close ties to arms industry facing protests

  • Post last modified:March 1, 2024
  • Reading time:9 mins read

Three students doused themselves in fake blood outside Bristol University on Wednesday 28 February. Extinction Rebellion Youth Bristol (XRYB) activists held a banner reading ‘Blood out of Education’ while others had fake blood poured over them opposite Senate House. This is the second ‘drowning in blood’ by XRYB in their new ‘Arms out of Bristol’ and ‘Arms off Campus’ campaign – highlighting the university’s ties to the arms industry.

Bristol University: blood out of education

This all took place during an offer holder day for the university. Spider, a member of XRYB and a student at Bristol University, said:

We decided to target an offer holder day to encourage prospective students to look at the ethics of the University that they choose and to increase the pressure on the University to cut ties with arms companies.

As well as the environmental effects of the arms trade, XRYB also say they are undertaking this campaign in solidarity with Palestine since some connections that Bristol University has trade arms with Israel.

The group’s demands are:

  • Bristol University must commit to no new research partnerships with companies that produce arms.
  • It must immediately end all promotion of arms related careers.

The University released a statement in December after the first ‘drowning in blood’ action:

Close ties to arms companies

A spokesperson for XRYB said

The statement from the University argued that so-called defence companies do more than arms manufacturing and development. This is true however that does not negate the harm that these companies do, both to the environment and people. Does the University not care about that?

While we understand that Bristol University wants to offer a wide range of career opportunities, we believe that can be achieved without connections with arms companies. It is past time that the University career service will transition to promoting more green careers with green companies and stop encouraging students into unethical companies.

As part of this campaign, XRYB is calling on Bristol University to cut its ties with arms companies.

The activist group highlights partnerships with Rolls-Royce, Thales, AirBus, QuintiQ, and Leonardo, as well as careers links with these companies and more, including arms industry giants BAE Systems. The University also benefits financially from these partnerships, having received at least £12m from arms companies in the last seven years:

Bristol University: also fuelling the climate crisis

Kit, a spokesperson for XRYB, said:

Bristol University claims to be committed to tackling the climate crisis, but its continued collusion with arms companies suggests otherwise.

It is estimated that 5-6% of global C02 emissions are from armed forces and industries, which is more than all civil aviation. Also, the use of arms themselves is environmentally devastating, destroying ecosystems and killing animals and people with bombing, chemical warfare, and scorched earth tactics.

Over 1.7 trillion pounds is spent globally each year on arms which should be being spent on solutions to the climate crisis, such as the development of renewable energy technologies, rather than further environmental destruction.

Bristol University must immediately abandon ties with arms companies, seeking funding from and partnership with industries genuinely committed to environmental protection in place of that from the arms industry, and use the valuable expertise, skills, and innovation of its STEM departments to help tackle the climate crisis.

Bristol University arms industry

UK universities: in cahoots with the arms industry

Another student activist said:

The arms companies that Bristol University collaborate with are directly or indirectly responsible for the death of thousands of people. This includes the murder of civilians in Gaza occurring right now, the arms for which are in part provided by its partners BAE Systems and Rolls-Royce. As it stands, the University is complicit in the death of innocent people. This must end.

There have already been calls from across the student body for Bristol University to cut ties with arms companies, with anti-arms motions featuring in the Student Council vote in June 2022, and the Annual Members Meeting in February 2023, as well as a recent student protest asserting a link between Bristol University’s arms partners and Israel’s genocide in Gaza.

XRYB’s action comes as the Canary reported on new analysis which shows the extent of UK universities ties to arms companies and the militarisation of education.

The report by Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) and Demilitarise Education (dED) into the militarisation of universities reveals that privatisation, the academic funding crisis, and commercialisation of universities has led to increasing ties between military, arms companies and academia with billions of pounds worth of investment.

You can read the Canary‘s analysis here.

Featured image and additional images via XRYB

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