Sheffield University: Last 10 years sees university receive £72m from companies in arms trade
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A recent Freedom of Information (FOI) request has revealed the Russell Group university has received millions thanks to it’s relationship with companies like Rolls Royce, BAE Systems and Boeing. It also revealed the nature of those relationships, with some firms, like Rolls Royce, attending presentations, recruitment events and workshops at the university.
The arms industry referred to is entirely legal and there is no suggestion of any wrong-doing.
A spokesperson from the University of Sheffield, said: “The University has a wide range of research, development and learning partnerships that work to further innovation, provide opportunities for students and find solutions to some of the world's most pressing challenges.
“Our connections with industrial partners mean we can help to influence positive change and accelerate more sustainable manufacturing practices – making things faster, cheaper and greener to support our regional and national economy. For example, our work in high-performance lightweight materials has led to the production of lighter, more fuel-efficient cars and planes.
“We have a code of ethics for all of our research and innovation, which ensures there is rigorous governance in place. We are also committed to providing our students with information about a wide range of organisations offering placements and graduate jobs at our careers fairs, so they can make personal informed decisions about their future careers.”
How much money has Sheffield University received from these companies?
The figures show the companies have invested a total of £72,379,746 in Sheffield University since 2012/13, including £42,725,350 from Rolls Royce. BAE Systems invested more than £8.5m in Sheffield University in the same time period. BAE Systems sold £15billion worth of arms to the Saudi-government during their 2016 assault on Yemen.
The war in Yemen has caused what the UN are calling the largest humanitarian crisis in the world, with 24.1m people – 80 per cent of the Yemeni population – needing humanitarian aid and protection. The UN estimated the war would cause 377,000 deaths by the end of 2021 and, in March this year, said more than 10,200 children had died as a result of the conflict.
Are there any links to the war in Ukraine?
Over the last decade, Sheffield University has received consistent donations from the Thales group – a total of £1.1m. Between 2015 and 2020, Thales exported equipment to Russia, including thermal cameras for more than 1,000 tanks and infrared detectors for combat helicopters. Tanks, fighters and helicopters equipped with Thales technology have been used in Ukraine by the Russian military since Putin launched his attack in February.
The funding figures provided to The Star shows Sheffield University last received investment from Thales in the 2020/21 academic year. They did not receive any funding investment from Thales in 2021/22.
BAE Systems and Thales are providing weapons to Ukraine to equip them against Russian forces. These companies are making enormous profits, with Thales and BAE Systems shares up 35 per cent and 32 per cent respectively since the Ukraine invasion.
The University received more money from these companies in 2017/18 than any other year
The FOI response sent to The Star revealed the University of Sheffield received over £10,118,620 from these companies in the 2017/18 academic year. This includes two investments of more than £4m from Rolls Royce and Boeing.
The figures also showed the second largest year of investment was 2019/20, where they received just under £10m. It was at the end of this year the university offered voluntary redundancy packages to staff, due to the potential financial cost of the developing pandemic, which cut teaching and academic staff numbers.
What other relationships do companies linked to the arms trade have with Sheffield University?
The FOI also revealed the “non-financial relationships” the university’s Faculty of Engineering and Careers service have with companies involved with the arms trade, including recruitment adverts and attendance at presentations and skills programmes. However, the University opted not to share details of research.
This part of the request was denied on the ground it could damage the university’s commercial interests as they compete for research funding and their reputation amongst those research sponsors.
In the FOI response, Sheffield University said: “The University acknowledges the public interest in openness and its sources of funding and how this funding is used. We recognise a particular interest in accountability regarding the involvement of the University with private companies that could be perceived to be ‘arms companies’.
“This is, however, set against the public interest in allowing the University to operate fairly and equally within the commercial environment that it operates within. The University determines that there is a greater public interest in allowing this to continue and that were this not to be the case its core functions of teaching and research would be likely to be negatively impacted.”
Sheffield students’ occupations against arms trade links
Students at the University recently occupied the Diamond Building, the £81m home of engineering courses, to protest against their institution’s links to companies involved in the arms trade. The Sheffield Action Group behind the occupation wrote in Now Then Magazine: “As well as making fighter jets, according to a BBC investigation BAE Systems have sold internet surveillance technologies to repressive governments in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Oman.”
They also shared findings from August 2021 which revealed the University of Sheffield was the top recipient of funding from companies involved in the arms trade in the country. Exceeding Kings College London by around £7m and dwarfing Cambridge and Oxford by more than £25m in funding since 2013.