UCL President and Provost Malcolm Grant today expressed his concern at the vote by delegates at the National Association of Higher and Further Education (NATFHE) conference for a boycott of Israeli universities and academics unless they publicly dissociate themselves from the policies of the state of Israel. The resolution was narrowly passed yesterday, the final day of the conference in Blackpool. It echoes a resolution that was adopted last year by the Association of University Teachers (AUT), but subsequently rescinded.
Professor Grant said: “I am deeply worried by the vote at the NATFHE conference in favour of a boycott.
“I find it extraordinary that any academic union should attack academic freedom in this way. An academic boycott for political ends is in direct conflict with the mission of a university, and betrays a misunderstanding of our function.
“The effect of this resolution will not be confined to NATFHE, because it is in the process of merging with the AUT to create a new union, which will be contaminated from the outset by this resolution.
“We defend freedom of inquiry and of speech in universities because we believe it to be fundamental to the global dissemination and enhancement of knowledge and discovery, all of which in turn contribute to improvement of the human condition. Boycotts work in the opposite direction.
“At the heart of UCL’s foundation 180 years ago was the simple principle of non-discrimination against any person by reason of their means, their race, their views or their faith. That principle was radical and controversial in its time, but it is now respected by every institution worthy of the title of university. It is embedded in our Statutes at UCL, and we have no intention of compromising it today. We shall continue to stand firm against any academic boycott.”