UK Students tell their universities it’s time to ditch their arms shares
On 27 February Students across Britain joined protests against their universities’ links with the arms trade. They called for an end to university arms investments. Students dressed as arms dealers roamed the campuses of University College London (UCL), Warwick, Manchester and other universities and tried to “sell” toy guns and missiles to their fellow students to raise awareness about the links between their universities and arms companies.
Student campaigners at UCL wearing black suits and sun glasses approached fellow students with the opening line “Excuse me, can I interest you in any missile components today ?” Many students, staff and prospective students, who had a look around UCL that day, stopped to sign a petition and to talk to campaigners about the continued arms investments.
A prospective student at UCL, who did not want to be named, said: “I think it is outrageous that UCL invests in an arms company. The arms investments would not stop me from coming here. But they certainly would make me get involved with the campaign to Disarm UCL and make sure UCL adopts an ethical investment policy.”
Abraham Heineman, a first year Genetics student at UCL said: “The ongoing arms investments are outrageous. It is time to take the issue of ethical investment at UCL seriously. The first step needs to be to get rid of the shares in arms trader Cobham.”
Students at Manchester University are also fed up with waiting for their university to live up to its promise and come clean on investment. In March 2006 Student Direct, Manchester’s University Students newspaper, reported a University spokesman had confirmed the university was re-considering its position on their arms investments. Two years later, less than a quarter of the arms shares have been sold off. Manchester is still holding around £1m pounds worth of shares in arms companies, including BAE Systems and Rolls Royce.
On the action day students at Manchester hung a banner protesting against their university’s arms shares from a bridge over one of the busiest roads in the city. They then dressed up as arms dealers and went to their student union. Gabriel Imran Hassan, a first year Philosophy student at Manchester said: “We got a lot of positive responses from our fellow students. Many of them wanted to sign our petition against the arms investments. We got about a 100 signatures in only 30 minutes.”
Students at Lancaster University attended an open-air debate and voted overwhelmingly against their university’s links with BAE Systems. Joanna Hill, a student at Lancaster University, said: “I’ve joined this protest because I don’t want my fees funding BAE. Students across Britain have today campaigned for ethical investment and made clear that they do not want their universities supporting the arms trade.”
The National Action Day against university’s arms investments was the first one of its’ kind. It was initiated by students from UCL and Manchester University but students from other universities soon joined to form a “Universities against the arms trade” network. The action day was supported by Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) and People and Planet.
Barnaby Pace, a third year mechanical engineering student at Warwick said: “It is really inspiring to be part of this national movement for ethical investment at UK universities. We got a lot of positive responses. Most people believe that the international arms trade should have no place in a university. ”
To find out more about universities investment in arms companies click here.
To get involved with the Universities Against Arms Trade network please contact universities(at)caat*org*uk.