The University of Cambridge said on Wednesday it is in talks with the United Arab Emirates, and according to media reports, their partnership will provide for the university’s biggest donation and the creation of a joint innovation institute.
The Guardian newspaper reported that the UAE has pledged to commit 312 million pounds ($430.62 million), the biggest single donation by far to the university, and another 90 million pounds will be paid in kind through Cambridge staff time.
The UAE-Cambridge Innovation Institute will begin as a virtual entity and culminate in “a physical footprint” in the UAE with its own staff and joint UAE and University of Cambridge branding, the newspaper said.
The partnership will focus on education, Arabic literacy, Islamic art, culture and research on a post-fossil fuel economy, Cambridge University said in a statement.
The deal must be approved by the university’s general board, the Guardian reported.
The Guardian said internal university documents acknowledged a “values gap” and concerns about “academic freedom and institutional autonomy” in connection to working with the UAE.
The collaboration could also see criticism from human rights advocates, the paper said.
The U.S.-allied UAE, a Gulf trading and tourism hub and big oil producer, does not allow political parties and shows little tolerance towards dissent. State and local media are tightly controlled and freedom of speech is restricted.