Photo of Matthew Hedges (right) with his wife

University of Birmingham staff vote to boycott Dubai campus after jailing of Matthew Hedges

Members of Birmingham UCU have voted unanimously to boycott the University of Birmingham’s Dubai campus over growing concerns about the University’s ability to guarantee the safety of staff and students in the UAE, following the life sentence imposed on Matthew Hedges, the British PhD student accused by the country’s authorities of spying for the UK.

The decision to boycott the University’s Dubai campus was taken at a packed lunchtime staff meeting held on Thursday (22 November 2018), the day after Hedges had been sentenced after a five-minute court appearance with no lawyer present.

Members voted unanimously to pass an emergency motion, calling on the University and all staff to do all they can to demand the immediate release of Matthew Hedges and to guarantee the safety of University of Birmingham staff and students, up to and including ending our Dubai campus project.

The motion calls on staff to turn down teaching and other duties such as preparing courses for use at the campus in Dubai, unless it is explicitly stated as a requirement in their contract or workload.

James Brackley, President of the University of Birmingham branch of the UCU, said: “The case of Matthew Hedges shows quite clearly that once someone is detained in Dubai they will be entirely at the mercy of the Dubai authorities. This raises more serious questions about the University of Birmingham’s decision to establish a Dubai campus.

“We have repeatedly raised concerns with the University over LGBTQI+ rights, academic freedom, and most recently over the use of migrant workers in the phase 2 expansion of the University of Birmingham Dubai campus. The University has confirmed that Dubai law will apply on the new Dubai campus as it will be considered a public place.

“By voting today to unanimously to support a motion calling for all staff to turn down teaching and other duties relating to the Dubai campus, our members have shown that they are determined to make the University to stop putting their own self-interest and financial relationships above what is right.”

The decision by staff to boycott the Dubai campus is the latest in a series of problems surrounding the University’s controversial international venture. Birmingham UCU, along with other campus trade unions, staff and student networks and local MP Preet Kaur Gill, have raised serious concerns over a lack of safeguards for LGBTQ staff and students and the UAE’s poor track record on migrant labour. To date, Birmingham UCU believes the University has failed to adequately address these serious concerns.

Birmingham UCU has also called on the University to defer signing a £100m contract to build a new campus in Dubai with Telcom, a subsidiary of Dubai Holding, which is majority owned by the emirate’s ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. The contract was only brought to public attention after Birmingham UCU published the details, including evidence of widespread labour rights violations in the UAE.

Free Matthew Hedges – sign the petition

Daniela Tejada-Venegas, Matthew Hedges’ wife, has created a petition to put pressure on the authorities to free Matthew Hedges. Please sign and share the petition by following the link below.

Free Matthew Hedges – petition


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