Universiteit Leiden

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Our ties with Israeli universities

Leiden University has recently received various petitions from students and staff concerning our ties with Israeli universities. We have also held extensive discussions with the University Council in response to questions raised on the subject. We think it important that our partners and research projects reflect our values and respect human rights, equality, academic freedom and integrity. We therefore need an ethical assessment framework similar to the one for collaboration with the fossil fuel industry.

We set great store on a careful process that ensures equal treatment. We do not identify universities with their country’s policies or hold individuals accountable for their institution’s policies. An ethical assessment framework will help us clarify our guiding principles and expertly evaluate questions about partner behaviour and the nature of research projects.

Our approach is as follows:

Ties to Israeli institutions

Leiden University is transparent about its ties. Last year we shared a list of our ties with the fossil fuel industry. The same openness applies to our ties with Israeli universities. Information about research projects in which our academics are involved can be found in public sources.

The university is participating in 11 EU projects that also involve Israeli institutions. That is, Leiden is one of the participating institutions in larger projects. Leiden University is not the coordinator of any of these projects. Information about these ties is publicly available.

We currently have exchange partnerships with two Israeli universities: Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv University. There are currently no Leiden students in Israel because of the war in Gaza. We will not be admitting exchange students from these two universities as of now until after an evaluation.

Evaluation of collaborating institutions and projects

The university is establishing a broad committee to review all new collaborations and projects, especially with knowledge security in mind. In time, this committee will also be able to evaluate whether our partners are involved in human rights violations or risks such as research findings being put to military use.

To accelerate this, an ad hoc committee will be established in the short term to advise on an ethical framework and procedure regarding human rights and abuse. They will also be asked to assess ongoing collaborations with Israeli partners. The University Council and other groups within our community will be involved. If the committee finds any institutional partners to be in violation of our ethical framework, our institutional cooperation with them will be phased out. In the long term, expertise on ethical aspects of collaborations will be embedded in the aforementioned broad committee.

The committee is now being formed and the University Council and other communities within the university are being included in the process that will now begin.

Science diplomacy and reconstruction

We believe it important that academics are not equated with their institution or government. In situations where academic freedom is restricted, maintaining relationships and collaboration can be crucial to supporting critical voices. Research projects on conflict resolution, peacebuilding, sustainability and medical care can have a valuable impact.

We also see an important role for universities in the long-term reconstruction of science and education in Gaza. We will explore how we can support students and scholars from conflict areas and how we can collaborate with other universities in this respect.

To conclude

These are the first steps we will take and will keep the community informed about the next steps. We feel it is important that the broader community agrees with our shared values. We appreciate the critical voices within the community, while also seeing the importance of ensuring that regardless of their background, students and staff can feel part of and safe within our community. We will therefore continue to actively engage with the various communities about their interests, questions and well-being.

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