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UCU welcomes pardon of Matthew Hedges and calls for review of overseas campuses

26 November 2018

UCU today welcomed the pardon of British PhD student Matthew Hedges, who was unjustly sentenced to life imprisonment in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Wednesday.

The union said the case demonstrated the need for universities to urgently review their overseas operations, working with staff and students' unions to ensure that human rights, academic freedom and the university's local footprint were consistent with the institution's values.

The University of Birmingham has been under fire for watering down a commitment to LGBT rights at its campus in Dubai. Last week staff at the university voted to refuse work with the Dubai campus. UCU said Birmingham's problems highlighted why universities must do more to demonstrate their duty of care to staff and their commitment to academic freedom and human rights.

According to Universities UK, there are more than 700,000 students studying outside the UK for qualifications awarded by 138 UK universities.

UCU head of policy and campaigns Matt Waddup said: 'We share the relief of all those involved with the Matthew Hedges case that he has been pardoned with immediate effect and expect the government and his employers to do their utmost to help Matthew recover from his ordeal. 

'UK universities with overseas operations should launch reviews covering human rights, trade union representation, academic freedom and ensuring that local workers employed by the institution are not exploited. It is vital that the profits from overseas operations are not achieved on the back of the dilution of staff and student rights and personal safety.'