Six new degree programmes are set to be introduced at UoB’s Dubai Campus, though the news of an academic boycott of the campus has been picked up by the national media, including by the bi-weekly satirical magazine Private Eye
The University of Birmingham has announced six new degree programmes to be offered at the Dubai campus for the academic year 2019/20. However, Birmingham academics are up in arms at the prospect of taking the job, as noted in Private Eye.
On the 26th of November 2018, the University of Birmingham announced on its website that it was planning on launching six new degree programmes at the Dubai campus for the next academic year, which will expand into areas such as financial law, international law and accounting.
However, the news comes amid growing concerns from Birmingham staff and academics that the new UoB campus may be an unsafe environment to teach and learn. Private Eye reported in its issue 1484 (dated 13th December) that UoB lecturers have agreed to boycott the new campus unless their preexisting contracts specifically include time working in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Meanwhile, academics without explicit ties to the new campus have
agreed that they will now ‘turn down teaching “opportunities” there.’
Concerns amongst staff have been primarily focused on the wellbeing of the campus’s LGBTQ staff and students, who will be in a country where execution is the maximum punishment for same-sex relations.
Fears have been heightened further by the recent plight of Matthew Hedges, who was sentenced to life imprisonment for spying for the UK by the Emirati government on the 21st of November 2018. After nearly six months in solitary confinement, he was pardoned on the 26th of November following diplomatic pressure from Jeremy Hunt and waves of international support. Hedges’ ordeal has since drawn international attention to claims of human rights abuses in
Private Eye has also reported that the Universities College Union (UCU), which represents around 100,000 academics the UK, has claimed that UoB ‘still has not been clear on the legal support or urgent extraction available to anyone accused of breaking the law’ while working at the new campus. There has also been no clear statement regarding the UoB’s commitment to protection for locally recruited staff.
With uncertainty remaining over the protection afforded to staff and students at the new campus, UOB’s academic boycott leaves the potential for the provision of an internationally renowned teaching staff in question.
A representative for the University of Birmingham spoke to Redbrick in November, saying: ‘In establishing our Dubai campus, we have spent considerable time considering all aspects of working and living in Dubai and have drawn on the experience and expertise of a range of organisations – including specialist equalities bodies such as Stonewall, law firms and other universities and businesses operating in the UAE – in order to develop extensive advice and guidance for staff and students thinking about working or studying in Dubai.’