On February 24th, universities across the country will hold a Day of Action against the arms trade and university funding links to it.

The movement is organised by non government organisation (NGO) Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) which works towards the abolition of the international arms trade.
CAAT maintain that British weapons used in Gaza continue to be a major theme and that some UK universities continue financial affiliation with the arms trade.

Information obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, posted on the CAAT website, states that UK universities own £15 million of shares in the arms trade. 45 universities and colleges admit owning shares in at least one top arms company.

Three institutions – UCL, Trinity Hall Cambridge and the University of Liverpool – each hold arms shares worth over £1 million.

The 2009 Day of Action followed the Israeli invasion of Gaza and resulted in 19 demonstrations ranging from sit ins to disruption of recruitment all surrounding breaking university links to arms companies.

B block at UWE’s Frenchay campus was occupied for three days and nights and was accompanied by “intense negotiations” between John Rushforth, Steve West and protesters.
This resulted in the setting up a conflict fund for full scholarships for students affected by conflict across the world. This find will be paid for through fundraising between students along with fundraising by the University itself.

UWE management also declared that funds held by the University are not invested in any such companies or funds. Semi disclosure of financial records and investments supported the statement that there were no direct investments by UWE in the arms trade.

When asked if he felt satisfied with the results of the protest, SU campaigns officer and founder of the Free Palestine Society at UWE, Paul Saville stated:

“Everyone involved in the 2009 occupation did really well, stood by their principles and we managed to secure some of our demands that we felt our university should meet. I think it’s important for students to carry on pushing for ethical investment by their universities.”

The objectives of the Day of Action include stopping investment in arms companies by UK universities and a move towards ethical investment practices.

Military sector funding by university research departments, CAAT cite as a commonplace by engineering, science and IT departments across the country is also to be targeted by the Day of Action.

Recruitment at universities by arms companies such as BAE Systems are also being targeted. This academic year has seen recruitment events targeted at universities in Leeds, York and Edinburgh.

Sarah Reader, CAAT’s Universities Network Co-ordinator stated in a press release:

“Students do not want to see their course fees invested in armaments, their departments’ research sponsored by arms companies, or these companies be allowed to recruit the next generation of workers on their campuses. In the current climate of growing privatisation and cuts to higher education, students are even more focused on their universities’ priorities. We think this year’s Day of Action will be bigger than ever before.”

More information on getting involved with the Day of Action 2010 is available at www.caat.org.uk.