University investment in arms trade increases

The University has been strongly condemned for substantially increasing its investment in arms companies despite continued pressure from divestment groups.

After a £350,000 increase over the past two years, the University’s shareholding in arms-producing companies is worth almost £1,000,000.


University of Liverpool – £4,000,663
St John’s College, Cambridge – £3,830,969
St John’s College, Oxford – £2,203,611
Nuffield College, Oxford – £1,250,000
Trinity Hall College, Cambridge – £1,181,096
University of York – £997,342
University College London – £869,825
Magdalen College, Oxford – £741,616
Southampton Solent University – £629,622
Queen’s College, Cambridge – £468,116

The continued investment, and the University’s lack of an ethical investment policy has been labelled “despicable”, “a disgrace” and “fuelling war”. National and campus campaigners have been calling for divestment since 2005.

Investments in BAE Systems, the world’s third largest defence company, and Rolls-Royce, which powers 25% of the world’s military aircrafts, currently total £997,342. In 2007 the University held £644,371 worth of BAE shares.

The figures, compiled by Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT), show York as the UK’s sixth-largest University investor in the arms trade, and the second-largest when Oxford and Cambr­idge colleges are excluded. In 2006, York placed fourteenth nationally.

“The University needs to be held accountable, and take responsibility and an ethically approved stance,” said People and Planet Chair Robyn Heather. “It’s despicable and unethical that an educational institution would make money from war,” she added.

“While Universities across the country are selling shares in arms companies, York are increasing their investment. Nationally, we are a disgrace,” Heather continued.


University of Liverpool – £4,000,663
University of York – £997,342
University College London – £869,825
Southampton Solent University – £629,622
University of Sheffield – £427,871
Aberystwyth University – £240,559
Royal Holloway, University of London – £238,593
Cardiff University – £209,000
University of Southampton – £197,792
University of Dundee – £196,642

YUSU Environment and Ethics Officers John Nicholls and Joe Thwaites stated: “Holding investments in arms companies has been an ongoing blemish on the University’s reputation and we find the continued and increased use of students’ money in arms companies very concerning.”

The shares are held by the University’s Pension Scheme, which provides pensions for staff on retirement or in the event of death.

“The University of York Pension Scheme has a legal obligation to maximise returns on its investments as it is accountable to its beneficiaries. Its trustees pursue a range of investments in order to fulfil the scheme’s financial obligations,” the University’s Press Office stated in response.

Outside of the Pension Scheme, the University holds an unknown amount of GKN Group shares through a holding in M&G Charifund Units. GKN, the world’s 40th largest defence company, produces military aircraft parts.

“At a public lecture, Brian Cantor commended the work of the Post-War Reconstruction and Development Unit. This is completely hypocritical. The University is promoting peace-building in one area but fuelling war in another,” said Nicholls and Thwaites.

“BAE Systems continue to sell arms to brutal regimes like Indonesia and Saudi Arabia, two of the worst human rights abusers on the planet,” said CAAT spokesperson Todd Higgs.

Rolls-Royce, for whom Vice-Chancellor Brian Cantor worked in a consultancy role prior to entering academia, power 25% of the world’s military aircraft and the UK’s nuclear submarine fleet.

“Both BAE Systems and Rolls-Royce are major UK employers and each has substantial other industrial interests apart from their military activities,” the University stated.

According to 2007 financial results, military products account for around 90% of BAE’s £16 billion worth of sales.

“Arms manufacturers aren’t just ‘slightly dubious’ from an ethical point of view. They are one of the most damaging influences in society; the arms trade undermines human rights, security and economic development,” said Nicholls and Thwaites.

“The British public are quickly realising that the arms trade is not a benign and legitimate sector of business supplying defence equipment to responsible foreign governments,” said Higgs.
“All over the country, students are refusing to allow their tuition fees to end up in the hands of such a secretive and abhorrent industry,” he added.

Since 2006, when various student divestment campaigns across the country strongly criticised shareholdings, universities such as Swansea, Manchester, Leeds and Exeter have reduced or completely sold their shares in arms-producing companies.

Despite large student protests and campaigns, the University have so far not implemented an ethical investment policy. Currently, a draft is in development, which is “expected to come before University Council for approval in the New Year,” according to the University.

“It’s unbelievable that the University doesn’t yet have an ethical investment policy. It needs to start taking responsibility for its actions,” said Heather.

“Increasing numbers of institutions, including councils, businesses, churches and universities are choosing to invest their money in a socially responsible way which has a positive impact upon the world. We hope the University of York will do the same,” said Nicholls and Thwaites.


BAE Systems

Value of York’s investment: £713,803
Company sales (2006): £13.7 billion
Military sales (2006): £11.8 billion

BAE Systems, based in Farnborough, is the world’s 3rd largest global defence company and the largest in the UK. With sales of almost £16 billion last year, the company posted profits of over £1 billion. Around 90% of BAE’s sales are of military products.

Combat aircraft such as the Hawk were developed by BAE, as well as the Royal Navy’s fleet of nuclear submarines and a wide range of ground-attack tanks and arnaments.


The Al-Yamamah deals with Saudi Arabia involved the sale of over 150 military aircraft to the oppressive Saudi regime. The contracts have earned BAE £43 billion, and could be worth another £40 billion in the future.

Negotiated by the UK Government in exchange for oil, investigations have claimed that the deals were assisted by bribes paid to Saudi officials. A £20 million slush fund, reportedly discovered by The Guardian, was investigated by the Serious Fraud Office in 2003. In November 2006, while BAE were negotiating a third deal, newspaper reports suggested the Saudis would only sign if the investigation was suspended. In December, the investigation was discontinued on the grounds of public interest.


BAE began exporting arms to Indonesia during the Suharto regime which was widely accused of corruption and suppression of political opposition. In 1996, BAE sold 16 Hawk-209 aircraft to Indonesia, which were subsequently used in internal repression, especially in East Timor. The UN were eventually called in to halt the occupation of East Timor, which claimed over 100,000 lives.

In response, BAE’s 2006 Corporate Responsibility Report states: “We continue to reject these allegations…We take our obligations under the law extremely seriously and will continue to comply with all legal requirements.”

Rolls Royce

Value of York’s investment: £283,539
Company sales (2006): £7.2 billion
Military sales (2006): £1.8 billion

Rolls-Royce, based in Derby, is the world’s second largest manufacturer of turbine engines, and the 16th largest global arms company. Almost 30% of its £7 billion sales were of military products last year. The company’s turbines are used in combat and military transport aircraft, helicopters and unmanned air vehicles, and are estimated to be powering 25% of the world’s military aircraft. Rolls-Royce also provide power for a number of naval warships and submarines, including the UK’s nuclear deterrent submarine fleet.

Rolls-Royce is also participating in two of the world’s largest combat programmes, providing hardware and technical expertise for both the Eurofighter Typhoon and Joint Strike Fighter F-35 aircraft.

Links with Universities

The company has moved to secure strong links with the UK Higher Education sector, creating Rolls-Royce funded Technology Centres in 15 universities, including York. University of York Vice-Chancellor, Brian Cantor, worked for the company in a consultant role before entering academia full time.

In 1998, the company entered into partnership agreements (along with BAE) with the Universities of Cambridge, Sheffield and Southampton in order to “research into future engineering design processes.”

The company’s website states: “The security of more than 100 nations as well as humanitarian relief efforts relies upon our engines for defence aerospace… Maintaining the company’s reputation for high ethical standards is vital to Rolls-Royce. Our Global Code of Business ethics is at the heart of the way we do business and how we deliver our values of integrity, reliability and innovation.


  1. Worst front page ever. So incredibly boring.


  2. Can I just ask why you’ve bothered putting in a list of “Top ten excluding Oxbridge”? Completely useless piece of information.

    Also, as usual an over-the-top piece, having shares in Rolls Royce makes you an arms dealer these days then?


  3. Boring to you perhaps Andy, may I ask what you’d prefer to see? In any case, surely it’s more important that an article is informative and addresses real issues than that it is entertaining. Fortunately some people do care about ethical investment (or lack thereof). Personally I’m glad that this has been given attention.

    Anon: No, having shares in any arms company or arms producer does not necessarily make you an arms dealer. It just makes you complicit in arms dealing. Judge for yourself whether this is much better, in my opinion it isn’t.


  4. Do we really care?


  5. 25 Nov ’08 at 6:17 pm

    Dick Van Dyke

    ‘Strongly condemned’, Henry? As opposed to ‘lightly condemned’ I take it..?



  6. I personally believe that holding shares in BAE systems and roles Royce are extremely ethical, and the university should be proud to support these world class British companies. Investments in these defence companies will go towards better defence technology- used to defend our troops ensuring they have the best kit available to them and ultimately effective defence of the united kingdom. The ethical decisions are made by politicians.

    Furthermore, Rolls Royce and BAE are big employers and the university having connections will bring opportunities to students with an interest in the defence industry.


  7. “Dick Van Dyke”,

    Nice try at spotting a superfluous word. I think Mr Foy means “strongly condemned” not as opposed to “lightly condemned” as you facetiously suggest but in fact just to “condemned”. Which I think is fair enough. You could say it’s bad form for a journalist to use two words when in theory he could use just one, but then you’d be up against this article from the bbc – – and another 115 on the Guardian website that use the phrase “strongly condemned” and which are written by people who probably know a lot more about journalism than you do.

    I’m sorry to distract this thread from the issue of arms investments, but seeing “Dick Van Dyke”‘s smug and misguided corrections to this and another article moved me to comment.


  8. I think that the university should support companies that HELP the world instead of cause further grief… There’s always an alternative to giving BAE money.

    Rolls isn’t so big a deal because it’s not primarily an arms company.

    And Oxbridge are the most funded colleges, though I would much rather see a % of expenditure list…


  9. Martin,
    Although I believe that the fact BAE and Rolls Royce are British is irrelevant (British troops are certainly capable of doing great harm, as much as those of any other nation), it’s also clear that BAE has no qualms about supplying weapons to the Saudi Arabian and Indonesian regimes, even when it has been obvious that these would be used in repression and human rights violations. Are you as comfortable with this? Further, surely you can see that the interests of those who would suffer at the hands of weapons produced by BAE and Rolls Royce in avoiding this are of a greater magnitude and significance than those of students in having a few extra employment opportunities.

    Also “The ethical decisions are made by politicians”. Hmmm. Do you mean that politicians only make ethical decisions? Or that all matters of ethics should be left to politicians? Either way it seems a bizarre notion.


  10. The assertion that Rolls-Royce are “arms dealers” is, quite frankly ridiculous. Should we not invest in GM, seeing as many of their engines will end up in military vehicles? Or maybe investment in Mercedes should be discouraged because for many years the Pullman was the car of choice for dictators such as Idi Amin? What about the companies that sell the metal to the manufactures of missiles, or a catering company that feeds troops? Where exactly are you going to draw the line? As far as I can remember, nobody has ever been killed by an aeroplane’s engine.


  11. “Both BAE Systems and Rolls-Royce are major UK employers and each has substantial other industrial interests apart from their military activities,” the University stated.

    100% Correct. Rolls Royce make engines for commercial planes and of course cars.

    BAE systems are the leading company in aerospace engineering, and are the successor to some true pioneers, Marconi, Supermarine, De Havilland and BAC who co-designed the concorde.

    It is right that our defense industry is invested in by universities which train the next generation of engineers.

    Regardless of your views on war, it is currently happening, and those engaged in it deserve the best technology and equipment. BAE’s Eurofighter jets are safe and reliable and their aircraft carriers have allowed rescue and emergency operations to be carried in both air and sea away from British soil.

    By investing in defense systems, the university are NOT promoting any illegal warfare, any killing of innocent civilians, women and children etc… They are supporting a very important industry.

    For an entire nation to support pacifism is futile. Every nation has an army and defense projects. And like the previous commentator said, if we’re going to cry foul over an engine company, where do we stop?

    Most successful engineering and electronics companies have links to the military. Should we remove windows from all campus machines because it’s used in the pentagon? No land-rovers allowed on campus because of it’s use by the army? Boycott all petrol companies because they fuel army vehicles? Where does this stop?

    Read a bit deeper into the kind of research these companies have done, and how grateful we should be for their predecessors’ work pre-WW2 and more recently.

    If we use dubious logic like nouse have here in the rolls-royce case then we might as well not bother investing in anything because capitalism always has losers. Let the idealists have their way and see where it gets us…


  12. I am absolutely disgusted that my fees should be going towards supporting the arms trade. I object to war on religious grounds, and I cannot believe that my money is being used like this!


  13. “The Colonel” – the Rolls-Royce motors company who produce cars is a completely different company and has been since 1973. “Ben” your argument is a little tenuous – you could extend it so say only manufacturers of bullets count as arms companies as guns themselves are almost completely harmless.

    A sensible place to draw the line would be a companies who manufacture complete products which are used exclusively in military applications, Rolls Royce would fall into this category. I’m not saying this is necessarily a reprehensible thing.

    There are many sides to consider I don’t think it’s a black and white as the comments suggest. Yes the University is an institution for education and progress, but how would you feel if after a lifetime of service in education your already small pension was cut due to the university making [financially] poor investments?

    BAE Systems are a publicly limited company and have shareholders whom they are obliged to make a profit for, it’s what they are supposed to be doing. In my opinion it should be the Government who should be preventing them from trading with corrupt overseas partners (but would appear to putting it’s own revenue interests first). I don’t think it should fall to investors (who, again have a mandate to make profit) to safeguard the morals of the nation.

    n.b. I agree about the second table being pointless, (if you remove Oxford, Cambridge, and Liverpool, York is #1!)


  14. It’s understandable that Oxbridge would be removed because it’s so wealthy that the amount could be seen as negligable… but York would be seen as wealthy compared to other universities and Liverpool is bigger, so, well, it’s silly. A % of investment would be nice.

    But, whilst it is debatable whether investing in Rolls Royce is investing in weaponry alone; why do we need to bother at all? There are plenty of much more reliable and intellectual options available to invest in. I mean, for instance, green energy is going to increase over the coming years without a shadow of a doubt – invest in these (or similar options)!


  15. I happen to think that BAE systems and Rolls Royce are amongst the greatest of British companies. I think they are entirely ethical, and if they weren’t, no one really cares, as long as they’re making money because after all, that’s what ‘investing’ is about.

    It’s the same niche of people that keep bringing up such ridiculous ‘concerns’; the CND greasy haired tree-huggers whose ideas are so beyond the pale (and reality) that nobody takes them seriously any more. Even less people care.


  16. I would like to suggest that York investing in BAE is not actually a bad thing. In fact, in the current economic crisis, BAE are fundamentally good for the UK economy;as such, York’s investment in it can only be a good thing.

    To save explanation space, please see a comment I wrote on this the last time that the good old arms-trade debate came up:


    Peter Campbell
    Deputy Politics Editor


  17. BAE are undoubtedly a more defence-orientated company than most. Their military sales (to over 100 countries) make up roughly 86% of their total sales. There are many companies that could be invested in that have little or no links with defence and certainly far less than BAE. BAE have also produced technology that has civilian applications but there are many, many companies that have only produced technology that has such applications. If we choose BAE we choose a company that deals largely in defence (i.e. offence) over those that do not. Why choose BAE when virtually any legal company has higher ethical standards?
    Like others I’m apalled that any of my fees should be aiding a corrupt, amoral company that profits from war.
    For more information on BAE, see:

    And Dan, please don’t resort to referring to people who disagree with you with childish insults and inaccurate generalisations. Although I strongly disagree with some of the nationalist and militaristic shite that has been written, I’m able to refrain from making any such generalisations about its authors.


  18. Another cracking unsubstantiated tirade from Dan Taylor, still not long till he graduates and it’ll be the real world that has to put up with his moronic crap, at present though, its suffocating that nearly every item of campus news ends up being pontificated on by Mr Taylor.


  19. “In fact, in the current economic crisis, BAE are fundamentally good for the UK economy.”

    Is the BAE fundamentally good for the person on the recieving end of it’s weapons? I doubt it. Plenty of dictators have been good for their countries economies (Miracle of Chile anyone?), so does the economic good of a country solve all the problems of the countries citizens?

    Also, is it not a bit weird funding arms companies and funding a post-war reconstruction unit? Surely it’s like funding both a Krispy Kreme donut store and a Weight Watchers group. Only difference is our funding effects human life or death.

    “I don’t think it should fall to investors (who, again have a mandate to make profit) to safeguard the morals of the nation.”

    No, it’s never the investors fault – profit before human life, profit before morals, profit before stabililty in the world, profit before accountabilitly. Maybe if profit brings destruction, we should be a little bit less conserned about profit. Mugging makes a profit, doesn’t mean it should be made legal.


  20. BAE produces the SA80 A2 rifle and most of the British Army’s hardware.

    Whilst many of you may be recoiling at the thought of a rifle – why? It is used to kill people in wars and stuff like that.

    Well yes.

    But consider this. That rifle is used on operations all over the world (which more than likely you don’t realise exist). A round is not fired. They are being carried by British Troops called “Peace Keepers”. Consider that for a moment please.

    In the event that that weapon is used, it will be to uphold the general peacefulness of an area. So which one person is injured, having broken the peace, how many innocent civilians’ lives have been saved?

    So in that scenario, which relies entirely on having an accurate weapons system such as that provided by BAE; is it ethical to remove BAE, thus removing that weapon from that soldier, thus killing dozens of civilians in one single incident?

    Please people; don’t comment on what you don’t understand. The Military is something I take an awful lot of time to study and frankly most of you have very strong opinions here based on very little knowledge.

    I am taking neither side particularly, yet the idea that I quite possibly know more about this than most of you is strange. We are university students, that’s supposed to make us suited to intelligent discussion. Be intelligent.


  21. 2 Dec ’08 at 12:57 am

    freddy vanson


    we must not let our university commit such crimes against humainty, we sit happy in our lecture halls while the bombs we invest in, partly funded by our tution fees,fall on the universitys of indonesia and many others…peace be with my brothers and sisters…the revolution is coming to a town near you…peace not war…


  22. Anon (the most recent one):

    “the idea that I quite possibly know more about this than most of you is strange.”-yes it is. Why, then, are you putting it forward?

    It is patronising to imply that everyone else commenting knows less than you and to ask people to “be intelligent” just because they have made perfectly rational arguments that you happen to disagree with is unfair.I appreciate that you may have studied the military a lot but this does not mean that your opinion is more valid. Much, if not all, of what is wrong with the arms trade does not depend on technical, insider knowledge, it is just obvious.

    I appreciate what you are saying and would not in turn accuse you of failing to “be intelligent” as you are not but I am already aware that a portion of BAE’s products are rifles, that a portion of these go to British troops, that a portion of these go specifically to “peace keepers” and that a portion of these accomplish their purpose without a round being fired. However, this is rather a lot of portions of portions and it is clear that the example that you give actually represents a miniscule fraction of the consequences of BAE’s work and the idea that removing BAE would have negative rather than positive impact on innocent civilians is misguided and misleading. Think of the civilians torn apart by BAE’s combat aircraft, artillery and missiles for example, these cases are just as relevant and far more ubiquitous than the hypothetical case you mention. Even in your example, innocent life is still put at risk; civilians can still be caught in the crossfire in battles involving “peace keepers”. Why not instead invest in companies and initiatives that are unequivocally positive and beneficial instead of morally bankrupt companies like BAE?
    Even (selfish and narrow) fears about profits are inaccurate.
    From the BBC website:

    One myth perpetuated about ethical investing is that the investment will not do as well as mainstream funds because these funds cannot invest in certain companies included in for example the tobacco, gambling and arms sectors.

    However if you look at the statistics ethical funds have performed well over the years even with the strict screening policies that cost money to administer.

    As the World Trade Organisation begins to crack down on companies exploiting people, animals or the environment, companies tainted by fines and negative press may start to under perform. Ethical investment may be a more attractive choice for many.

    Well-run companies with strong ethical principles will not be tarnished by future problems. In fact they are more likely to be tomorrow’s top performers, along with the many companies producing sustainable energy products that will shape the way we live in the future.

    Organisations such as the World Trade Organisation and Eiris (the Ethical Investment Research Service) and UK Socially Responsible Investment Forum (UKSIF) can provide more information about ethical investment.


  23. It’s the same old people, making the same old issues out of matters that the wider populous of campus, simply could not care about. As long as university money is invested well, in shares of companies that provide a decent return, or funding for our various departments (as BAE does for Physics and Computer Science), then in reality no-one cares.

    The post from ‘freddy vanson’ (I have not time to work out the anagram) sums it up perfectly. The people that oppose such investment are mostly of the same ilk, motivated not by what is best for their university but political agendas from the far-left. BAE actually do a great deal for cyber security in the UK and defending us (yes, even the people that oppose investment in BAE and ‘Rolls Royce’) from developing terrorist threats.

    One particular project that York researchers worked on with BAE was clean-waste distribution around the new Airbus that will be in service with the RAF within the next 18 months. This is not some conspiracy to “drop bombs on the universities of Indonesia”. This is working to ensure the clean and efficient dumping of fuel and with it, increasing the protection of the environment.

    Long may our links with such esteemed, profitable and influential British companies continue. Don’t let the political agendas of a few left-wing zealots win over common-sense and what’s best for our university.


  24. Dan, the majority of students don’t care about anything. If the Yorkshire Ripper was resurrected by a group of Palestinian terrorists and let loose in Goodricke, the rest of the colleges (upon hearing the news) would either rush to the scene with cameras or go back to the sleep… likewise if Nouse reported that the university literally gave a million pounds to Al-Qaeda it would probably still be the only people that comment that usually do.

    That’s not the point though: the point is that the majority of students still feel that this is wrong, even if they don’t really care about it.


  25. 3 Dec ’08 at 2:39 am

    George Papadofragakis

    Indeed, the wider populous simply could not care about this. Though we do have to acknowledge that this is partly because no such as thing as a “wider populous” exists.

    Unless of course you are referring to the wider Populus, the genus of trees of the family Salicaceae, most commonly found in the northern hemisphere. In which case you’ll also be right; I’d be surprised to see any sort of interest in this from a perennial woody plant.

    On the other hand, I am quite sure that the student population/ populace/ body DOES actually care about their university’s investments.

    Now, the notion “if it’s profitable then it’s ethical” is quite frankly simply ridiculous, and I am positively certain that the vast majority of York students are sane enough to oppose it without needing me to tell them to. In any case, this is something that we will know for sure after the next UGM.

    But I am also quite astonished Dan by the fact that you seem to have no moral objections whatsoever to having your own money used to arm Saudi Arabia and Indonesia; lest we forget, the former being one of the world’s most oppressive regimes, that has given to the world Osama bin Laden and the 9/11 terrorists.

    But of course, this is always how it works, isn’t it?

    We first impose/support brutal dictatorships around the world (see list below), then we arm them (Iran-Contra anyone?) and when they are not sufficiently obedient any longer, we somehow seem to remember that we are actually talking about cruel and vicious dictators, so we just bomb the shit out of their people.

    And to name just a few of those delightful individuals:

    Saddam Hussein in Iraq, Manuel Noriega in Panama, Augusto Pinochet in Chile, Efrain Rios Montt in Guatemala, Teodoro Obiang Mbasogo in Equatorial Guinea, Anastasio Somoza Debayle in Nicaragua, Roberto Suazo Cordova in Honduras, General Suharto in Indonesia, Mobutu Sese Seko in Congo, Abdul Aziz Al Saud in Saudi Arabia.. I could go on for a while, but you probably get the spirit.

    Then again, I could of course be naive and assume that you do not already know all these things, but that would just be underestimating your intelligence. I am pretty sure that you do and, judging by what you said before, I am also pretty sure that you couldn’t care less.

    Now what the average student (who is probably to your far-left indeed) may be thinking is thankfully a very different story.


  26. I don’t understand how people can see investing in an arms company as immoral. We’re always going to have war, BAE just research new ways of doing that. If they didn’t, this article would just be complaining how we’re investing in “Bob’s-clubs-with-nails-attached-to-them INC.”

    It’s not as though selling our shares is going to bring about world peace is it? Might as well make mint in the process.

    Or, if you genuinely feel that selling our shares (to another investor who’ll make just as much money) will somehow make the world a better place where there’s still just as much war but York’s now shit-box poor and can’t afford HesEast then join the protesting facebook groups. That’ll fucking teach ‘m.


  27. JB, that argument is simply absurd. Yes, there may always be war, but then there will (probably) always be terrorism, racism, poverty and crime. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t do what we can to oppose these things or, at the very least, not actively support them, even if we could “make a mint” from them. Transferring our investments to more ethical companies and initiatives may not instantly transform the world, but it would have a positive effect, in frustrating BAE’s proliferation, proportional to the value of our shares. It would also sever ties that shame our university.

    It would not however make York “shit-box” poor; many funds that prohibit investment in arms perform extremely well while arms can be a risky and unreliable (as well as immoral) investment. Our continued investment in arms instead seems to come from a lazy acceptance of the status quo, without any real examination of the alternatives. In any case, considering the effects of BAE’s weapons on lives around the world, your (entirely unwarranted and implausible) concerns about Hes East look pretty paltry in comparison.


  28. JB seems to have complete common sense. It’s refreshing! To somehow think such a move is a step in the right direction to world pacifism, is bunkham. There will always be war, not because arms exist but because humans inhabit the planet we live on. There has always been war whether humans have fought with sticks, lances, spears, arrows, muskets, machine-guns or unmanned craft to drop bombs on the Taleban.

    The same people who support such a move, I have personally heard say that they would want Winston Churchill to be tried for war-crimes. These people are an extreme. An extreme driven by leftist, outdated ideas attempting to put their ‘beyond the pale’ beliefs onto York campus.

    JB is right. Stopping investment in BAE and ‘Rolls Royce’ (that isn’t an arms company for goodness sake) would be bad for this university, but then again, these people don’t care about that. It would lose us money, indirect investment, researchers would move onto other institutions and students would lose out because after all, the £8m that BAE provided the physics and computer-science department has gone straight back into resources that benefit us, the students.

    My next post shall be an email from an individual to the Labour Soc., who was extremely annoyed at slander made againt his country (Indonesia) and claims made by members of the Labour soc. that were untrue when linking them with arms sales.


  29. Email received by Labour Soc: (02/09/08)

    r.e: Indonesia and arms investment.

    I am absolutely gutted by the quote from Todd Higgs and I should protest for
    such sloppy quotation used by the club. I am an Indonesian and my country
    does not currently have a ?brutal regime?. Please think before putting such
    appalling quote. We need arms to protect our borders and please don?t be
    stupid about it. Not everyone bearing arms are using them to invade other
    countries or oppress their own people. This is especially important in
    countries WITHOUT nuclear weapons and energy where security threats are more

    I demand the clearance of my country?s name. FYI, Indonesian government is
    democratically elected and by saying/quoting that it is a brutal regime, you
    are saying that Indonesia is a brutal nation, which we are NOT. You have
    disrespected me, my country, and my government publicly and I don?t even
    find your campaign informative. A public apology would be wise. But mind you
    that this kind of sloppy quotation can be taken as an offense.

    This shows how your clubs? knowledge on the business is very shallow and
    your understanding on conflict resolution very naive.

    How do you know who are the clients and for what purpose they are buying
    arms? How do you know that some of these clients are child soldiers? Again,
    this is very sloppy!

    What are the University interests in the investment? Is it economic?
    Political? What we really want to question is the ethics in investing in
    such business and this has to be really clear before taking away £350,000
    out of investment from which profit the university are able to increase
    management and teaching quality. What are the students interests? Can the
    university sustain itself without the investment?

    What ?student values and university principles? that are in opposition with
    arms trade, which can also be for defence (and you actually mentioned in the
    mail that BAE Systems is a DEFENCE company)?

    Stop investment will hurt the business true, but this is only making
    situations worse. To begin with there can be an increase in black arms trade
    and it will be more difficult regulate such transactions. It is very
    possible that by taking away the investment may exacerbate the
    conflict/human rights problems rather than make a solution. Please be more
    sensitive about the issue.

    Having said that, I will not support your awareness programme because
    literally you know nothing about the issue. You are being very sloppy about
    a very sensitive issue, thus misleading a lot of people. Lastly, please do
    not assume that we don?t have a voice and assume that we would want you to
    speak for us. That is just plain obnoxious.




  30. And I think it’s only fair that I provide the email that preceeded it (sent same date, from Labour Soc. to members).

    To whom, that are all concerned,
    Thanks to the facts Nouse has highlighted The University of York has seen a £350,000 investment increase over the past two years, meaning the University’s shareholding in arms-producing companies is worth £997,342.
    Yet national and campus campaigners have been calling for divestment since 2005. We were promised by the university they would adopt a motion proposed 2 years ago but have not met with their commitments; instead they have increased their investment in the arms trade.
    Investments in BAE Systems, the world’s third largest defence company, still persist without reasonable signs of opposition; we must stop the silence. “BAE Systems continue to sell arms to brutal regimes like Indonesia and Saudi Arabia, two of the worst human rights abusers on the planet,” said CAAT spokesperson Todd Higgs.
    By paying our tuition fees we, the students, directly finance the University of York’s investment in the arms trade. We want to put an end to this abuse, as this in direct conflict with student values and university principles. “All over the country, students are refusing to allow their tuition fees to end up in the hands of such a secretive and abhorrent industry.” Higgs
    The production and distribution of arms (bombs, guns, mines etc) is, in its very essence, a violation of human rights; the right to live free from fear and oppression. The arms trade violates these principles; companies like BAE Systems continually contribute, inspire and inevitably lead to atrocities and abuses of human rights.
    Attached to this email is a document that outlines the Campaign to stop university investment in the arms trade, feel welcome to read it and comment, add to the idea with any contribution you may have. This is a student campaign in union with the people, for all. We as a community cannot hide from the truth; we are indirectly funding the continuation and perpetuation of conflict, war and destruction.
    Make a stand, let people know the facts, raise awareness, be active! Please put up posters, give out flyers, and sign the petition. Students unite, get involved and start the protest! We are the ones putting guns in hands of children, we do not see, half way across the world. Speak for those who have no voice…

    (For more info reply to this email)


  31. 3 Dec ’08 at 12:22 pm

    George Papadofragakis

    The article quite explicitly states that BAE has been selling weapons to Indonesia during the regime of General Suharto.

    If you are not familiar with this fine gentleman and his 31 year legacy of oppression then I’d suggest you refrain from trying to be all PC about it.

    Having York not invest in arms companies will obviously not put an end to wars. Anyone believing that would be nothing short of a mentally retarded hippie. But as David said, not supporting racism will also not put an end to racists. Following your logic we may as well all join the BNP.

    I’m really curious as to how this “perfect common sense” works.


  32. “The same people who support such a move, I have personally heard say that they would want Winston Churchill to be tried for war-crimes.”

    Really!? Every single one of them? Call me cynical, but I’m not sure I believe that. My scepticism is due, in part, to the fact you have most likely never even met most of these people.

    What I think is more likely is that you have heard one person say something along those lines and delighted upon the opportunity to conflate two issues and resurrect your embarrassingly tired mantra that everything you disagree with is only the opinion of “extreme leftists”. Really this is not an issue of left vs. right but of objective thinking, acknowledging the damage that the vast majority of BAE’s products do and the opportunities for alternative investment, vs. narrow-minded and myopic support for the status quo. Incidentally one institution that has an ethically-managed fund precluding investment in (among other things) arms, is the Church of England. Hardly a hotbed of radical Marxist activity.


  33. These ties hardly shame our university, Oxbridge seems to do relatively well out of their investments and it’s probably fair to assume they’ve seen a decrease in applications as a result.

    “arms can be risky and unreliable” – is that comment just to fill space?? All investments can be risky, arms, completely contrary to your beliefs, is not a high risk investment. York’s financial analysts (who I can assume are more qualified than you and I) have deemed it a good investment where they think we can make the most money. It’s not as though they’ve looked at 2 options, one’s “ethical and the most profitable”, the other’s BAE which is marginally less profitable and gone with BAE because they’re war mongering fascists.

    This “positive effect” you’re thinking of (without expanding on) is blissfully naive; selling our shares to another investor will have a minimal effect on the share price for a minimal amount of time. We own a minute fraction of company with an annual turnover £16 Billion. We really wont frustrate them. AT ALL.

    But, and bless you for this, you seem to have ignored the point of my argument;

    There is always war, BAE make money out of that fact. If you stop the wars, you stop BAE. It doesn’t work vice-versa.


  34. Do you really think that the University invests in arms just because it is economically a good decision? Look at the employment history of some of Hes Hall’s top brass (start with Cantor). We invest in the arms trade because they choose to, and then the companies scratch our back with nice grants and research schemes. Even from an economic perspective, take a look at BAE’s share price since 2006. Pretty stable.

    JB, I assume that’s a typo in your first point, but that aside, most Oxbridge colleges have actually divested thanks to student pressure. People were actually choosing non-arms investing colleges as a preference. Also, your comment about our money not making a difference is completely vacuous. Think about what you are saying. All campaigns run on the idea that if everyone did their little bit, a large amount can be done. With your logic, nothing would ever change.

    The problem with this debate is that for the most part, individuals are hankering on about right-wing left-wing nationalist socialist crap and not acutally addressing the issue. Spend 15 minutes on google. Look at some numbers and facts. This isn’t about whether or not Winston sodding Churchill is a war criminal or whether campus is being overrun with Marxists, its about whether or not an educational institution, with departments that actively research issues of peace and conflict resolution should hold direct shares in companies that manufacture weapons. Yes, BAE will make bombs and guns with or without our money. So then surely BAE doesn’t need our money, and our divestment isn’t going to spell the end of a great british institution or whatever hyperbolic terminology you’d like to use.


  35. We also have departments that actively perform research alongside BAE, as well as students that have their studies funded, in part, by BAE and students who work *for* BAE whilst still studying at York.

    I still find it quite odd how there’s this massive outrage that staff pension funds are invested in BAE, but I never hear anything about how academics here are directly working with BAE into improving this “evil”.


  36. ahhh “BJ”, how witty of you. Did you come up with all by yourself?

    RE: first comment, not a typo, just sarcasm and as for students who apply to non-arms investing colleges, that’s an interesting claim, even more so with proof.

    I’ve also been quite particular about not resorting to the “Great British institution” line or the so many british jobs it provides for the fact that it’s irrelevant to the principle behind the investment. It makes money, lots of money, whether it be research grants or dividends.

    Just because it’s not directly beneficial to departments of history of art or sociology, does not mean it doesn’t benefit the university hugely.

    Does anyone actually believe that selling our shares will make the world a better place?


  37. 3 Dec ’08 at 4:48 pm

    David Levene

    Regarding the message from Labour Club, the opinions expressed are those of a student who managed to obtain an out of date copy of the mailing list and in no way reflects the opinion of the Club or its members.

    The Club apologises for this error

    David Levene
    Chair, York University Labour Club


  38. A loss of personal data?

    How very Labour David!


  39. @HJF

    Rofl! Very Labour indeed!!


  40. dan be careful you don’t have the anti-terror police raiding your flat and arresting you under terror laws for that highly amusing and telling leak!


  41. A pompous and unfunny comment from the editor.

    How very unprofessional…


  42. “Students unite, get involved and start the protest! We are the ones putting guns in hands of children, we do not see, half way across the world. Speak for those who have no voice…”

    Can people not see that this whole issue is being used to further the alterior political motives of a few. My word, at best this is misleading what’s in the quote, at worst it’s downright mad!! Anyone would think it was the Marxist Soc. rather than Labour Soc. To think these people claim to be moderate.

    Clearly, York supporting BAE does not put guns in the hands of our children. It’s sensationalist, misleading, politicised and bares no relationship to the debate being had. There is one group of students trying to politicise this debate, and it’s not the ‘right’.


  43. Clearly you didn’t understand Dan, so I shall repeat: that email is not the position of Labour Club, the student who sent it is not even a Labour Club member.

    And that is all I shall say on the matter


  44. 3 Dec ’08 at 10:56 pm

    Anonymous Massive!

    Dan Taylor @ 9.47am: “is bunkham”

    Did you mean “bunkum”?

    Dan Taylor @ 9.17pm: “the alterior political motives”

    Is that meant to be “ulterior”?

    And that’s not even mentioning the populous scandal of 3.35pm. No lectures today Dan?

    C’mon, your standards are slipping!

    Predicted response: very mature, don’t engage with my arguments, waaa waaaa waaa


  45. 3 Dec ’08 at 11:08 pm

    The Real Anonymous Massive!

    Oh oh, this is good!

    “‘freddy vanson’ (I have not time to work out the anagram)”

    Check it out Taylor:

    Epic fail…


  46. what does ‘cmon’ mean? its almost as bad as mis-spelling because this is a nouse comment board and not an assessed essay!!!

    drop bombs, not beats!!! long live BAE!


  47. And no, this person is not involved in the “Marxist Soc” either. Which isn’t called “Marxist Soc” incidentally, we try not to be stereotypical about it :P

    In any case, ignoring such cringe-worthy spam messages, I would say that ethical investment is an inherently political issue; nobody here is trying to “politicise” this any more than you are.

    And I am sorry but I do not think that it is reasonable to argue that only the “far-left” is interested in this, and I also do not think it is to anyone’s surprise that the campus far-right simply doesn’t care about it.

    By all means, why would you? I mean it’s not as if you suddenly decided to apply for re-admission in the human race is it?


  48. JB,

    “There is always war, BAE make money out of that fact. If you stop the wars, you stop BAE. It doesn’t work vice-versa.”

    Forgive me but I don’t believe I missed this point, instead you appear to have misinterpreted mine. I have not, of course, suggested at any point that this would work vice-versa or that the University of York divesting would stop either BAE or war in general. This would be ludicrous. I have instead suggested only that it is irrational to draw from this that there is nothing at all wrong with investing in the arms trade, directly addressing your initial point that there is nothing immoral about this.

    Such a divestment would not stop war; it does not follow that it would do no good at all. Arresting a single murderer or helping a single person out of poverty would be a miniscule contribution in relation to the huge wealth of crime and poverty that exists but it would still be absolutely worthwhile. Similarly, the University of York divesting may indeed only have marginal impact on BAE or the arms trade, but to say that it would have no effect at all is to twist this limited truth into a blatant untruth. Over £700,000 worth of shares is not nothing and even if the impact was, as you say, minimal and temporary it would, in my opinion, nevertheless be worthwhile, even if we ignore the possible knock-on effect this may have on other universities who invest in similar firms. Perhaps you will again tell me that I am “blissfully naive” for thinking that a £700,000 divestment could help prevent even one missile strike or bombing run somewhere in the world. Given the importance of the issue though, I’m afraid I can’t just take your word for that.

    In any case, you seem to be misunderstanding or ignoring some of the further reasons for divestment. Divestment need not be entirely based on the magnitude of predicted consequences for the company or general situation in question. I imagine that vegetarians do not believe that their personal stance will bring down the entire meat industry, or that organisations linked with cancer research organisations prohibit investment in tobacco because they think this will end the tobacco industry. Insofar as we can have any influence on how money that we have contributed is invested, we have a responsibility to recommend and attempt to ensure that that money is not invested in trades or companies that we believe are morally unacceptable. To put this in the form of a thought-experiment and question, and a context in which investment has already taken place, imagine that you find yourself one morning with a headache and a number of shares in “Terrorists, murderers, racists and general evil-doers INC”, a multi-billion pound organisation. Would you be happy with that state of affairs or would you look to divest, even assuming that this investment is performing reasonably well for you and that your personal divestment could have only a minimal and temporary effect?


  49. 90% of BAE systems sales are military but you don’t say what percentage prevent killings, such as communication systems, detection systems, medical equipment ect ect.