Liverpool students take on arms companies

Last week two of the world’s largest arms companies gave a talk at the University of Liverpool.

About 50% of Thales’s business is in arms, including mortar systems, rocket systems for helicopters, precision-guided munitions, military vehicles, missiles, and small arms and ammunition. They sells arms to many oppressive regimes, including Bahrain, China, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and UAE, and collaborate with Israeli arms company Elbit to develop drones.

Rolls-Royce manufacture 25% of all military jet engines globally, that are used by 160 different armed forces, in 103 different countries. They also manufacture nuclear reactors for Trident submarines. Their arms customers include Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, Qatar, and Turkey

Both companies held a recruitment event at the University of Liverpool, but students were there to hold them accountable. James Melia-Jones writes his report of what happened, and the awkward questions that were asked.

Three students hold a banner reading "Welfare not Warfare" in front of a building signed as "The School of Engineering".

CAAT Liverpool members attended the Engineering Insights lecture where representatives from weapons manufacturers Thales and Rolls-Royce gave a careers talk aimed at students and graduates. With an underlying theme of secrecy the event was advertised directly to science and engineering students by email with no public announcement.

The speakers from Thales were graduates who were new to the company and best placed to advise new applicants and recruits. They presented themselves and the company as a legitimate aerospace engineering and transport company, with every mention of their defence industry it was swiftly followed by “this is classified information” allowing them to brush over the specifics without any detail. The only details which were revealed were that this department had the biggest budgets and “best Christmas parties”.

When questions were taken from the audience the speakers from Thales were asked to elaborate further on the work which is carried out in the defence sector. The response that was received went in to detail about a very specific project on SONAR for customers in Estonia, knowledge of other projects in the company was denied again on grounds of “classified information”. This created an impression that company workers were detached from their responsibilities and ethics on a ‘need to know’ basis.

They were then challenged on their knowledge of how their output was being used, whether they were fully aware of the outcome of their efforts or merely acting under instruction. The response given was that projects are completed to the brief set by the demands of the customer which include governments and private sector. To quote the speaker “any customer we can get our hands on”.

When further challenged on this issue, citing the selling of arms to oppressive regimes such as Saudi Arabia as an example the representatives insisted that there were rigorous procedures in place to stop this from happening, despite their earlier claim and evidence otherwise.

Thales representatives were then asked their opinion on the recent EU legislation banning arms exports to Saudi Arabia and how this might affect their business, particularly shrinking their defence sector. The response received was that “we are not an arms company” which was immediately challenged for being misleading on the basis that half of their profits come from this sector, selling to oppressive regimes such as Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

The good news from the event was that there seems to be very little desire among the student body to work for these types of companies, with a handful of CAAT activists making up half of the crowd matching the number of regular attendees. This sent out a strong message that arms companies are not desired, nor welcome, and have no place at our universities.

Warwick Students shut down a BAE Systems recruitment event

BAE Systems tried to hold a recruitment event at the University of Warwick at the end of November, but students were not happy that their university was playing host to such an unethical company. After less than half an hour of protest, with a banner and chanting, the recruiters from BAE Systems packed up and the event was called off.

Students, including from Warwick for Free Education and Fossil Free Warwick, announced that they would disrupt the event. They spoke about the immoral and corrupt business dealings of the company. The protesters believe that arms companies should not have a relationship with the University of Warwick and should not be allowed to buy the right to recruit on their campus.

Students hold an anti-BAE banner in a room with empty chairs laid out in rows. Two people pack up presentation equipment.

BAE representatives pack up their equipment after it is made clear that no students are going to listen to their presentation.

BAE Systems is a highly corrupt company which sells arms indiscriminately to over 100 countries around the world regardless of their human rights record. For example they have supplied equipment to the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) for use in the bombing of Lebanese and Palestinian civilians, and armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia which were used to murder pro-democracy protesters in Bahrain. They have been fined hundreds of millions of pounds for corporate corruption.

The protesters made it clear that companies that profit from war and repression are not welcome at their university and said that if BAE or other arms companies were invited to campus again then protests would continue.

Co-President of Warwick Anti-Racism Society has said that the society is planning to set up a campaign to get BAE Systems out of Warwick for next term.

Arms Companies Face Protests at Cambridge Careers Fair

Protesters dressed as grim reapers hold a banner about BAE SystemsCampaigners and activists from across Cambridge came together this month to protest against arms companies recruiting at an engineering and science jobs fair. The two day event at the University of Cambridge included arms companies BAE Systems and Rolls-Royce, as well as the army; recruiting on Armistice Day.

BAE Systems and Rolls-Royce both supply arms to war zones and oppressive dictators, making them complicit in human rights abuses. Even during the protests BAE Systems’ Eurofighters were bombing civilians in Yemen. They have also both been investigated for fraud or corruption.

Many people were appalled that the University was hosting these companies and promoting them to students as legitimate, morally neutral career options, especially on and around Armistice Day.

Cambridge Stop the War, Cambridge Defend Education, and Campaign Against Arms Trade made our opposition known. We gave out information, met with careers service staff, and took direct action against the arms companies exhibiting.

Grim reapers stood by the entrance to the fair, highlighting the “careers in killing” being promoted inside, and ensuring those entering were aware of the unethical nature of the arms companies exhibiting.

Several student activists went into the fair to engage with the people recruiting for the arms companies. This was one way to expose and draw attention to arms business, as the companies weren’t drawing attention to it themselves.

When recruiting, these companies try to hide or gloss over the civilian deaths and human rights abuses their products cause. One person who went in to the fair said

“The BAE stall in particular was set up to cynically seduce and mislead students. Several of those I met who were interested in BAE had little or no idea that 95% of their business is about making the next generation of killing-machines.”

We took action because we feel that students should have access to all the information they need to make informed career choices. This is not possible if the careers service give arms companies a platform to promote themselves unchallenged.

Two of the protesters met with the director of the University’s Careers Service, who is aware that many students oppose the presence arms companies on campus. Any other Cambridge students who also oppose arms companies recruiting on their campus are encouraged to write to the careers service.

Victory for Liverpool students

Banner that reads "Freedom for Palestine" in the colours of the Palestinian flag.

After a successful campaign by the University of Liverpool Friends of Palestine (ULFOP) and CAAT groups, students voted in support of a Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) policy in a preferendum last week.

The Liverpool Guild of Students now officially supports the Palestinian-led BDS movement and has a mandate to lobby the university to do the same – particularly in reference to their involvement with companies such as BAE Systems that supply arms to Israel.

The motion for the BDS policy won by a landslide. The scale of the victory clearly shows that a large majority of the student body is, or has been made, aware of Israel’s apartheid regime and oppression of the Palestinians, and is prepared to make a stand against it. Over a thousand students voted – a fantastic turnout, and a debate in the run-up to the vote filled a hall.

Kitty from ULFOP highlighted these points. She says “a turnout of over 1000 was unprecedented and the huge number of students that voted yes to adopt the BDS motion sends a clear message to the Union, University and beyond that we do not want to attend an institution that is complicit is Israel’s endless human rights abuses”.

Zohra, another ULFOP member agrees. She feels that “this vote is a genuine reflection of the mood on campus – where students from all faiths and backgrounds believe that the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian people and their territories is unjust, akin to an apartheid system and thus cannot be allowed to continue”.Man wearing "vote yes to BDS" t-shirt stands next to a sign saying "our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians".

This win means that the Guild will no longer stock products made in Israel or Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and advocate divestment from companies that supply and profit from the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestine. They are also mandated to lobby against the University’s investments in these companies, as the university has ties to arms companies such as BAE Systems, Rolls-Royce and Qinetiq, who have supplied arms to Israel.

This vote was a huge victory for student activism. Liverpool students have raised their voices and made clear that they do not want their university to invest in military occupation, systemic discrimination and apartheid.

Arms Trade Links Row

Block_A,_Waterhouse_Buildings,_University_of_LiverpoolElle Spencer reports for Liverpool Life magazine about concerns over the University of Liverpool’s links with the arms trade.

Students, activists and concerned citizens alike gathered in the Liverpool Guild of Students on Monday to discuss the University of Liverpool’s alleged involvement with the arms trade.

Campaigner Greg Dropkin, who spoke at the meeting and who presented the report “Get Your Bombs Off Our Lawn”, examined links between the University of Liverpool and the arms trade. It is claimed students’ research may be being used to improve weaponry systems that could later be used to commit acts of war.

“This is not just some kind of kid’s game here. The university is helping to design drones and 10 to 15 years later these drones are killing people”, he told the meeting, held by the Liverpool branch of the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT).

The University of Liverpool have insisted they abide by a strict code of research ethics. However, some students and staff have become so concerned over the university’s apparent lack of transparency that they have decided to take a stand and call for action.

Sarah Ali, a Palestinian who worked as a teacher in Gaza, spoke about her loss of education under continual military occupation. She explained how oppressive the 24-hour drone surveillance was, how the continual buzzing felt like “drilling in your brain”. She recalled a time when she allowed her students, aged 8 to 11, to draw during class. Nine out of her sixteen students drew bombs, missiles or similar – “one child drew a dead body”.

Despite receiving several freedom of Information (FOI) Act requests, the University has declined to divulge any information regarding its finacial relations with arms companies over the past five years. In response to the FOI request the University cited protection of the university’s commercial interests and a breach in confidential data as reasons for choosing not to supply the information.

Details requested of the UOL included the total amount the university had received from arms trade companies and the Ministry of Defence, a portfolio statement of their investments in funds and their corrresponding companies, and a confirmation of whether they held any shares in arms trade companies.

According to CAAT, the University of Liverpool provided £17.5 million of funding for military projects between 2001 and 2006.

In response, the university refered to their original response to the FOI response to the FOI request and told Liverpool Life “The University abides by a strict code of ethics, which applies to all of its research projects.”

First published by Liverpool Life magazine

Bristol Students take action against arms companies recruiting at their university

Banner drop Bristol careers fair 2015 close

Last week students in Bristol took action against arms companies recruiting on their campus. Several arms companies were exhibiting at an IT and Engineering careers fair in the University’s Wills Memorial Building, but the Bristol Left society were there to counter them with a banner drop and an information stall.

The action was a protest against the presence in universities of arms companies who sell arms and profit from the use of weapons in conflicts and by governments the world over. Students handed out leaflets about the unethical practices of companies at the fair, which included BAE Systems, QinetiQ, Airbus and Boeing, and then dropped a banner reading “ARMS OFF CAMPUS. Education for liberation not warfare” from the balcony inside the fair.

Rachel, a student activist with Bristol Left, said:

“The world would be a better place without arms trading companies, and students should be encouraged to avoid them. The point of an education establishment is to give young people the knowledge to be able to pursue careers that change the world for the better, rather than encouraging them to do jobs that are unsustainable, destructive and unethical without them even knowing the true implication of their work.”

BAE Systems is the largest arms manufacturer in the UK, and their weapons are sold indiscriminately around the world, including to dictators, human rights abusers, and countries at war. Their products have been used to suppress peaceful pro-democracy protests and to support the Saudi air force in their bombing of Yemen. They have been investigated by the serious fraud office for dealings in at least 8 different countries.

A 4th-year physics student commented:

“At a time where we are seeing the devastations of war, and the refugee crisis, seeing arms companies represented and welcomed is outrageous. The companies are profiting from warfare, and all its suffering, and we shouldn’t let that happen.”

University careers fairs are where arms companies recruit graduates to design, build and market the next generation of weapons. But many students feel that universities should not be helping arms companies to recruit by hosting them at careers fairs. But as one student commented:

“the university gives the companies stalls in the fair based on the companies’ ability to pay, rather than relevance to students or ethics of the companies.”

Occupations demand an end to arms links

Students across the country have gone into occupation demanding, amongst other things, a fairer education system and an end to university links with the arms trade.


Occupy LSE

We demand that the school cuts its ties to exploitative and destructive organisations, such as those involved in wars, military occupations and the destruction of the planet. This includes but is not limited to immediate divestment from the fossil fuel industry and from all companies which make a profit from the Israeli state’s occupation of Palestine.


Occupy KCL

Since starting our occupation on March 25, we have called for King’s to address its current investment practice, which has allowed for indirect share holdings of university money in the fossil fuel, tobacco and arms manufacturing

Occupy Goldsmiths

Goldsmiths Occupation demand that their university cut ties with unethical companies in regards to funding.

The Free University of Sheffield

The Free University of Sheffield have highlighted their opposition to their university’s ongoing links with arms companies, asking students: should killing fund your education?

The latest occupations build on the momentum of previous action and occupations, including Occupy UWE which went into occupation at the end of last year who listed Divestment of arms trade connections as one of their seven demands to the university.Occupy goldsmiths logo, a roaring lion coming out of a fist and the words occupy goldsmith


Southampton students disrupt BAE speech

BAE Chairman Roger Carr’s visit to speak at the University of Southampton last week was met with fierce opposition from students and locals. Students from the university joined forces with Southampton Campaign Against Arms Trade to show their opposition to BAE Systems and highlight the links between the university and the destructive arms industry.

A lively protest took place outside while activists disrupted Roger Carr’s speech entitled ‘The Defence Industry, A Moving Target’. Michael Ambrose from the Southampton Students for Palestine group explained that the protesters were against BAE who sell weapons to countries like Saudi Arabia.

He said: “We believe the speech will be about BAE who have links with the university and who have representatives as part of the university’s wider programme for employment.

“This is not just about the speech but also about the university’s links with BAE.”

southampton protest

Lancaster University students take action against BAE


Lancaster University Against Arms Trade report on a recent action:

To coincide with planned divestment day activities, students at Lancaster university redecorated a 10′ high sign outside the university campus, using wallpaper and wheat paste.

The sign read ‘BAE Systems university: complicit in murder’, and was designed to draw attention to Lancaster universities ongoing partnerships and investment in the global arms firm.

Unfortunately the sign was removed by campus security this morning, however activists are happy that the action will have sent a clear message to the university management that continued support for arms manufacturing is not in the name of the students.

Lancaster university has been the site of ongoing protests against BAE Systems, in particular Lancaster’s role in drone research and development.



Essex University students challenge Big Bang sponsorship

A group of students have taken action to challenge arms company sponsorship of the Big Bang Fair held at Essex University during the Christmas holidays. The fair, which aims to inspire young people to become scientists and engineers, makes no mention of the destructive impact of it’s sponsors. Prince Charles even dropped in for a visit.

"Which way is the arms fair... I mean Big Bang fair?"

“Which way is the arms fair… I mean Big Bang fair?”

Upon learning that the fair was sponsored by arms companies such as Selex and BAE Systems, students from Essex University arranged a protest to show their opposition. Despite a heavy police presence the students made it clear that arms companies were not welcome on their campus.