KCL congratulated themselves for a 64-like tweet in the middle of the Brunei degree scandal

They said the likes were ‘a good sign’


KCL congratulated themselves for a tweet about the Sultan of Brunei’s Honorary Degree getting 64 likes, according to internal emails obtained by The Tab.

In the emails, KCL lamented that their tweet, containing a statement on the Sultan, didn’t have as many engagements as a Facebook status or the Proudly King’s petition.

However, they called the “high number of likes” a “good sign”.

It was part of the University’s social media monitoring, as they kept watch on the growing calls for KCL to rescind the Sultan of Brunei’s honorary degree after he started stoning gay people to death.

Emails also show Ed Byrne personally responding to complaints, and the University organising the review into the honorary degree.

The statement read: "King’s is very proud of our diverse community. We take very seriously the concerns raised by our community regarding the honorary degree held by the Sultan of Brunei which was awarded in 2011.

"President and Principal Ed Byrne shares these concerns, and given recent developments has asked the university’s Fellowships and Honorary Degrees Committee to urgently review the award."

The comments were part of a social media overview on how their statement went down. It also noted that a Facebook post reached 36,000 people, and got over 500 reactions. Whilst most called for the degree to be revoked, King’s took comfort in some comments which “appreciate the statement and the position we are in.”

By contrast, one post shared to King’s LGBT+ Facebook page, in which LGBT Soc president Georgie Spearing says “King’s has failed its LGBT community” has 84 angry reacts.

The Proudly King’s petition has over 5,000 signatures at the time of writing. The open letter attached to the petition says “the College's silence undermines our institution's core values.”

The Sultan is one of the world’s richest leaders, boasting a personal wealth estimated at £15 million. He has been Sultan since 1967, and set up two universities in Brunei: The University of Brunei Darussalam and Sultan Sharif Ali Islamic University. He is the Chancellor of both.

The Centre for Defence Studies, part of KCL’s War studies department, runs courses in Brunei, amongst other places. One of the Sultan's sons studied International Relations at King's. He also later completed a Master's at SOAS, home to a Brunei gallery SOAS students are petitioning to have renamed.

The Sultan also had honorary degrees from the Universities of Aberdeen and Oxford. The latter is in the process of reviewing the degree, whilst Aberdeen has already revoked it.

On the 3rd of April 2019, the same day the Sultan began implementing Sharia Law in Brunei, Aberdeen announced they would be “urgently reviewing” the degree. A spokesperson said: “The University of Aberdeen is inclusive and open to all.”

Two weeks later, on the 17th of April, the University announced they would be revoking the degree, saying: “While it is deeply regrettable to be in this position, which is unprecedented for the University of Aberdeen, I fully support the decision.”

The chairman of King’s College Council has since written an open letter saying the revocation of the degree “would represent uncharted territory”, but that the University’s “founding principles explicitly promote an open-minded environment, one with a strong moral imperative on behalf of each and every one of our students and staff.”

He said he would be sharing the outcome of proceedings “as soon as the proper procedures have been followed and completed.”