TWO universities have called for authorities detaining a Durham PhD student in the United Arab Emirates to treat him with "proper fairness".

Matthew Hedges, who is doing a PhD at Durham University, has been held in solitary confinement since May 5, when he flew into the country to interview sources about the country's foreign policy and security strategy.

The 31-year-old, who is from Exeter, is said to be suffering "significant health issues" after more than five months in detention.

Durham and Exeter Universities, where Mr Hedges did a Masters degree in Middle East Studies, have now released a statement calling for authorities to treat Mr Hedges with "proper fairness".

Their statement said: "Durham and Exeter Universities are deeply concerned about the welfare of Matthew (Matt) Hedges, following his detention and impending trial in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Matt is suffering from significant health issues after more than five months in detention. His welfare and right to a fair trial are now the overriding concerns of both Durham and Exeter Universities.

"Matt completed a Master’s degree in Middle East Studies at Exeter University before beginning PhD work at Durham in 2013. Matt’s thesis is nearing completion and was carried out in full accordance with Durham University’s research and ethics procedures. His academic colleagues speak highly of his work, noting both his diligence and level of scholarship, as well as his undoubted passion and care for the Arab Gulf and its people.

"Representations have been made to the UAE authorities in the UK and the UAE, including an affirmation to the Court of his status as a PhD student in good standing.

"Durham and Exeter Universities now call upon the authorities in both countries to treat Matt with proper fairness and to make every effort to return Matt to his wife, Daniela, and his family and friends."

Earlier this month, his wife Daniela Tejada, 27, called on the Government to deny he was spying for them.

Mr Hedges has been working in Durham since 2013.

According to a profile on the Durham University website, his research includes Middle Eastern politics, the changing nature of war, civil-military relations and tribalism.