The University of Southampton has signed a new five year partnership, worth £1.25 million, with arms company BAE Systems. The partnership has been described as strengthening the already existing links between the University and the arms company.
BAE Systems will visit campus on October 20th to attend the IT, Science and Engineering Careers Fair. They will be one of several arms companies in attendance on the day, including Lockheed Martin and Detica. Student opposition is expected, with a picket of the fair likely and more details of this will be provided on wessexscene.co.uk when they have been confirmed with the societies involved. SUSU also oppose the presence of arms companies on campus and have written a letter to the University objecting to their invitation to the career’s fair.
BAE are one of the most controversial companies on the planet and news of their ties with the University are likely to anger many students. Last year they were fined $400 million in the US after admitting to charges of “wilfully misleading” the US government. The charges related to substantial secret payments made to an individual who then helped negotiate contracts for the company in Hungary and Czechlovakia.
It was not the first time BAE have found themselves in court, having been charged with offering bribes to Saudi Arabian royals in order to secure a defence contract worth £43 billion. That case was eventually dropped after political pressure from the UK and Saudi government forced the court to stop investigating BAE.
BAE are also notorious for selling their arms indiscriminately to over 100 countries worldwide. Some of these countries are listed as ‘major causes for concern’ in a recent Foreign Office report on human rights abuses. In the past, BAE have sold weapons to Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe, during his military operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo and to Indonesia, when the military was involved in slaughtering civillians in East Timor in the late 1990s.
Campaign Against the Arms Trade’s website contains further details of the arms company, their history and their connection with several universities up and down the country. They are currently running a ‘Ban BAE’ campaign aimed at preventing BAE from recruiting on campus.
This is not the first time the University of Southampton has been linked with the company. Last year, the Wessex Scene revealed that the University was a shareholder in the controversial business, and in 2004 the School of Electronics and Computer Sciences signed a multi-million pound research agreement with them. In the 2008/9 financial year the University recieved an income of £347,000 from BAE sponsored research.