Press Release: FAO Newsdesks/Education/Business
University ethics under fire as campaign names 'Ivy League' of arms trade investors
New study finds nearly half of polled universities invest in arms trade
The most comprehensive national study ever undertaken into the financial connections between Britain's universities and arms companies has revealed that at least 67 of the UK's universities and colleges – 45% of the institutions for which information could be obtained – are significant investors in the arms trade.
The study, released today (Friday 21st) by the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), was carried out using new Freedom of Information legislation. Researchers sought information from all 183 UK universities and university colleges, and compiled details of their shareholdings in six of the UK's largest arms companies. Despite student-led campaigns for ethical investment at several universities, the scale of the scale of the issue, which campaigners say raises serious questions about the ethical values of Britain's universities, has not been previously known.
The study comes amidst wider fears that campus protest over universities' links to the arms trade is being stifled. This month Lancaster University prosecuted six students who protested peacefully at a “corporate venturing” conference intended to promote commercial links between the university's research and arms company BAE Systems and other controversial corporations. CAAT's study shows that Lancaster holds shares in four major arms companies, including BAE.
The full results, with analysis and details of all 183 universities, go live online this morning on the CAAT website.
- An 'Ivy League' of ten university arms investors collectively hold nearly 33 million shares in the six arms companies: 1. Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS); 2. Cambridge University; 3. Oxford University; 4. Swansea University; 5. Liverpool University; 6. University of London; 7. Exeter University; 8. Manchester University; 9. Leeds University; 10. Birmingham University [UPDATE 25/10/05 - Birmingham University's shares have been moved to a fund which no longer discloses the current numbers of their arms company shares. Their place in CAAT's 'Ivy League' is taken by York University]
- Three-quarters of all UK universities with medical schools invest in the arms trade – a trade which an editorial in the leading medical journal The Lancet last month argued “threaten[s] human, and especially civilian, health and well-being.”
- The Oxbridge college which invests most in the arms companies, Trinity College Cambridge, individually holds more arms company shares than all but two of the non-Oxbridge universities in the study.
- 32 universities/colleges hold shares in BAE Systems, currently the object of Serious Fraud Office investigations into allegations that it paid £1m to Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, and operated a £60m 'slush fund' providing 'hospitality' for Saudi officials connected to a massive UK-Saudi arms deal. BAE has denied the slush fund claims. In September two former BAE staff were arrested in connection to the investigation.
CAAT campaigner Jo Wittams, who researched the figures, said:
“Our research shows that several of Britain's oldest and most prestigious universities also form an 'ivy league' of arms trade investors. Although historically committed to internationalism and human progress, their wealth provides major funding for a trade that fuels international tensions, and for companies that regularly arm human rights abusers and conflict zones.”
“While universities are ostensibly open and public institutions, staff and students are rarely kept informed about the investments made on their behalf, often using their money. We hope that these figures will help university members work with their institutions to divest from the arms trade.”
Contact CAAT Press Office, press(at)caat·org·uk, 020 7281 0297
- Information was obtained from 152 of the 183 universities and university colleges, of which 68 admitted to holding shares in at least one of 6 major UK arms companies: BAE Systems, GKN, Rolls Royce, Smiths Group, Cobham and VT Group.
31 universities and university colleges have medical schools, of which 23 invest in arms companies: Birmingham, Brighton/Sussex, Bristol, Hull/York, Leeds, Leicester, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham, Oxford, Plymouth, Sheffield, Southampton, Imperial College London, Kings College London, Queen Mary and Westfield College, University College London, St George's Hospital Medical School, Dundee, Edinburgh, St Andrew's, University of Wales and University of Wales Swansea. Four (University of East Anglia, Warwick, Aberdeen and Glasgow) did not hold investments in the 6 companies. 2 (Cambridge and Queens' Belfast) have not yet provided information.
See www.thelancet.com for The Lancet's 10 September editorial, calling on its owner, academic publishing giant Reed Elsevier, to stop organising international arms fairs.
- Trinity College Cambridge holds 804,009 shares in the 6 companies surveyed. Only Swansea and Liverpool hold more.
- CAAT's investigation uncovered at least 16,703,893 shares held by universities in BAE Systems (currently worth around £57.5m). This figure includes the 13,741,779 BAES shares held by the national Universities pension scheme (USS), but does not include the number of shares held by institutions who confirmed holding BAES shares but not their quantities. For BAES allegations, see David Leigh & Rob Evans, 'Arrests in BAE-Saudi investigation', The Guardian, 14 September 2005; 'Serious Fraud Office to look into BAE link with Pinochet', The Guardian, 16 September 2005.