Top UK universities accept millions in arms company funding

August 23, 2012

Over the three years 2008-2011 leading British universities received at least £83 million of funding from UK arms companies and government military agencies, for research, courses and other activities. The information was analysed from Freedom of Information (FOIs) requests submitted submitted by Dina Rickman of the Huffington Post to the 24 Russell Group universities, which jointly claim around two-thirds of all research funding.

Of the 24 universities six refused, or were unable to supply, relevant information – Birmingham, Glasgow, Liverpool, Manchester, University College London (UCL) and Warwick. The London School of Economics (LSE) said that it did not get any military funding and Durham had only £67,000. The remaining 16 universities received a total of over £83 million, divided between UK government agencies and UK private companies.

The universities with the highest amounts of military funding were Imperial College with £15.2 million, Sheffield with £13.8 million, Cambridge with £13.8 million and Oxford with just over £9 million. Bristol received £6.5million, Nottingham just under £6million, Kings College £5.3 million, York £3.9 million, Southampton £3.8 million and Newcastle £2 million.

Beth Smith, Universities Network Co-ordinator for Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) says:

Arms companies fund research projects partly to ensure that certain research gets done. By partnering with arms companies universities provide them with a veneer of respectability and help them to continue their devastating work. Universities should play no role in supporting the arms trade.


Direct UK government military funding to the 16 universities totalled £23.6 million over the three years – 28% of the total. The largest recipient was Imperial College with over £7.8 million from government, mainly through the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE), followed by Kings College with £5.4 million, virtually all from the Ministry of Defence.

The largest share of military funding came from private companies (public listed companies), This totalled £62.8million over the three years – just under 72%. The largest recipients were Sheffield with £13.5 million, Cambridge with £9.5 million, Oxford with £8.7 million and Nottingham with just over £5 million.

From available information, it appears that most private sector funding is ultimately government funding, through research and development (R & D) contracts from the Ministry of Defence and other government agencies.

By far the largest company funder was Rolls-Royce; which totalled at least £36.8 million. Rolls-Royce focused very large grants on selected universities, including Sheffield, where it paid £11.1 million, Cambridge almost £7.5 million, Oxford £6.7 million and Nottingham £4.9 million. Rolls-Royce also made large grants to Imperial with £2.9 million and to Southampton with £2.3 million.

BAE Systems funding totalled £10.6 million. In three universities it reached over £2 million – York at £2.9 million, Imperial at £2.3 million and Sheffield at £2.1 million. BAE also paid almost £1.3 million to Cambridge, £936,000 to Southampton and £716,000 to Oxford.

QinetiQ funding was directed to nine universities and totalled £3.25 million. This included £1.5million to Imperial and £737,000 to Cambridge.

Join our campaign to kick arms companies off campus. Read about our Study War No More campaign and get in touch for more information about how to get involved.

Click to read further analysis.


For further information or an interview please contact CAAT’s Media Coordinator, Kaye Stearman on 020 7281 0297 or mobile 07990 673 232 or email press(at)caat·org·uk.


1. The Freedom of Information requests asked for:

Details of funding over the last three years (2008-11) for courses, research or activities by your university from:

Public ministry bodies like the Ministry of Defence and its research arms Defence Science Technology Laboratory, Defence Evaluation Research Agency, and Atomic Weapons Establishment

Private companies, including BAE Systems, Cobham plc, MBDA, Rolls-Royce, Babcock, GKN, and QinetiQ.

2. The Huffington Post article by Dina Rickman can be found here.

3. The FOI request excluded funding from non-UK governments and arms companies – this is known to add significantly to the amounts paid to some universities and will be the subject of future FOI requests.

4. The figure of £83 million is a minimum one. Not only does it not include the six Russell Group universities who did not supply relevant information and other information withheld by “confidentiality clauses”, but also excludes several non-Russell Group universities known to have received significant military funding including Cranfield, Hull, Loughborough and Swansea.

5. In 2011 Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) commissioned research which estimated that the annual public subsidy to arms exports (ie excluding Ministry of Defence procurement) totals £700 million a year; £560 million of this goes to R & D. While much stays within companies, a proportion finds its way to UK universities.

6. BAE and QinetiQ are almost entirely arms focused. In 2011 around one quarter of Roll-Royces’ total sales value was military. However, on its own website the company describes itself unambiguously as “the world’s second largest provider of military aero-engine products and services, with 160 customers in 100 countries.” In 2011, Rolls Royce received £6 billion worth of orders for its military aerospace products. Products include engines for unmanned aerial vehicles (“drones”) including US Global Hawk reconnaissance aircraft. Some of the Rolls Royce funding directed at universities goes to civil projects (although no university specified the breakdown between civil and military projects).

7. Information on some Rolls-Royce funding at Leeds was protected by confidentiality clauses which suggests that the total should be much higher.

8. CAAT’ and Fellowship of Reconciliation’s 2007 report Study War No More: Military involvement in UK Universities provides a detailed account of earlier research into military funding of universities and its consequences.

9. Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) works for the reduction and ultimate abolition of the international arms trade. The arms business has a devastating impact on human rights and society and damages economic development. Large-scale military procurement and arms exports only reinforce a militaristic approach to international problems. Around 75% of CAAT’s income is raised from individual supporters.


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