Australian universities distance themselves from Duke of York

Three Australian universities have become the latest organisations to distance themselves from the Duke of York after his controversial interview on the weekend.

Multi million-pound businesses and British universities have also severed ties with or begun to move away from the royal after the interview centring on his friendship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

Andrew was accused of showing a lack of empathy towards Epstein's victims and a lack of remorse over his friendship with the disgraced financier, who took his own life while imprisoned earlier this year.

In the interview, the duke also denied claims he slept with Virginia Giuffre, one of Epstein's victims, on three separate occasions, twice while she was underage.

The duke's Pitch@Palace Australia is an entrepreneurial initiative which lists Bond University, the University of Wollongong (UoW) and the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) as partners on its website.

All three universities told the PA news agency they had either ended their relationship with Pitch@Palace Australia or would not be continuing it in the future.

A Bond spokeswoman said: "We have previously said any new agreement would be considered in 2020. However, in light of recent events, the university does not intend to seek any further involvement."

Other Australian educational institutions including Perth's Murdoch University, which is also listed online as a partner, did not respond to requests for comment about future relationships with the initiative.

Pitch@Palace Australia did not respond to queries about its ongoing operation in the absence of partners.

The developments come after London Metropolitan University said it would consider the duke's role as its patron, while a student panel at Huddersfield University passed a motion to lobby Andrew to resign as its chancellor.

Asian-focused bank Standard Chartered has joined KPMG in deciding not to renew its sponsorship of the Pitch@Palace scheme.

AstraZeneca's three-year partnership with Pitch@Palace is due to expire at the end of this year and is being reviewed, and Outward Bound Trust, of which Andrew is patron, is to hold a board meeting in the next few days to discuss the matter.

Amid the unravelling of the duke's position, former home secretary Jacqui Smith made fresh claims of racism, saying Andrew made "racist comments about Arabs that were unbelievable" at a Buckingham Palace state banquet.

A Buckingham Palace spokesman said in response to the claim: "HRH has undertaken a considerable amount of work in the Middle East over a period of years and has many friends from the region. He does not tolerate racism in any form."

He added that Andrew would be continuing his role focusing on tech entrepreneurs.
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