Universities are increasingly in cahoots with the arms industry

  • Post last modified:February 28, 2024
  • Reading time:4 mins read

A new 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.

It shows that the military relies on academic expertise to develop military and dual use technologies.

Universities: the front line of the military industrial complex

The report, Weaponising Universities – Research collaborations between UK universities and the Military Industrial Complex, also highlights how academic research is being used to greenwash the arms industry. This comes through academic investment in supposed green technologies to, as the report states:

dominate the battlefield whilst limiting harm to the environment, universities are furthering a perception of the arms industry as legitimate partners and a source of “sustainable” investment.

Weaponising Universities shows how our universities are being used to normalise war where the “quest for military dominance, arms as a means to security as well as preparation for war are all taken for granted and treated as a given.” The report sets out alternatives to this model and includes recommendations for governments and civil society, universities, faculty and students.

Various key areas

This report discusses the deepening ties between universities in the UK and the arms industry and military research, which include arms industry-funded research on campus, dedicated research centres sponsored by the arms industry and/or the Ministry of Defence, and other parts of the UK security establishment, and other ties.

The report discusses the history of the so-called “Military-Industrial-Academic Complex” (MIAC), and the reasons why the government is increasingly drawing on academia to further research with military applications.

Two key areas of research are highlighted: “Emerging and Disruptive Technologies” (EDTs), such as AI, autonomous systems, and hypersonic weapons, which are believed to have the potential to change the nature of warfare, and what the report describes as “Militarised Environmental Technologies” (METs) – technologies that seek to reduce the environmental impact of military activities (such as military aviation), but which are also used to gain military advantage, and as a propaganda tool to “greenwash” the fundamentally unsustainable business of war.

The report then presents three case studies: Imperial College London, Southampton University, and Lancaster University, with detailed information on their various research links with the arms industry, and these two key areas of EDTs and METs in particular.

A fourth chapter discusses opposition within universities and academia to their militarisation, and ways in which universities might, on the contrary, pursue research aimed at promoting peace and global disarmament, including the economic alternatives to arms production. Finally, a set of recommendations are made, both for universities themselves, and for students and academics seeking to challenge the weaponization of their universities.

The arms industry exploiting education

Report author Okopi Ajonye said:

Since industry, along with universities, are on the frontlines of scientific and technological innovation, the military heavily depends on universities for research and development into military and dual-use products. Therefore, universities are a key foundation of the contemporary military-industrial complex.

Emily Apple, CAAT’s media coordinator stated:

This is a vitally important report that exposes the huge level of investment universities receive from the arms industry. These ties between academia and this trade in death and destruction must be severed. Instead of greenwashing weapons manufacturers, universities should be investing in research that actually helps us tackle the climate crisis we are all facing.

Jinsella, Demilitarise Education co-founder & executive director stated:

Universities capacity should support international peace building rather than self destructive military persuasion.

You can read the full report here.

Featured image via CAAT

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