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UCU response to life imprisonment of Durham University student in UAE

21 November 2018

UCU said the government and universities needed to secure stronger assurances on human rights and the treatment of academics working abroad.

The union was responding to news that Matthew Hedges, a PhD student from Durham University, has been jailed for life in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) after travelling to Dubai to conduct research.

The union said that while politicians and universities had been quick to embrace states like the UAE, they needed to make it clear that they would not tolerate attacks on human rights. The University of Birmingham has been under fire recently for watering down a commitment to LGBT rights at its campus in Dubai.

UCU head of policy and campaigns Matt Waddup said: 'The government has a responsibility to ensure that British citizens abroad get treated fairly and receive a fair trial. For a country that we deem as an ally to act like this is unconscionable.

'British universities may be keen to launch overseas campuses in places like the UAE, but this case demonstrates that they need to seek stronger assurances on human rights and the treatment of academics.'

Durham UCU branch president Sarah Elton said: 'We are shocked and horrified at the life sentence given to Matthew. His arrest and imprisonment is a threat to academic freedom and research. We call on the Foreign Office to take immediate steps to secure Matthew's rapid acquittal and release.'

Last updated: 21 November 2018