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Universities must learn from the Matthew Hedges case

Posted on: 2018-11-27 17:00:00

British student Matthew Hedges and his wife Daniela Tejada reunited back in the UK on Tuesday 27 November 2018
 British student Matthew Hedges and his wife Daniela Tejada reunited back in the UK on Tuesday. Photograph: Daniela Tejada/Handout/EPA

The case of Matthew Hedges should prompt all universities to reflect on the role of ethics committees, and PhD supervisors, in the process leading to approval of potentially dangerous overseas PhD research (UAE frees British academic but insists Hedges was a spy, 27 November). As a recent member of a University of York ethics committee which dealt with political research, I frequently encountered such applications from PhD candidates. These requests were often accompanied by reassurances to the effect that – like Matthew Hedges, who spent his childhood in UAE, where his father still lives – the researcher had roots, or close connections, in the country concerned, and that these would be sufficient to protect her/him from dangers which could otherwise affect less well-connected people.

The Hedges case, and that of Giulio Regeni, the Cambridge PhD student murdered in Cairo in 2016, should lead to all those involved in considering high-risk overseas research applications to carefully review their processes.
Steven Burkeman
York


Source: The Guardian


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