Universities: stop collaborating with BAE Systems!

Universities: stop collaborating with BAE Systems!

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Emily Heath started this petition to Vice Chancellors of Lancaster University and U. of Cumbria

In February 2021 it was announced that Lancaster University and the University of Cumbria plan to open a Barrow-in-Furness campus, which 'will work closely with key businesses, including BAE Systems'.  

joint press release was issued, including a quote from Janet Garner, Head of HR, Skills and Academy Principal at BAE Systems Submarine, who says that "The Barrow Learning Quarter will have a transformational impact on our region and will help to provide some of the emerging specific skills required of our future workforce."

Although we support initiatives to increase Higher Education provision in under-served communities, and generally welcome collaboration between universities, businesses and local communities, the prospect of our universities working closely with BAE Systems is deeply troubling.

As the Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) makes very clear, the role of BAE Systems as a supplier of arms to belligerent forces is direct and profound. BAE Systems is believed to have sold £15 billion worth of warplanes, weapons and services to Saudi Arabia in the first five years of the conflict with Yemen. Only 5% of BAE's sales are for non-military purposes.

By arming Saudi Arabia to wage war on Yemen, BAE Systems is complicit (along with the UK Government) in creating what the UN has described as the worst humanitarian crisis in the world today. It has been estimated that at least 230,000 people have been killed, and over 2 million Yemeni children are currently at risk of starvation.  

BAE Systems build the Tornado and Typhoon aircraft that make up more than half the Saudi strike force, and supply bombs and missiles that these planes deliver.  BAE-supplied aircraft and weapons have been implicated in the bombing of Red Cross and Médecins Sans Frontières hospitals, the destruction of civilian infrastructure and many civilian deaths.  

Lancaster University's draft new strategic plan includes a laudable aim "to use our collective intellectual and wider capabilities to act as a ‘force for good’ - a facilitator that generates widespread and transformative economic and societal benefit." It is difficult to see how working closely with a major arms exporter fits with the aspiration to be a 'force for good' in the world. 

We would like answers to the following questions:

1)  How, by whom and when did each University make the decision to work closely with BAE Systems on developing a new campus in Barrow? What consideration was given to the ethical implications of partnering with BAE Systems?

2)   How much funding have Lancaster and Cumbria Universities received from BAE Systems in the last 7 years, and what steps have been taken to ensure that research by our Universities is not used for military purposes against civilians in Yemen or anywhere else? 

3)   Will Lancaster and Cumbria Universities reconsider their approach to developing education, training and research links with companies involved in weapons manufacture and exports?

We urge our universities to focus on supporting the development of skills, knowledge, technologies and jobs to tackle the climate emergency and promote global justice, as advocated by the Green New Deal campaign.

[Signatories: it is useful to mention any university or other affiliations (e.g. staff, student, alumni, local resident), as well as reasons for signing, in the comments.]

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