This week we received the shocking news that Durham University PhD student Matthew Hedges has been sentenced to life in prison by the Dubai authorities after being detained while collecting data for his PhD thesis. This motion calls on the University and all staff to do all we can to demand his immediate release, and to guarantee the safety of University of Birmingham staff and students, up to and including ending our Dubai campus project.
In presenting this motion we note that:
- The University of Birmingham have failed to negotiate with any of the recognised campus trade unions on the opening of the Dubai campus, on the contracts of staff employed on the Dubai campus, or on any of the newly designed policies relating to the Dubai campus. In particular, at the joint unions negotiating meeting on the 6th November they gave ‘no comment’ responses to all of the concerns raised by us. This is in direct breach of our collective recognition agreements.
- The failure of the University to guarantee the safety of staff or students working on the Dubai campus, particularly LGBTQI+ staff and students.
- The failure of the University to fully guarantee legal support for staff and students working on the Dubai campus should they be detained by the Dubai authorities.
- The failure of the University to openly and transparently work with the campus trade unions to ensure that migrant workers are not exploited through the construction of the phase 2 campus, instead reportedly signing a £100m contract with a subsidiary company of an organisation with a record of human rights abuses.
- The failure of the University to guarantee academic freedom on the Dubai campus, and to ensure that the University education we deliver does not become subject to Dubai law.
- Lastly, in response to written representations from UNISON, the written refusal of the University to call for the release of Matthew Hedges after he had spent more than 5 months in solitary confinement, prior to his sentencing this week.
We therefore call on all staff:
- To turn down teaching in Dubai, unless it is explicitly stated as a requirement in your contract or workload.
- Not to volunteer materials for the delivery of modules on the Dubai campus, unless it is explicitly stated as a requirement in your contract or workload.
- Not to engage with or volunteer program (re)design for Dubai based programs, unless it is explicitly stated as a requirement in your contract or workload.
- Not to volunteer for internal or external exam boards for Dubai based programs, unless it is explicitly stated as a requirement in your contract or workload.
- Not to sign up for any Dubai training unless it is compulsory.
- To turn down any other duties relating to the Dubai campus as you feel able to within the terms of your contract and normal working practices.
Please note: This motion does not amount to industrial action. The University have repeatedly stated on the record that staff will not be forced to work in Dubai and that turning down work in Dubai should not affect your career development. Academic and Academic Related staff are also not required to write or prepare materials for Dubai unless this is stated in our normal workloads unless we so choose as a principle basis of our academic freedom. Academic freedom can be cited by teaching staff “as [the] freedom to determine how they do their work free from direction, especially how they teach and conduct their research” (Chatham House, 2010) and under UNESCO (1997) definition adopted in the University’s Statutes.