Thursday, 22 January 2009

FOR THE LAST TIME: Tell UCL to ditch the arms shares

Thanks to everyone who has supported the UCL campaign so far and has helped to bring about this amazing success.

All which is left to do now is to send a request to UCL's new ethical investment review committee and ask them to divest from arms trader Cobham plc.

We have drafted a letter below. So here's what you can do:

Either send the letter yourself to the Deputy Director of Academic Services:

or e-mail us at with your name, the department you are studying and year of study and we add you to the list of signatories of the letter below. Check this blog for details about the review committee and its decision on Cobham :)

Mr Jason ClarkeDeputy Director of Academic ServicesUCL Gower StreetLondon WC1E

Dear Mr.Clarke,

we would like to refer a request to divest shares in arms company Cobham plc currently held in UCL's investment portfolio to the Ethical Investment Review Committee (EIRC).

The equipment produced by Cobham plc generally are subsystems and components, which are then sold to other arms companies such as BAE Systems and Lockheed Martin. These companies then market their weaponry as widely as possible around the world. Although Cobham plc does not often make the headlines, it is an integral part of the global arms trade and its equipment is an important element of many arms deals.

Cobham plc is a multi-national group of companies that is heavily involved in a number of major military aircraft-programmes. It produces avionics, aircraft and missile components and provides military training and communication equipment. For example, Cobham plc produces components of Hellfire Missiles. Such missiles have been used by the USA and are believed to have caused civilian deaths in Iraq. Cobham plc is also responsible for pioneering in-flight refueling which has facilitated the long-range bombing campaigns, that has characterized military operations since the Falklands war.

Cobham plc profits significantly from the sale of military components. It is the world's 46th largest arms producer by military revenue and as such a major player in the international arms trade, which is a major cause of human rights abuses.
UCL as a major university sets an important precedent for the whole sector. Its claim to be a 'global' university with a tradition of liberal ideals and social justice is undermined by its direct support of the 'global' arms trade.

As UCL’s ethical investment policy sets out, investments can be negatively screened if they i.) conflict or be inconsistent with the aims, objectives or activities of UCL, ii) might hamper the work of UCL 'either by alienating financial supporters or potential financial supporters; or by having a material impact on applications from potential students', or iii) are considered by UCL to be unethical, subject to paragraph four of the policy.

We believe that investment in Cobham plc should be brought to an end, as this action would satisfy the criteria in i), ii) and iii). UCL's world class research aims to "shape the future", craft "global citizenship" and improve the world for tomorrow. These are noble aims; the current investment in Cobham plc undermines them all.

We also believe that - in accordance with paragraph four - exclusion of investment in Cobham plc would not result in any significant financial detriment to UCL. The arms trade is a volatile sector, relying on heavy government subsidy and large, highly competitive yet infrequent orders, and does not therefore provide the stability that UCL seeks from its investments. We understand that the current levels of investment in the arms trade is less than 1% of UCL's total investments, and as such its exclusion is unlikely to result in significant financial loss to the university.

In fact UCL's current drive -"the campaign for UCL" - to receive donations from UCL alumni is adversely affected by the investment in Cobham plc, and will continue to be so. Many alumni have already stated - in letters to Provost Malcolm Grant - that they will not make any donations to UCL while investment in the Cobham plc continues. We, the signatories of this letter, will be unable to donate money to UCL now or in the future, if this investment remains.

UCL's liberal tradition - being the first university to admit women & candidates irrespective of religious confession - is a very positive aspect of the university, and a reason for so many students choosing to apply to UCL each year. This is suggested also by the inclusion of such facts in UCL's prospectuses. However we think investment in - and therefore financial support for – Cobham plc, harms this proud history, as the arms trade does not propagate equality and a just society, but rather has warfare as its raison d'être and death and suffering as its consequence. Prospective students who have decided to study at UCL partly on the basis of its history might decide against attending UCL as their tuition fees might support Cobham plc through UCL’s investment.

In conclusion, we are convinced that UCL’s investments in Cobham plc are unethical.

Finally, we believe that the reasons we have set out above are compatible with the charity commission's advice on ethical investment and reflect the views of a wide range of UCL students, staff and alumni.

Yours sincerely,