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View of Palace Green in Durham with Durham Cathedral in the background

Durham University is managing actively the encampment protest on Palace Green, which was established in the early hours of Friday 10 May.

Encampment update

Published 6.05pm, Thursday 20 June 

Further to the University’s update of 11.45am Thursday 20 June, the students at the encampment have announced as of 16.50pm their intention to leave tomorrow, Friday 21 June.

Encampment update

Published 11.45am, Thursday 20 June 

Durham University today, Thursday 20 June, wrote to the students in the encampment on Palace Green to:  

  • Outline in detail the series of actions taken by the University as a result of the students’ concerns, which they raised during meetings with senior University representatives.
  • Offer the students a further meeting on Thursday 20 June or Friday 21 June with senior University representatives.
  • Formally ask them to vacate University land on Palace Green where the encampment is sited, in advance of University Congregations. We have done this for sake of our wider student body, the 6,000 plus graduating students and their families and friends who will graduate with them.

Durham University has engaged with students at the encampment on Palace Green in good faith since it was established on Friday 10 May, and in line with our stated commitment to lawful protest and freedom of speech. 

University colleagues have checked in regularly on students’ welfare, safety and security, and taken appropriate action. 

In addition, senior University representatives have had four meetings with the group to listen to their concerns, engage in discussion, and have taken action as a result.  

Read full text of the University’s letter outlining the actions taken, the offer of a further meeting and the formal request to vacate University land.

 

Durham Union Society Debate Friday 7 June 2024: next steps

Updated statement published: 12noon, Tuesday 11 June 2024

Durham University is immediately undertaking a full review of the behaviours exhibited at events last Friday night.

This is taking place under the normal University non-academic misconduct policy.

It is most important that facts and context are properly and fairly reviewed, including seeking input from those directly affected.

Durham Union Society Debate 7 June 2024

Updated statement published: 4pm, Sunday 9 June 2024

Durham University is committed to upholding freedom of speech and the right to lawful demonstration.

Of paramount concern is the safety of our University community.

The right to lawful protest must be balanced between the rights of protesters to assert their views, and the rights of others to go about their business safely, unimpeded and free from intimidation, duress and harassment.  

While individuals and groups within the University community may express lawful views on any issue, we insist that this is done in a safe and respectful way.

Now, as ever, it is critical that behaviours and language do not amount to harassment or intimidation. 

Where there is evidence of behaviour which is intimidatory towards our students, staff, and wider community, we will take appropriate action through our established disciplinary procedures.

Over the past month, student representatives of the encampment on Palace Green have repeatedly met with University leaders for constructive discussions.

On the evening of Friday 7 June, a disruptive protest was held at a debating event organised by Durham Union Society, an independent debating society run by students.

The event, held at a University property on Palace Green included external speakers debating the motion “This House Believes Palestinian Leadership is the Biggest Barrier to Peace”.

The event began with the support of the University, in line with our code of practice on Freedom of Expression. This includes assessing risk and taking advice as appropriate from the police.

In response to emerging intelligence about a significant new risk to public safety, and on advice from the police, the University regretfully took the decision to curtail the event. While disappointed, the Durham Union Society accepted the reasons for this decision.

University Security worked closely with Police to manage the safe dispersal of people from the area.  All attendees safely left the building.

The University is now reviewing the events of Friday evening in accordance with its procedures.

Durham University made it clear immediately and then in writing to the Durham Union Society that the event was postponed, not cancelled, and also offered to liaise with them on rescheduling the event and on providing a secure venue.



Our University statement on Israel-Gaza and support for our community.

Published on Friday 7 June 2024: Meeting with students, Thursday 6 June.

On Thursday 6 June, Dr Shaid Mahmood, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Equality, Diversity and Inclusion), held a fourth meeting with student representatives of the encampment on Palace Green. 

The four meetings between Dr Mahmood, representing the University, and the students have taken place on 6 June, 4 June, 30 May, and 21 May. 

The University has been in constant dialogue with the students at the camp since its inception on Friday 10 May.  

The University supports the right to lawful protest and freedom of speech, and is committed to ongoing, constructive and respectful dialogue on the students’ concerns.    

The University has also had regular conversations with the students about their welfare, safety and security and continues to take appropriate action in response to the matters they have raised.   

This statement outlines progress made on key areas of concern raised by the students at those meetings and highlighted as a priority.  

Investments. 

Durham University is committed to ensuring that it makes investment decisions responsibly and with integrity. As a charity, a proportion of University assets are invested to generate a financial return to support educational objectives. 

The University has well-established decision making and governance processes through which investments and other matters are considered. 

The University has an Ethical Investment Policy, which is rigorously applied, led by the Chief Financial Officer and Finance Committee on behalf of University Council. The third-party fund managers who invest on the University’s behalf work within this policy first and foremost.  

We do not invest in the arms industry or in fossil fuel companies. 

Following discussion between the Chair of Finance Committee and the University Secretary, it was agreed to consider a proposal from the students at the June meeting of Finance Committee.   

The students have been advised that the President of Durham Students’ Union, as their elected representative and a member of Finance Committee, will sponsor that proposal.  

Also, at the meeting on Thursday 6 June, in line with a commitment made at an earlier meeting and in the interests of transparency, Dr Mahmood provided the students with more detail about the University’s investment portfolio.  

Dr Mahmood encouraged the students to engage with the President of Durham Students’ Union on the proposal to Finance Committee.  

Support for our Palestinian students and the rebuilding of higher education. 

A key focus for the University throughout the conflict has been to support our students, staff and our wider community who are affected by these events. 

We have offered bespoke support proactively to affected students and remain in touch with them and student societies such as our Palestinian Society and our Jewish Society.  

The University has already increased its financial commitment to scholarships for Palestinian students from the West Bank and Gaza.  

We are engaged in institutional and national discussions about the most effective way to help those students whose higher education has been interrupted by the war or who will need higher education in the future.  

We are committed to ongoing, constructive dialogue with our students about this, and open to working with students and staff on their suggestions.  

Israel-Gaza conflict. 

From the outset, the University has expressed its deep concern about the appalling situation in Israel-Gaza, the escalating humanitarian crisis and the impact of this conflict on our students, staff and visitors.  

Our heartfelt hope is that a way will be found to the end of violence, a peaceful resolution and the safe return of the remaining hostages as soon as possible.   

Our approach is in common with universities across the UK and is informed by close dialogue with Universities UK. 

As a registered charity, we follow the guidelines published by The Charity Commission, https://www.gov.uk/guidance/political-activity-and-campaigning-by-charities.   

This means the University can, under charity law, engage in political activity but this must support the delivery of the University’s purpose and is in its best interest.  

We do not and will not take up a formal University position on political matters outside our core mission of education and research, unless we are directed to do so by the UK Government.  

Our commitment to constructive dialogue and respectful behaviours. 

The University is committed to ongoing dialogue with students at the camp regarding their priorities, where that dialogue is respectful and constructive.  

The University supports and respects the right to lawful protest. We consistently and robustly uphold freedom of speech within the law, as set out in our Code of Practice on Freedom of Expression. 

The University's meeting with the students on Thursday 6 June was suspended prior to its scheduled conclusion, due to disruptive demonstrations outside the meeting and photography and filming by those protestors of the meeting without prior consent.  

This behaviour was disappointing and fell short of that we expect from all members of the University community.  

This dialogue cannot resume until we can be assured of respectful behaviours from those concerned.  

Statements on Durham Union Society debate, Friday 7 June 2024

Previous statements on the encampment.

Published on Wednesday 5 June 2024: Meeting with students, Tuesday 4 June.

On behalf of the University, Dr Shaid Mahmood, Pro-Vice-Chancellor Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) met with student representatives of the encampment on Palace Green on Tuesday 4 June.   

This was the third meeting between Dr Mahmood and the students. The University has been in constant dialogue with the camp since its inception on Friday 10 May.  

The University has continued to express deep concerns in respect of the ongoing situation in Israel-Gaza, including through our published web statement Events in the Middle East - Durham University.  

The University remains committed to lawful protest and freedom of speech. The right to lawful protest must be balanced on the one hand with the right to assert views and, on the other, with the rights of others (students, staff, visitors) to go about their business safely, unimpeded and free from intimidation, duress and harassment.    

In speaking to the students, Dr Mahmood said he understood their passion and concerns. Key issues raised at the meeting on Tuesday 4 June, and the University’s position, are as follows.  

Rebuilding of higher education in Palestine.  

The University has already increased financial commitment to scholarships for Palestinian students from the West Bank and Gaza. We are engaged in institutional and national discussions about the most effective way to help those students whose higher education has been interrupted by the war or who will need higher education in the future. 

At the meeting on Tuesday 4 June, Dr Mahmood committed to an ongoing dialogue with members of the camp on the University’s involvement in plans for rebuilding higher education in Palestine. He reaffirmed the University’s openness to working with students and academics on their suggestions.  

Investments.   

The University has an ethical investment policy Ethical-Investment-Policy-July-2023.pdf (durham.ac.uk) which is rigorously applied. We do not invest in the arms industry or in fossil fuel companies.   

Dr Mahmood reaffirmed the University’s commitment to take a briefing note detailing the students’ specific concerns on investments to the Chair of Finance Committee, to determine if this could be discussed at the next meeting of that Committee later in June.  

Dr Mahmood will provide more detail about our investment portfolio, for the sake of full transparency, at the next meeting.  

Dr Mahmood outlined to the group the importance of working within the University’s decision making and governance processes in respect of taking receipt of, and considering, concerns. 

The students asked that a camp representative attend the meeting of Finance Committee. Dr Mahmood committed to asking that question of the University Secretary.  

Dr Mahmood emphasised that Durham Students’ Union President, as the elected representative for the student body, is a member of Finance Committee, and asked that students engage with the President.  

Promotion of careers opportunities.   

The students asked about the promotion of careers opportunities to students related to companies involved in the arms trade. This matter has been raised with senior management and the Head of Careers.  

Israel-Gaza war.   

From the outset, the University has expressed its deep concern about the situation in Israel-Gaza and its impact. We continue to offer support to our students, staff and wider community who are affected. We have a detailed web statement which is updated regularly. Events in the Middle East - Durham University 

Dr Mahmood told the students we will provide a written account of the university’s response to the war consistent with our governance and legal position.  

IHRA definition of antisemitism.   

Dr Mahmood restated the University’s position that he set out at the second meeting with camp representatives of Thursday 29 May.  

The University does not plan to review its adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of antisemitism.  

He told the students about the new legislation on Freedom of Speech that was due to come into law later this year. He also highlighted the University’s ongoing work to update its code of practice in this area to ensure it continues to meet the requirements of our regulator (the Office for Students).  

Next steps.  

The fourth meeting between Dr Mahmood and the student representatives will take place on Thursday 6 June.  


Published on Friday 31 May 2024: Meeting with students, Thursday 30 May.

On Thursday 30 May, the University held a second meeting with students from the encampment on Palace Green, Durham City, specifically to discuss their concerns in respect of the ongoing Israel-Gaza conflict.

Dr Shaid Mahmood, Pro-Vice-Chancellor Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI), met with the students on behalf of the University on both 21 and 30 May.

There has been an ongoing dialogue between students and University colleagues, starting when the camp set up on Friday 10 May, focusing on welfare, safety, and security.  

Our ethical investment policy and activities.  

As a charity, a proportion of University assets are invested to generate a financial return to support educational objectives.   

In the 21 May meeting, the students said that, while they had many concerns about the ongoing conflict, their top priority was for the university to urgently review its investments. This was especially in relation to companies involved in armament production and / or sales and fossil fuels, specifying several named companies.

Consequently, on Thursday 30 May Dr Mahmood took printed copies of the University’s ethical investment policy and explained this in detail. The policy is available on the University website  and is kept under regular review. 

Key points included:

  • The policy is consistently applied by our Chief Financial Officer and our Finance Committee of University Council, on which there is Durham Students’ Union representation.
  • The University uses fund managers who are authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.  They are tasked to manage the investments of the University to achieve a target return, but first and foremost this must be achieved by investing within the University’s ethical investment policy. 
  • The University does not and will not invest in companies that generate revenue from the manufacturing or production of tobacco, armaments, which includes any involved in the Israel-Gaza war, or fossil fuel extractive companies.  We announced that we would not invest in companies involved in the extraction of fossil fuels in 2018, following a period of student and staff consultation, as reflected in our policy.

Listening to student concerns.

At the 30 May meeting, the students provided comments on aspects of the policy relating to armaments.

On behalf of the University, Dr Mahmood committed to hearing more from the students and to sharing their views with Finance Committee. To enable this, he will share with them a link to a document where they can outline their views in detail. This will be shared with Finance Committee for its meeting later in June.  

Recognising how important this is to our students, Dr Mahmood also committed, on behalf of the University, to exploring the sharing of a list of investments made via third-party fund managers. The University can now confirm this will happen.

Continued support for our students and staff.  

At the meeting of 30 May, Dr Mahmood outlined how University colleagues are supporting our students impacted by this conflict.  This includes bespoke and individual support to our Palestinian and our Jewish students.   

University colleagues continue to reach out, proactively, to students to hear and act on concerns.  They have key points of contact within the University to raise any matters.  

The University has reaffirmed and increased our financial support for current and future Durham Palestine Educational Trust (DPET) scholars.

Rebuilding higher education.

The University has set aside a significant fund to support students in international emergencies, including the current situation in Gaza, and to support any rebuilding. 

We will support rebuilding higher education when we can, working with sector partners and DPET.  

Dr Mahmood outlined to the students how conversations are developing both locally, regionally and at a sector level on what this rebuilding might look like, working collaboratively with higher education institutions and partners. 

On behalf of the University, he emphasised that student involvement in these developments is important and welcome.  

Dr Mahmood and University colleagues recently attended a workshop organised by the DPET and hosted by Durham University, to develop further proposals for building practical support for educators and students in Palestine.  

Dr Mahmood added: “I shared the outputs of that work by DPET. I also confirmed to the students that the University would welcome student involvement in further development of those proposals, so we can take account of their perspectives and draw on any relevant experience.” 

The University is committed to continued dialogue with the students and to meeting again the week commencing Monday 3 June. 

On behalf of the University, Dr Mahmood committed to responding to other matters set out in the original meeting of 21 May. As agreed with the students, the meeting of 30 May concentrated on the group’s stated primary concern around investments. 

Published on Tuesday 21 May 2024: Meeting with students, Tuesday 21 May. 

University colleagues have continued regular dialogue with students who have set up an encampment on Palace Green.

Since the camp was established on Friday 10 May, University colleagues have met frequently with students and enquired about their welfare, safety, and security, which is always our paramount concern.

The University has taken appropriate action to address concerns, and has outlined expected behaviours to protect the rights of others, including staff, students, and visitors, to go about their business safely, unimpeded, and free from intimidation, duress, or harassment.

An opportunity to listen.

On Tuesday 21 May, Dr Shaid Mahmood, our Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Equality, Diversity and Inclusion), on behalf of the University, met with students at the encampment, in what was the first meeting between Dr Mahmood and the students.

This was an opportunity to hear the students’ thinking about their demands and the weight they attach to them. The conversation lasted almost two hours, covering many topics. We are now working through the detail of matters raised. As part of the conversation, Dr Mahmood discussed the support we are offering to Palestinian students and how we might contribute to higher education being rebuilt following the conflict.

Dr Mahmood committed to communicating further with students by the end of this week, and we will share this communication via our website.

Supporting freedom of speech.

Dr Mahmood said: “The University supports the right to lawful protest and freedom of speech where it is done in a safe and respectful way, which we have outlined to the students at the encampment.

“Since Friday 10 May, colleagues have met frequently with the students, to speak with them and to hear any concerns. This has helped us take important measures to ensure their welfare, safety, and security.

“We fully understand and respect that many of our students and staff feel appalled and concerned about the events in Gaza and Israel as the conflict continues. We appreciate they feel very strongly about expressing their views.

“From the outset, the University has expressed distress and mounting concern about the situation as detailed in our statement and communications.

“Today I sought to listen and understand more about the students’ perspectives and their position as they continue to protest. We appreciate the students’ work to ensure the welfare, safety, and security of those involved in the encampment are considered, as well as the Durham Students’ Union engagement on this. We welcome the opportunity for continued, open conversation with all our students.”

 
Statement published on Saturday 11 May 2024.

We did not receive prior notice of the encampment but we fully support and respect the right to lawful protest. We never waver from our commitment to uphold freedom of speech within the law. Our initial focus this weekend has been on the wellbeing of the students involved, and we have been in dialogue with the protestors about this. 

As a University, our top priority is the wellbeing and safety of all our students and staff, strengthening campus relations and striving for community cohesion of our diverse global community. This continues to drive our responses. We appreciate efforts to sustain this by the Students’ Union. 

We take seriously the concerns of all our students. We have from the outset been engaging actively with students across different communities and continue to do so. 

As a University, we have repeatedly expressed our deepest hope that a way will be found for a peaceful resolution to the conflict as soon as possible. We also hope for the end to the violence and the safe return of the remaining hostages. 


Statement published on Friday 10 May 2024.

From the outset of events in the Middle East our priority has been to support all students and staff and our wider community, to ensure their health, safety and wellbeing and to do everything we can to ensure good community relations and the cohesion of our diverse global community.

We have continually expressed distress and mounting concern at the appalling and huge number of civilian casualties and humanitarian suffering experienced by the people of Gaza, the appalling attacks on Israel and the plight of Israeli hostages.  

We have closely monitored the situation and provided direct and bespoke support to all students affected, including our Palestinian and Jewish students. 

The University supports and respects the right to lawful protest. We are committed to consistently and robustly upholding freedom of speech within the law, which includes the right of students and staff to protest safely and respectfully, as set out in the University’s Code of Practice on Freedom of Expression.   

The right to lawful protest must however be balanced between the rights of protesters to assert their views on the one hand and, on the other, the rights of others (students, staff and visitors) to go about their business safely, unimpeded and free from intimidation, duress and harassment.  

We are a diverse, global community with many differing views and perspectives. While individuals and groups within the University community may express lawful views on any issue, it is expected that this is done in a safe and respectful way.

We do not tolerate any form of prejudice or discrimination, including antisemitism or anti-Muslim hatred and will take swift action. We condemn in the strongest possible terms any incidents targeting individuals or groups for their religious, political, or cultural beliefs. 

We have stringent policies and processes in place to deal with any incidents reported to us, and any criminal matters will be reported to Police.     

As a University, we express our deepest hope that a way will be found for a peaceful resolution to the conflict as soon as possible. We also hope for the end of violence and the safe return of the remaining hostages.      

We have a published statement online and detailed FAQs for our students and staff which are updated regularly.  These affirm our support for students, staff and our wider community.