Lancaster universities urged to break ties with arms industry

Staff at Lancaster University have launched a petition aimed at shining a light on the links between universities and the arms industry, and putting pressure on Lancaster University and the University of Cumbria to break their ties with BAE Systems - one of the largest weapons manufacturers in the world.

Wednesday, 17th March 2021, 7:00 am
Staff at Lancaster University have launched the petition.

The petition gained 350 signatures within a week, and is still open for others to sign, here.The petition draws attention to BAE's role in driving the crisis in Yemen, where millions of people are currently facing starvation after years of armed conflict.

Yemen has suffered serious violations of international humanitarian law, including indiscriminate bombing by the Saudi-led coalition using BAE-made warplanes and weapons.

The Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT), which was recently nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, highlighted the fact that BAE Systems sold goods and services worth £15 billion to Saudi Arabia in the first 5 years of the conflict.

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The University of Cumbria - which has a campus in Lancaster (pictured) - and Lancaster University recently announced that they will be working closely with BAE Systems to create a new campus in Barrow-in-Furness.

The University of Cumbria - which has a campus in Lancaster - and Lancaster University recently announced that they will be working closely with BAE Systems to create a new campus in Barrow-in-Furness.

Lancaster University has other links with BAE Systems, including research collaborations and sponsorship for Engineering Summer Schools for secondary school children.

Dr Emily Heath, one of the authors of the petition, said: “We are enthusiastic about increasing educational offerings in Barrow. The new Barrow campus could be a great opportunity for education and training aimed at decarbonising and diversifying the local economy along the lines of the Green New Deal. But instead it looks geared towards supporting the dominant arms industry's business and training needs.

"We believe that universities should help to build a more peaceful and sustainable world, and should refuse to endorse and work with companies that profit from inflicting death and misery on the world’s most vulnerable people.”

Prof Nigel Clark said: “This week marks 15 years since a group of Lancaster students were fined for protesting at an event in the George Fox building on campus that promoted university links with corporations including with BAE Systems and Shell.

"'The George Fox 6' were prosecuted for aggravated trespass, but remain celebrated among students and staff for their courage.

" Since then, there has been a lot of talk about values and ‘decolonising’ universities, and yet collaborations continue with industries that are responsible for widespread civilian suffering and global injustice.

"It's time to hold Lancaster University to account and test whether its professed aim to 'do good in the world' is more than just empty words.”

A Lancaster University spokesman said: "The University of Cumbria's plans for a Barrow campus would improve access to higher education in south west and west Cumbria by creating further local opportunities to study for a university degree.

"If successful, the campus would be funded by the Barrow Town Deal. The partnership would allow both Cumbria and Lancaster universities to collaborate in joint research as well as teaching opportunities that bring together the strengths of each university.

"This relationship builds on Lancaster’s longstanding commitment to widening access to higher education in Barrow through our relationship with Furness College and sixth forms in the town and aligns with Lancaster’s commitment to helping the local economy as part of our broader civic engagement work to enhance skills across the Bay.

"Discussions are ongoing and, should the campus be approved as part of the Barrow Town Deal, any partnership provision on the campus offered by Lancaster University would be considered through its normal governance routes."

A University of Cumbria spokesman said: “The development of a university campus in Barrow is crucial to supporting the region’s demand for developing higher-level skills among current and future workforces.

“It will enable local residents to go to university without leaving the area, in traditionally what has been a cold spot for developing higher level skills.

“As the largest employer in Barrow, BAE systems needs to draw constantly from a pool of highly skilled individuals, both directly and throughout its supply chain.

Working with them, alongside all businesses in Barrow, not only do we support their needs, creating more opportunities for Cumbria’s young people, we can also address the wider local skills and employer needs.

“Our primary offer will be in areas such as project management, leadership, supply chain development, education and health. Lancaster University will provide leading expertise in data science and cyber security.”

A BAE Systems spokesman said: “As a world leader in advanced engineering and technology, BAE Systems plays a vital role in creating opportunities for young people across the country, helping to address the critical skills gap and support the economic recovery.

"The company invests in a diverse portfolio of programmes aimed at inspiring the next generation of engineers and engaging with students to raise awareness of the broad range of STEM-related career opportunities on offer.”