A message from the Vice-Chancellor to all students

I know that many of you have been revising for and sitting examinations, as well as completing coursework, working, and making plans to do the things you enjoy.

I wanted to write to you about the events currently taking place in Palestine and Israel. Let me start by reinforcing what I have said previously: we are all appalled by the continued tragedy of the conflict, by the loss of lives, and by the immense suffering on both sides. Many members of the University have family or friends who have been impacted, and to the very worst extent possible. I’m sure I’m speaking for everybody in feeling genuinely very upset and horrified by this dreadful situation.

I also understand from many conversations the depth of feeling about the current situation, which has been in expressed in meetings I have had this week with representatives from the Islamic Society and Jewish Society - both of whom put forward their views candidly and constructively.

We have a very diverse community including Palestinian and Israeli students and staff, those of Muslim and Jewish faith, and those with connections to the region for many other reasons. The University must be a supportive, safe, and hopeful space, in which all views, beliefs and opinions can be expressed lawfully and respectfully. Inevitably, this will lead to disagreement; sometimes sharp disagreement. But we are clear that everyone has the right to go about their business safely and free from intimidation or harassment and we will not tolerate any form of discrimination or racism, including Islamophobia and antisemitism.

As a university, the most important thing we can do is offer support to those affected by the conflict, in and out of the region, and we have been working on this for some time now. Please take a look at our web page bringing together our support and resources around the Palestine-Israel conflict. This includes an increase in the student scholarships we have made available through being a University of Sanctuary, with a number of these reserved for students from Palestine. We are making fellowships available for academics at risk through our longstanding work with the Council for At-Risk Academics (Cara). As you might know, getting permission to leave Gaza is very difficult and, along with other universities, we are lobbying the UK Government to put in place special arrangements for the many people who will no longer have access to supporting documentation for travel. We are also ready and committed to assist in rebuilding the intellectual life of Gaza when conditions allow.

Current activity on campus

You may have seen that a group of tents has been set up on the Green Heart by individuals protesting in support of Palestine and I wanted to address this in this message. Firstly, I want to emphasise that we will support students who wish to take part in protests about issues that they care deeply about. There are many ways in which this can be done lawfully, including through authorised demonstrations and our staff have worked with students over recent weeks and months to encourage this wherever possible. However, this does not extend to setting up tents where there is no authority or permission to do so. Although the camp has been largely peaceful to date, the Green Heart is a space which is important for University activities, and the presence of the camp (which has also included those who are not members of the University community) causes disruption to current and planned University activities in and close to that area. This includes examinations, the summer programme activities, which take place from the start of June, and the July degree ceremonies. It is also true that camps at other universities have led to incidents that we do not want to see repeated here.

While I have informed the students involved that I am unable to meet with them whilst the camp is in place, members of the University’s senior team are visiting the camp daily for welfare checks. Once the encampment ends, I remain open to meeting with them. As I have said above, there are other ways in which protests can be done lawfully, and we are happy to discuss and facilitate these with the organisers so that those who wish to can continue to protest.

One issue raised with me this week relates to transparency around the University’s investments. We already publish detailed information on this online, and I thought it would be helpful to provide some links, for those who are interested in finding out more. We publish the University’s current investment portfolio which is up to date as at the end of April. The University’s investments are managed by an external investment manager, who is required to invest in line with the University’s Responsible Investment Policy. This policy was revised in January 2024 and includes the clear exclusion of arms from our investment portfolio (p5).

Our approach to Freedom of Speech

I’ve also been asked about our approach to protests and Freedom of Speech more generally. If you want to find out more about this, please take a look at our Code of Practice for Freedom of Speech. This is well-established and we have a long track record of strong support for free speech; I can think of numerous examples of events dealing with sensitive and controversial topics that have gone ahead with the full support of the University, including very recently. We have also published a new training package for students to raise awareness of the processes and practicalities of supporting freedom of speech on campus and the importance of being able to disagree well. I hope you might take the time to take a look at this on Canvas: Freedom of Speech (bham.ac.uk).

I would like to remind you that we have a wide range of support available. You can access all of our support services here. You can also access our 24/7/365 emotional support helpline, UBHeard. Our Report and Support portal provides information for students and staff who wish to report any harassment or discrimination.

Finally, good luck with your exams and assessments, and I am very much looking forward to seeing many of you at our graduations in the summer, if not before during the summer programme.

All best wishes and take good care,


Adam Tickell, Vice Chancellor and Principal.


Professional Services