University of Liverpool scraps plan to open Egypt campus
Universities University of Liverpool scraps plan to open Egypt campus
Leaked documents point to âpotential reputational damageâ of controversial move
Controversial plans by the University of Liverpool to open up a campus in Egypt have been scrapped in the face of opposition from academics, students and others.
The announcement comes after the Guardian reported earlier this year that leading British universities had been accused of turning a blind eye to human rights abuses in Egypt in pursuit of opening campuses under the countryâs authoritarian regime.
Leaked documents from the universityâs senior executive warned that it faced âpotential risk/ exposure to reputational damage that might be presented through a venture of this kindâ.
The same documents, dated 26 September, stated that Egyptâs âpolitical and operating environmentâ was âchallengingâ. It added that this was reflected in the Guardianâs publication of a letter from 200 prominent academics and others opposing the collaboration against the backdrop of unanswered questions about the abduction and murder of the Cambridge PhD student Giulio Regeni.
The Liverpool move comes as the British government and the advocacy group Universities UK have promoted partnerships between British higher education institutions and their Egyptian counterparts.
A series of memorandum of understanding (MoU) agreements and talks opened up the possibility of British bodies establishing international b ranch campuses and what Universities UK describes as âpartnerships, collaborative research, student and staff exchange programmes, joint funding applications, and capacity buildingâ.
Opposition to the plans followed a high-profile delegation to Cairo in June by 11 UK universities, supported by the British government.
As well as highlighting the case of Giulio Regeni, those who have campaigned against the University of Liverpoolâs plans also spoke of wider concerns about academic freedom, the welfare of LGBT staff, and the trend towards what they say is the marketisation of higher education.
Leon Rocha, a lecturer in history at the university and one of the signatories to the letter of opposition, welcomed the announcement.
âMaybe they were always going to pull the plug, but the pressure that was coming from university staff and the exposure in the media appears to have given them pause for thought,â he added.
A spokesperson said: âThe U niversity of Liverpool has undertaken scoping work to assess the possibility of an educational partnership in Egypt.
âFollowing careful consideration of this information, the university has decided not to pursue this possibility further.â
The leaked documents, published by the website Academic Freedom Watch, gave further details of the envisaged campus. They stated that it was assumed that staff would be recruited globally, with many coming from the Middle East.
âWhilst engaging through education is a powerful way of influencing change, opening a branch campus would require close working with the Egyptian government,â it adds.
âThe regulations seem to provide a high degree of assurance regarding autonomy, but we need to take specialised advice to really understand the potential risk/exposure to reputational damage that might be presented through a venture of this kind.âTopics
- Hig her education
- University of Liverpool
- University administration
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