International

Academic Drawbridges Raised

British lecturers don’t want to co-operate with their counterparts in Israel:

Delegates at the first conference of the new University and College Union in Bournemouth voted by 158 to 99 for “a comprehensive and consistent boycott”

But British education minister Bill Rammell disagrees with the proposed action:

“The UK government fully supports academic freedom and is firmly against any academic boycotts of Israel or Israeli academics. Whilst I appreciate the independence of the UCU, I am very disappointed that the union has decided to pass a motion which encourages its members to consider boycotting Israeli academics and education institutions. I profoundly believe this does nothing to promote the Middle East peace process.”

Meanwhile in the Islamic Republic of Iran the Government is more obliging towards those who view the exchanging of academic experience as less than an unmitigated good:

Iran’s powerful intelligence ministry has stepped up its war of nerves with the west by telling the country’s academics they will be suspected of spying if they maintain contact with foreign institutions or travel abroad to international conferences.

A Government official said:

“We are worried about many academic conferences which foreigners attend and establish relations [with Iranian academics]. Any foreigner who establishes relations is not trustworthy.

The task of the UCU boycotters would be made a lot easier if Mr Rammell acted more like his counterpart in Tehran – thankfully he takes academic freedom more seriously than both British lecturers and paranoid Islamist officials.

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