The University’s Relationship with Arms Companies


Disclaimer: The views expressed within this article are entirely the author’s own and are not attributable to Wessex Scene as a whole.

Myself and other students in Stop the War Southampton have recently been trying to find out information on the University of Southampton’s relationship with arms companies.

So far a 2007 report has been found that indicates the University was receiving millions a year from private companies to conduct military research on their behalf, the largest of these being Britain’s biggest arms company BAE Systems. This relationship began in 2004 with the first agreement being signed with BAE’s director of this partnership, Dr Robert Johnston, stating at the time:

We are looking to Southampton and their network to deliver world-class technologies and put research into distributed data and information into network enabled and human centric systems.

This then progressed to Southampton becoming one of BAE’s five ‘Strategic Partner Universities‘ in 2014 with the reasoning this time outlined by BAE’s UK Strategic Technology Director, Andy Wright:

We’re hoping that stronger collaborations with these specialist universities will help BAE Systems ensure its customers can maintain a military advantage over their potential adversaries in the future.

BAE’s customer Saudi Arabia certainly has a strategic advantage over its adversaries thanks to the aircraft and missiles that are designed and manufactured by BAE. These allow the Saudis to bomb Yemen with impunity and impose a blockade on the country. According to the latest report by the UN, the conflict has killed over 230,000 people with 60% of those deaths being children under the age of 5.

The UK government’s role in this is central as half the Saudi air force is made up of aircraft manufactured by companies in the UK, the foremost of them being BAE. The news programme Dispatches‘ recent inquiry into the UK’s aiding of the Saudi and other coalition forces contained interviews with workers from BAE who are among the thousands of British contractors in Yemen and who state that they are integral in keeping the air force operational. The former station chief in Riyadh and adviser to President Obama, Bruce Riedel, has gone further, stating that the war and blockade could end with one phone call from the leaders of America and the UK.

With this in mind we, Stop the War Southampton, have decided to begin a petition calling for the University to sever its ties with BAE. We will be going to other societies’ events (on invitation of course) and presenting both the information we have found and our petition. If anyone would like to assist us they can do so by coming to one of these events which we will be posting on our Facebook page. To find out the extent of the University’s relationship with arms companies they could also send the email that we have been sending to the freedom of information request email address. So far the administration has not responded, as it’s legally required to do within 20 days of a request.

Below is the email we have been sending:

Dear University of Southampton,

I am writing to request information on the research and financial relationships the University holds in the following companies: BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin, QinetiQ, Rolls-Royce, GKN, Cobham, Elbit Systems, Leonardo, L3 Technologies, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, Thales, Boeing, General Dynamics, Airbus, United Technologies, Babcock International, Serco, Meggitt, AirTanker, Chemring and Ultra Electronics and any other arms companies.

Additionally, I am writing to request information on the contracts the University holds with the Ministry of Defence and equivalent bodies and armed forces of other countries.

Please include the following information:

1) For each of the above companies/bodies please list all the projects, industrial consultancy and industrial research that the University has received funding for over the past five academic years, 2013-2014, 2014-2015, 2015-2016, 2016-2017 and 2017-2018. Details should be broken down by each university department, showing the company or government body who have provided funding, the start and end date of each contract, title of the project/research, and total funding of each project/research year-by-year for the past four academic years. Lastly, please list all external organisations and bodies that are also participants in the projects/research identified.

2) Does the University have, or is it working towards, an ethical research policy that excludes, or could exclude, the companies listed above?

Please provide the information in a machine readable form and spell out all acronyms.

According to the 2007 ‘Study War No More’ report, the University of Southampton ranked in the top 5 out of 26 higher educational institutes assessed for the period 2001-2006 in the number of military research projects it was part of. In 2017, the relationship between the University and the world’s second largest arms trading company was developed further when the University signed a strategic framework agreement with BAE Systems.


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