Cambridge University accused of Faustian pact in planned £400m deal with UAE

The University of Cambridge has been accused of getting into “a Faustian pact” over plans for a £400m collaboration with the United Arab Emirates in what can be the most important deal of its sort within the college’s historical past.

In line with inside paperwork seen by the Guardian, the 10-year collaboration would assist Cambridge, one of many wealthiest larger training establishments within the UK, “climate the challenges confronted by universities on account of Covid, Brexit and a constrained funding surroundings”.

The paperwork state that the UAE has pledged to commit £312m – the most important single donation by far that the college has obtained – and £90m will probably be paid in sort by means of Cambridge employees time.

The deal has but to go earlier than the college’s common board, the Guardian understands. But when authorized, the UAE-Cambridge Innovation Institute will start as a digital entity and culminate in “a bodily footprint” within the UAE with its personal employees and “joint UAE and College of Cambridge branding”. Key areas of focus will embody training, Islamic artwork and tradition, engineering and innovation, particularly analysis into options to fossil fuels.

The UAE has lengthy been the main target of worldwide campaigns regarding alleged human rights abuses. Three years in the past there was uproar when a British tutorial, Matthew Hedges, was convicted within the UAE on spying expenses after going to Dubai for analysis. Hedges is suing 4 senior officers from the Gulf state who he alleges had been complicit in falsely imprisoning and torturing him.

Cambridge College paperwork acknowledge the danger of reputational harm posed by the collaboration. Additionally they elevate issues a few “values hole”, “tutorial freedom and institutional autonomy”, and “the potential burden such a big partnership may place on components of the college and attendant mission drift”. The venture is alleged to have the total assist of the vice-chancellor, Prof Stephen Toope.

The paperwork state: “We’re absolutely conscious of the UAE’s current remedy of UK researchers and different guests, which mirror a dramatically completely different cultural and authorized context than that which can be acquainted to our employees and college students. We are going to put in place ample assist to make sure that our employees are ready earlier than their work within the UAE begins.”

A number of UK universities, together with Metropolis College, the London Enterprise Faculty, Birmingham, Middlesex and Heriot-Watt, have already got branches within the UAE, however the scale of the collaboration with Cambridge, one of the vital profitable and best-known universities on this planet, will probably be seen as an enormous coup for the Gulf state, which is eager to make use of smooth energy to enhance its picture on the worldwide stage.

The collaboration would see Cambridge working with “a number of instructional, governmental and company companions within the UAE”, involving the college at a number of ranges of its financial system and society. In line with the doc, the funding would go in direction of the creation of numerous new posts together with eight endowed lectureships, 24 postdoctoral positions and 42 PhD fellowships in addition to different administration and assist roles.

An official announcement by the college on Wednesday gave few particulars, saying solely that the establishment was in talks with the UAE a few potential strategic partnership.

“This collaboration is designed to develop progressive options that allow the transition away from fossil fuels; the continued improvement of high-quality educating and studying; the continuing development of social cohesion by means of the examine of arts and tradition; and the development of worldwide aggressive analysis, training, and entrepreneurship.”

Requested concerning the inside paperwork, a college spokesman stated: “These are talks concerning a possible partnership and no particulars have been finalised.”

Nicholas McGeehan, a human rights researcher engaged on the Gulf states, stated: “This can be a Faustian pact that must be of profound concern to Cambridge college, college students and alumni and UK academia extra broadly. The UAE is a deeply intolerant state with a zero-tolerance stance on free speech and demanding thought, and it offers with its critics in essentially the most brutal vogue possible by means of torture and compelled disappearances.”

McGeehan, a co-director of the FairSquare Tasks human rights group, stated Cambridge can be giving up a few of its hard-earned status in return for burnishing the status of the UAE. “Solely lecturers who see larger training as a industrial enterprise may assume that it’s value the fee.”

Jo Grady, common secretary of the College and School Union (UCU), stated: “This can be a clear case of a wealthy authoritarian state utilizing its wealth in an try and launder its status. It will be shameful if the College of Cambridge had been prepared for use on this manner.

“It is likely one of the wealthiest establishments within the UK and doesn’t want this cash. UCU members in different establishments have raised issues about LGBT+ rights within the UAE, and this deal appears particularly problematic in mild of the authorized motion which the British tutorial Matthew Hedges is pursuing over alleged false imprisonment and torture.”

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