Friday, 11 January 2013

Buckingham University and the Moral Compass

In October of last year, I wrote a post called 'A Moral Compass' in which I pondered the issue of  the Internationalisation agenda for universities, and the issues that come for our own values as part of that.  I recounted the story of one HE manager walking away from a deal (not at my own University) and how this was both unusual and commendable.

This week however, the University of Buckingham (a private institution, and thus we are led to believe, are all about the bottom line) made headlines by walking away from a lucrative deal over the issue of gay rights.

GarStarNews reported: 'The University of Buckingham has announced it is ‘increasingly concerned’ about Uganda’s human rights record, and wanted the country’s Victoria University to include a clause that no person would be discriminated against on the basis of sexual orientation. A statement said: ‘Over the last few months, the University of Buckingham has been in discussions with our partners, Edulink, who own Victoria University in Kampala, Uganda, about our continued validation of some of Victoria University’s courses. ‘We have both become increasingly concerned about the proposed legislation in Uganda on homosexuality and in particular the constraints on freedom of speech in this area.’ The University of Buckingham, as the UK's only private research and teaching college, will allow existing students to complete their studies on their validated courses in Dubai and Kenya.'

The BBC also reported on the story, and noted how it raised ethical issues for UK Universities.  Well, indeed.

200 hundred students were affected according to the BBC, and thus one can conclude we are potentially talking about a significant sum of income that Buckingham have wilfully denied themselves.   They deserve credit for arguing that students should not be discriminated against, when enrolled on their degrees and seeking to uphold the same values that a student studying on campus at Buckingham should experience.

How many other British HE congratulate themselves for having strong equality policies, but discard them when the harsh winds of economic reality bite? Will another UK university now seek to negotiate a deal with Victoria?  If a private provider can do this, the pressures on 'public sector universities' are surely now even greater?

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