University students throughout the UK will hold a Day of Action against the arms trade on 24 February 2010. The Universities' Day of Action has been organised with support from Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), a national NGO which works for the reduction and ultimate abolition of the international arms trade.
In the aftermath of the Israeli invasion of Gaza, the 2009 Day of Action saw demonstrations at 19 campuses. Actions included occupations, sit-ins, disruption of recruitment events and demands that universities break links with the arms industry.
A year later, CAAT believes that students are more determined than ever to end university links with the arms trade. British weapons used in conflicts such as Gaza will continue to be a major theme, but each campus campaign will focus on issues relevant to their own situation.
The focus of activities are likely to include:
Stopping investment in arms companies - Many university funds continue to invest in arms companies, despite widespread opposition from staff and students. In 2009 protesters demanded that institutions should disinvest from the military sector and put in place ethical investment guidelines. Student groups taking action on investment policy included the University of Birmingham, Cardiff University, Oxford University, University College London (UCL) and University of York.
Ending military sector funding - There are numerous links between the military sector and university research departments, especially engineering, science and IT departments. This includes arms companies commissioning research projects and providing financial support and student bursaries. During the 2009 Day of Action, activists at the University of Central Lancashire protested against BAE-funded research at the university.
Stopping campus recruitment events by arms companies - Arms companies use university career services to organise information and recruitment events to recruit the next generation of engineers and scientists. In 2009, University of Warwick students developed an "Alternative Careers Guide" and in Leeds students held a "die-in" outide BAE Land Systems. Already in this academic year, BAE recruitment events have been targeted at universities in Leeds, York and Edinburgh.
Sarah Reader, CAAT's Universities Network Co-ordinator, says:
Students do not want to see their course fees invested in armaments, their departments' research sponsored by arms companies, or these companies being allowed to recruit the next generation of workers on their campuses. In the current climate of growing privatisation and cuts to higher education, students are even more focused on their universities' priorities. We think this year's Day of Action will be bigger than ever before.
1. Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) works for the reduction and ultimate abolition of the international arms trade together with progressive demilitarisation within arms producing countries. Around 80% of CAAT's funding comes from individual supporters.
2. CAAT's Universities Network exists to provide students and staff in higher education with information on arms companies' ties to universities and to encourage them to actively campaign and participate in breaking these ties. For more detail see CAAT's Universities Network website.
3. Details of the actions in 2009 can be found on CAAT's website.
4. For University shareholdings as of 2006-08 see: Universities' arms shareholdings.
5. Information on the influence of arms companies on university research can be found in the report Study War No More, published in December 2007 by CAAT and the Fellowship of Reconciliation.
6. Join in the discussion and contribute via CAAT's Universities Network website. The website is part of CAAT's expanding media profile. In addition to tweets on Twitter, CAAT now has a presence on Demotix and Flickr. For students, there is also the Universities Network Facebook group, another virtual platform to share experiences with fellow campaigners and keep up to date with anti-arms trade activities around the country.