson of the University of Liverpool UCU& NEC, Jo McNeill, signed a note the beginning of this year criticising the British government’s promoting of university partnerships with Egypt and turning a blind eye to human rights abuses.
She said it is “absolutely imperative” that the HE sector threw the safety of staff and students first.
” We repeatedly find they are pushing their neo-liberal schedule by brokering academic relationships in countries with worrying human rights conditions ,” she stated.
” UCU and the rest of the trade union movement must do all we can now to overturn this clear stillbirth of justice and to bring Matthew home to his family .”
In a statement, vice-chancellor of Durham University, Stuart Corbridge said Hedges was detained in conditions which violated his human rights, and the judgement had been” delivered in the absence of anything resembling due process or a fair experiment “.
” There has been no knowledge imparted on what basis Matt was handed this sentence and no reason to believe that Matt was conducting anything other than legitimate academic experiment ,” he added.
In a joint proclamation, Durham University and the University of Exeter, where Hedges is from, said there was no evidence to reveal the PhD student was conducting anything other than legitimate academic research.
” The detention of any academic researcher slasheds to the core of the principles of academic endeavor ,” the statement read.
” It is absolutely indispensable that professors the world over are free to conduct legitimate experiment without anxiety of intervention or seize .”
Read more: thepienews.com