Call for review over UAE ties after academic jailed

It is no longer safe for British academics and students to work and study in the United Arab Emirates, experts and lecturers’ unions have warned, after a court in the Gulf state jailed for life Durham University PhD student Matthew Hedges, who was accused of spying, writes David Batty for The Guardian.

They said United Kingdom universities should urgently review their ties with the UAE in light of Hedges’ life imprisonment, and halt any planned projects, such as the University of Birmingham’s proposed £100 million (US$114 million) Dubai campus. Kristian Coates Ulrichsen, formerly of the London School of Economics and now a Middle East fellow at Rice University’s Baker Institute in the United States, said Hedges’ life sentence was “a huge escalation” of the UAE’s restrictions on academic freedom. “I’m stunned,” he said. “Until now the assumption was that if your research fell foul of the UAE authorities you’d be deported or barred from entering the country. This case changes everything. The message from this verdict is that the UAE is not a safe place to conduct research in.”

Several UK universities have branches in the UAE. James Brackley, the president of the Birmingham branch of the University and College Union, said Hedges’ imprisonment should be a wake-up call for the university’s management. “This has shocking consequences for academic freedom and it provokes major concern about our staff and students in Dubai,” he added.
Full report on The Guardian site