Research conducted by The Guardian has revealed that vice-chancellors across the UK are paid significantly more than others in executive positions across the public sector, including senior figures of NHS hospital trusts and local authorities in several cities.Written by Thom Dent on 21st March 2018
News Analysis: Will the Dubai Campus Be a Safe Space?
The Vice-Chancellor Question Time held on January 25th raised potential issues regarding the safety of the LGBTQ community at the University of Birmingham Dubai campus, set to open soon.
Professor Sir David Eastwood revealed that the venture in the United Arab Emirates was approved based on ‘assurances’ of safety rather than supportive measures already in action.
The issue was first raised by Lucinda Bleichroeder, LGBTQ Officer at the Guild of Students, who asked the VC, ‘Why Dubai?'. In a statement disputed some members of the audience present, Eastwood declared that if the university wished to remain ‘global’, it was necessary to establish a ‘global campus’.
“'If we are going to Dubai, we are not a university but a business'
Claiming the Gulf state to be 'the higher education hub of the Middle East', the VC outlined how the campus would allow the university to recruit students from India and North Africa; areas that have proved difficult to recruit from in the past.
Eastwood stated that 'there will be a net financial benefit for all students' as a consequence of the investment in Dubai, but didn’t clarify whether such fiscal benefit will come as a consequence of the university profiting from international students’ heightened fees. Students registered at the Dubai campus prior to end of February are to be offered a five per cent discount, leading Marco, an audience member at the Question Time, to state: 'If we are going to Dubai, we are not a university but a business’.
Aside from the issues regarding the commercial element of the Dubai campus, of greatest concern to the audience was whether all members of the university community can be assured safety in a state that continues to criminalise homosexual acts. Postgraduate Officer, Rose Bennett, tweeted that 'the university won't give us anything to ensure that if a student gets in trouble that they will support them legally'. Will the university abide by the homophobic legislation of Dubai? Eastwood couldn’t offer much detail, and so turned to the Academic Registrar to answer the question further.
Stephen McAuliffe stated: ‘all students will be subject to the laws of whatever country they are in’. Students who engage in homosexual acts would be imprisoned if ‘outed’.
The VC underlined his belief that UoB will offer an ‘alternative or challenge’ to the illiberal traditions and legislation of Dubai. The inaugural provost of the Dubai campus, Professor Glyn Watson, has explained that for the Dubai campus to be successful, ‘it very much has to feed into broader national agendas.’ In short, the university will ‘have to reflect the priorities of Dubai’.
“'The university won't give us anything to ensure that if a student gets in trouble that they will support them legally'
Eastwood expanded: ‘the university stands for an open and inclusive culture that recognises and celebrates diversity.
‘With some protocols around public behavior, it has been safe and comfortable for those of all sexualities’.
However, we must question the extent to which true freedom of expression can be achieved if the community is subject to ‘protocols’ that must be followed if they wish to stay.
Eastwood also posed that there would be ‘interest in some of our students spending time in Dubai campus’, but such opportunities may not be be feasible for all, given the legal risk posed to LGBTQ students. Stonewall, an LGBTQ rights charity based in the UK that UoB liaised with when deciding to base its international campus in Dubai, states that the ‘inclusive activity that is appropriate elsewhere may put LGBTQ staff in danger in the UAE’.
Nevertheless, no concrete measures have been actioned to obtain protection for members of the LGBTQ community prior to the opening of the campus next month. All safeguards are currently under discussion. In response to an accusation of lack of preparation, Eastwood repeated that 'actual practicalities are finally being worked through'. He confirmed that further detail will only be provided once discussed in a meeting with Professor Robin Mason, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for International, at the start of February.
“'With some protocols around public behavior, it has been safe and comfortable for those of all sexualities'
In a statement from the university, Professor Una Martin, Deputy Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Equalities, told Redbrick: ‘The University of Birmingham is committed to treating all employees and students fairly and we’re working closely with the Guild of Students and Stonewall as an integral part of the Dubai project. We have joined the Stonewall Global Diversity Champions programme and sought advice from Stonewall about operating in Dubai – we will apply for its Global Workplace Equality Index in due course.
‘Equality and fair treatment are key values that inform all of our UK and international activities. We recognise that this approach may potentially be in conflict with the legal, social and cultural norms of other countries where we operate. The University is, therefore, working hard to ensure we provide balanced support, advice, and guidance around this issue’.
In his final remark on the issue during the Question Time, Eastwood said: ‘We must be able to guarantee safety to all our students and that is what we will do’. Yet guaranteeing safety has so far only been limited to words with little detail approved. The key question is the extent to which actual policy can guarantee security for the university community in a nation where homosexual acts are criminalised.