In November 2018, Birmingham UCU members voted unanimously to support an academic boycott of the University of Birmingham’s Dubai campus.
Our members voted for the academic boycott after the University repeatedly refused to engage with us over serious concerns about staff and student safety, academic freedom and the welfare of the migrant construction workforce that is expected to build the new campus.
What are we demanding?
We call on the University to:
- Enter into meaningful negotiations with the trade unions to protect the safety of staff and students on the Dubai campus.
- Guarantee academic freedom for UoB researchers working in the UAE.
- Ensure that migrant workers in the UAE are not abused or exploited in the construction of the Dubai campus.
What are we asking staff to do?
We call on all staff at the University of Birmingham:
- 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: The academic 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.
Unsure if you can support the academic boycott? Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for confidential advice. We’re happy to offer advice and support over the academic boycott, whether or not you’re currently a UCU member.
Other ways you can support the campaign
You don’t have to work at the University of Birmingham to support our campaign. You can help us keep the pressure on university management by:
- Joining the over 200 people who have signed our Open letter on academic freedoms, LGBTQ rights and workers’ rights in UAE
- Using Twitter and other social media networks to tell the University to enter into meaningful negotiations with @BirminghamUCU over the Dubai campus. Please use the University’s own hashtags #UoBDubai and #HelloBrum to make sure you get your message noticed!
Since we called for an academic boycott, the University has continued to refuse to engage with us and the other recognised campus trade unions about the Dubai campus. Instead, management has responded to the substantial negative attention the academic boycott has generated by redoubling its efforts to push forward with the Dubai project at any cost. This is despite of the substantial negative media coverage the Dubai campus has received as well as local MP Preet Gill writing to the University about her serious concerns with the project.
Most recently, in February 2019, the University officially announced it had signed a long-term agreement with Dubai-based construction firm TECOM, a subsidiary company of an organisation with a record of human rights abuses. TECOM will build and manage a purpose-built new campus on behalf of the University, in a deal reported to be be costing £100m.