When we travel, our values travel with us

September 4, 2014

I believe that recent Times Higher Education coverage of University College London’s presence in Qatar (“Union claims UCL shirking moral duty over workers’ welfare at Qatar campus”, News, 21 August, and “Labour MP to UCL: tackle Qatar ‘forced labour’ ”, News, 28 August) offers an incomplete picture of our activity in the Gulf and the role that we are playing locally to minimise labour abuses. In particular, the notion that UCL is “shirking its moral duty” over workers’ welfare in Qatar is neither fair nor accurate, and I have offered to meet at the earliest possible opportunity with Alison McGovern MP, the shadow minister for international development, as she requested, so that we may explain UCL’s position.

Since the opening of UCL Qatar, we have worked consistently with our partner on the ground, Qatar Foundation, to encourage better practice and to address the need to deliver meaningful change for migrant workers. The changes will not happen overnight, but we are very encouraged by the willingness of our partner to engage with this issue. Qatar Foundation has published new standards for migrant labour recruitment to Qatar in a document that set out the challenges to bringing about lasting change and also made a series of far-reaching policy recommendations designed to stop human rights violations. We will discuss progress on delivering this agenda at our next formal meeting with Qatar Foundation later this year.

Any university that seeks to branch out and establish an overseas presence faces the challenge of remaining true to its ethos while appreciating that legal and social practices evolve at different rates in different countries. We do not make labour policy in Qatar; however, having chosen the path of constructive engagement, we have a voice, and we are using it to support the case for change. We may be open to criticism from those impatient with the pace of that change, but I believe that it misrepresents us to imply that we are part of the problem and not the solution. Whether in Qatar or elsewhere, we have to respect the laws of the countries where we work, but that should not be taken to mean that we leave our values behind when we leave London.

Nicola Brewer
Vice-provost international
University College London

Times Higher Education free 30-day trial

You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 6 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Most Commented

question marks PhD study

Selecting the right doctorate is crucial for success. Robert MacIntosh and Kevin O'Gorman share top 10 tips on how to pick a PhD

Pencil lying on open diary

Requesting a log of daily activity means that trust between the institution and the scholar has broken down, says Toby Miller

India, UK, flag

Sir Keith Burnett reflects on what he learned about international students while in India with the UK prime minister

Application for graduate job
Universities producing the most employable graduates have been ranked by companies around the world in the Global University Employability Ranking 2016
Construction workers erecting barriers

Directly linking non-EU recruitment to award levels in teaching assessment has also been under consideration, sources suggest