The University of Cambridge has been accused of accepting a multi-million dollar donation from the UAE as an attempt to “whitewash” the Gulf state’s poor human rights record.
The Faustian pact includes a £400m collaboration deal with the United Arab Emirates, which will span for ten years.
The agreement is considered the biggest deal of its kind in the university’s history.
Cambridge University does not yet approve the deal. However, serious and profound concerns were raised by rights groups over the deal.
The International Campaign for Freedom in the UAE (ICFUAE) said donations from the Emiratis could “dictate a research agenda”.
“Cambridge University should not accept funding from the UAE, a country where freedom of expression and academic freedoms are virtually non-existent, and with dozens of university lecturers, including Dr Nasser bin Ghaith and Dr Mohammed al-Roken, serving long prison sentences for their peaceful human rights advocacy,” said Sofia Kaltenbrunner, a campaign manager for ICFUAE.
“Through investments in education, the UAE not only whitewashes its systematic human rights abuses but also manages to dictate a research agenda and to influence impressionable young minds.
“Cambridge University has a duty of care to ensure that a highly repressive authoritarian regime does not influence its students.”
For his part, the British academic and former prisoner in UAE custody said the deal, if approved, will be used to bolster the UAE’s reputation.
“The problem is not so much that they receive funds from Gulf regimes like the UAE, but rather that the UAE will use Cambridge’s name and an association with them for their gain, namely whitewashing their terrible human rights record,” Hedges told Middle East Eye.
“There is also no guarantee that academic freedom and independence can be guaranteed when it comes to receiving these kinds of funds, and that does a lot more damage to the university than not receiving the funds in the first place.”
“It is sad and tiring to see that academic institutions are still entertaining the idea of partnering with the UAE, a regime whose human rights abuses are so well-documented that they are impossible to ignore,” said Hedges.
“The Emiratis are especially egregious when it comes to crimes committed towards freedom of expression and speech, a fundamental tenet of academia. Especially given that they imprisoned and tortured me for carrying out academic research, a concept the UAE security forces who detained me could not understand.”
The UAE has been already under fire for the imprisonment of scores of Emirati academics and human rights activists for freedom of expression charges. Many of whom are still held beyond their release dates.