Education & Family

UK university suspends Uganda degrees in gay law row

Uganda advert over anti-gay law
Image caption An advert in Ugandan newspapers last month called for the dropping of an anti-homosexuality bill

A UK university is suspending accreditation for courses at a Ugandan university, in response to proposed legislation against homosexuality.

The University of Buckingham says it has been "increasingly concerned" about a proposed anti-gay bill in Uganda and its "constraints on freedom of speech".

As such the university says it will no longer validate courses at Victoria University in Kampala.

Buckingham says it will make "viable arrangements" for existing students.

The private UK university says the decision has been agreed with Edulink, the Dubai-based owners of Victoria University.

A statement from Victoria University says that the university cannot comply with the conflicting legal requirements of both Uganda and the UK on prohibiting discrimination.

"There are fundamental differences between the two nations' respective laws regarding equality and diversity, which cannot be reconciled."

As a result the Ugandan university says the partnership with Buckingham has been suspended.

Transferring students

The University of Buckingham says it will mean the suspension of accreditation for seven courses, affecting around 200 students.

Image caption The University of Buckingham had accredited most of the courses offered at the university in Uganda

The courses include business management, accounting, journalism and computing.

The acting vice chancellor of Victoria University, David Young, says the university will continue with two other courses - nursing science and public health - which are not validated by Buckingham.

"Victoria University is making every effort to transfer students on the 'Buckingham' courses to Middlesex University Dubai, or to University of Buckingham in the UK, or to another university," says Dr Young.

Victoria University was opened in autumn 2011 by Uganda's president, Yoweri Museveni, and the university's chancellor is former prime minister of Uganda, Apolo Nsibambi.

The opening ceremony was attended by Andrew Mitchell, who was then the UK's international development secretary, and Tim Yeo MP, who has advised the university on "academic standards", according to the register of members' financial interests.

The agreement with the University of Buckingham had been seen as a way of delivering UK higher education to students in east Africa.

A growing number of universities in the UK have links with overseas universities, or else have set up branch campuses.

But the suspension of the partnership highlights the ethical conflicts that can arise when such university values are exported.

Homosexual acts are already illegal in Uganda - but the controversial proposed bill would increase the penalties.

The bill proposes longer jail terms for homosexual acts, including a life sentence in certain circumstances.

International leaders, including US President Barack Obama, have condemned the proposals.

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