Have you ever thought where your tuition fees may be going or whether our humble institution invests with a moral compass in hand? Can we, as students, be sure that university business deals are made in the best interests of society or is the less than certain financial future of the University of Nottingham fueling unethical dealings?
Perhaps we should start with a well-known debacle; that of the 2001 donation by British American Tobacco (BAT) of around £4m to develop the International Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility. Many academics were furious at the University accepting investment from a fundamentally unethical industry. The donation led to a high profile resignation at the British Medical Journal and condemnation for appearing to legitimise an industry responsible for five million deaths per year. The business ethics of the University were thus called into question, but it wasn’t until 2007 that another unethical practice emerged.
If you can, cast your mind back to March of that year: a group of students plastered in blood and holding placards hold a ‘die-in’ outside the Portland Building. Most of us walk by and don’t take a second look. Perhaps this is our nature now, the sheer quantity of protests at Nottingham seem to have diluted their messages, warping each protest into a long-haired hippy-fest, with the same people guarding every picket.
It appears that we should have taken notice of the hippies’ cries “stop Nottingham’s involvement in the arms trade” as the University’s investments affect war in both an indirect, and – as Impact can exclusively reveal – a very direct one.
1994 to present has seen a partnership between the University of Nottingham’s School of Mechanical, Materials and Manufacturing Engineering and BAE Systems. The relationship has been instrumental to the development of MEMS Gyroscopes and has generated plenty of revenue for BAE. According to the services for business website (http://nottingham.ac.uk/servicesforbusiness) these gyroscopes are “utilised in a multitude of different applications, including high performance navigation systems and Electronic Stability Control (ESC) systems in cars.” What they fail to mention, however, is that these very devices developed at Nottingham are a core component in munitions guidance systems.
Take for example BAE’s Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System’s (APKWS) 2.75-inch guided rocket, which has just entered its final testing phase with the US Navy. The APKWS uses the SiIMU® inertial measurement unit which contains the aforementioned MEMS Gyroscopes. According to BAE, the system has also been sidelined for other weapon programs such as Excalibur XM982, NLOS-LS (Non Line of Sight-Launch System), C-KEM (Compact Kinetic Energy Missile), and JCM (Joint Common Missile).
The University’s involvement with BAE Systems runs deeper than this though, freely available figures show that in 2007 Nottingham University had around £250,000 invested with them. The company is currently under investigation for several offences by the Serious Fraud Office, relating to bribery running into hundreds of millions – most notably in the £43bn Al Yamamah arms deal. Couple this with numerous questionable activities such as supplying corrupt and murderous regimes, and we start to uncover a truly malevolent organization. Obvious questions therefore arise about our financing position with them.
In purely investment terms we must turn our attention to a firm with which our institution entrusts vast amounts of capital, Barclays Global Investors (BGI). BGI (recently rebranded BlackRock) appear to be involved with a more sinister part of the arms trade. In a report in 2008 which had access to the Amadeus and Orbis databases detailing financial institution investment agreements, BGI were slated for investing over £80m in Textron who produce cluster bombs, an exceptionally inhumane form of munition. BGI also invested around £34m in Lockheed Martin who, not unlike BAE, have had various brushes with serious fraud and controversy. Most conspicuously, Lockheed were outed in 2004 for interrogation contracting at Abu Ghraib and the Bagram Theater Internment Facility where two civilian prisoners were chained to the ceiling of their cells and beaten to death.
Before you go and bang on the door of the Vice Chancellor though, we also place considerable investment within the Newton Investment Fund, which has an exceptional track record in corporate responsibility, so it’s not all bad…
Until the University is completely open about their dealings, we cannot be completely sure as to the full extent of our involvement with contentious firms. But for the moment, think twice about the chaps that swan around in the Trent Building, knowing full well that they are at the helm of an institution very much involved with the Arms Trade.