“Cambridge University, it seems, is more than willing to sell its soul for UAE’s dirty money”Omar Bakri/UNSPLASH

Content Note: This article contains discussion of imprisonment and torture, as well as brief mention of human rights abuses

The Cambridge SU Ethical Affairs Campaign has launched a petition against the University’s proposed £400m collaboration with UAE, calling for the University to scrap the initiative.

The proposed UAE-Cambridge Innovation Institute (UAE-CII), which the campaign has described as “oppressive”, would focus on education, Islamic art and culture, and engineering and innovation over a ten year period.

The Ethical Affairs Campaign say they have been contacted by alumni expressing their “horror” at the partnership.

The petition highlights the UAE’s “shocking history of human rights abuses and violations of international law” including the arbitrary detention of academics like Matthew Hedges, a PhD student at Durham who claims he was falsely imprisoned and tortured by the UAE in 2018.

The Campaign’s statement reads: “The regime’s record on freedom of expression, women’s rights, LGBTQ+ rights speaks for itself. Collaborating with a higher educational institution amounts to, as Jo Grady of UCU puts it, ‘a rich authoritarian state using its wealth in an attempt to launder its reputation’.

“The regime stands for everything that Higher Educational institutions should not. Yet Cambridge University, it seems, is more than willing to sell its soul for UAE’s dirty money.”

Also referencing the abduction and alleged torture of Princess Shamsa of the UAE, as well as the imprisonment of her sister, Princess Latifa, the campaign argues: “In proposing this collaboration, the university is legitimising the actions of the UAE government and is making itself complicit in human rights abuses.”

The campaign’s statement goes on to condemn the University’s justifications that it is facing a “constrained funding environment” as a result of Brexit and the pandemic: “The University of Cambridge is the richest higher education institution in the UK, and the 13th richest in the world. The University and its colleges have consolidated net assets of at least £11.8bn. They are hardly ‘constrained’.


Mountain View

Documents reveal proposed £400 million collaboration between University of Cambridge and United Arab Emirates

“The University should be putting its already-significant capital towards positive environmental, social and scientific progress, not selling its soul to oppressive regimes.”

Described as “shameful” by the General secretary of the University and College Union (UCU), Jo Grady, the initiative has also been criticised by the SU Ethical affairs Campaign for its lack of morality: “The collaboration with UAE begs the question as to whom the University would not be willing to collaborate with. From arms manufacturers to the fossil fuel industry (from whom the university has received more than £12.8 million since 2015), the time for the University of Cambridge to hold itself to basic moral standards is long overdue.

“We call on the University to scrap the planned collaboration immediately, and implement stringent criteria to ensure that the perpetrators of human rights abuses will never again be considered for financial or academic collaboration.”

“We feel that it is urgent that students, staff and workers come together to express our clear opposition to the partnership to the University and to demand that not only is this partnership axed but future ‘collaborations’ with oppressive regimes are off the table. We also urge everyone to share this petition as widely as possible so that we can send a clear message to the University that its days of dodgy deals are over.”

A spokesperson for the University stated that “These are talks regarding a potential partnership and no details have been finalised. The University has a robust system for scrutinising all strategic relationships and funding.”