Global engagement in Middle East
19 May 2021
At King’s we are proud of our international community, welcoming students and staff from all backgrounds, nations and religions. This week is Interfaith week at King’s, organised in partnership with the Office for Students to promote dialogue between different parts of our community, which together with the recent violence in Israel and Palestine, the subsequent events in London and the upcoming anniversary of the murder of George Floyd are all a reminder of society’s need to overcome the inequality and hatred we find around us. It is important to emphasise that we all have a role to play and there is no place for hate crime or religious intolerance – at King’s or in wider society. Understandably we have been asked questions by many in our community for our view on these issues.
We have academic collaborations and partnerships with over 300 institutions worldwide, including relationships with institutions in both Israel and Palestine. Our current engagement with Technion and Hebrew University is in relation to research into ageing. We also have established links with Birzeit University in Palestine and continue to work with them to build research and education opportunities as well as develop policy on issues such as mental health. Our support has also extended to individual students and academics in the region, through the provision of several scholarships.
This work, like all King’s international partnerships and collaborations, pools expertise to create the high impact research on global issues, for which we are known. It also creates opportunities for academics and students to study and work in different environments.
Knowledge is worldwide. It is critical then that access to education and research, together with freedom of speech and enquiry is not restricted by virtue of geographical location of individuals or institutions with which UK universities, including King’s, and their academics may wish to collaborate or associate.
We have a strong commitment to upholding the values of freedom of expression, and enquiry, enabling safe platforms for free, peaceful and respectful dialogue. Central to our Vision is demonstrating open-mindedness, and tolerance, together with the expectation of challenge. In line with these guiding principles, and our work with many other organisations such as the Muslim Council of Britain and Runnymede Trust, we accepted in 2018 both the definition of antisemitism proposed by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) and a recognised definition of Islamophobia. As a university committed to providing a safe and inclusive environment for all our staff and students – holding a religious faith or no faith – we use these to inform our practices and procedures as well as ensure hate crime or religious hatred is not tolerated.
Some in our community have raised the issue of the university altering its investment policy in the context of the recent events in the Middle East. Like many of our peers, our endowment funds hold investments for the benefit of the university. At King’s we only invest in funds and not in individual companies. We specifically invest in funds that actively screen to avoid sectors and industries that do not reflect our values. This ensures we do not directly invest in areas such as fossil fuels or tobacco. We also do not hold investments in any firms involved in controversial weapons. We also invest in funds which actively target positive social or green investments. All our investment is in line with our policies and procedures.
It can be extremely distressing at times like this, especially for our students who are currently finishing their assessments. We are working with King’s College London Students’ Union and our Chaplaincy team to offer support via student societies and other services. We do urge any student or colleague to speak to someone if they are upset or need support. Our counselling service is also available for anyone in need of assistance.
We are fully committed to promoting equality of opportunity at King’s and creating an inclusive environment where everyone is valued and able to succeed. We must come together as a community to tackle the wrong and unfair behaviours we see and to contribute to the university achieving its goal to be an anti-racist UK university – both in words and action.