Top arms company defeated by student protests

By staff writers
May 30, 2011

The multinational arms company BAE Systems were forced to abandon attempts to run a workshop at the University of Manchester last week amidst a series of protests by students and staff.

The students' union at Manchester has backed those who argue that the university should not be involved with the arms trade. Their stance has been welcomed by the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT).

Students handed out leaflets before lying down peacefully in the doorway to the venue for the event. BAE abandoned the campus after several attempts to move the workshop to different rooms proved unsuccessful

BAE has long been criticised for arming oppressive regimes around the world, including Saudi Arabia and Indonesia. Saudi forces recently took BAE-made armoured vehicles to Bahrain to help the Bahraini regime suppress nonviolent pro-democracy demonstrations.

BAE faces allegations of corruption in five continents and has long been accused of undue influence within the UK government.

The company was invited by Manchester's Mathematics Department to take in an industrial maths workshop and give students experience of "engaging with industry". BAE are interested in funding an MSc project at the university.

Arms firms already fund a large number of courses and departments at UK universities. Groups such as CAAT and the Student Christian Movement (SCM) fear that cuts to higher education funding will result in arms dealers gaining more influence by the provision of alternative funding.

The University of Manchester received over £15 million for arms company research between 2001 and 2006, according to research by CAAT and the Fellowship of Reconciliation The arms firm Thales is funding a PhD in probability theory at the university.

University authorities defended the presence of BAE on campus, saying that they had a responsibility "to engage with leading commercial organisations to address together the most pressing societal issues, and to enhance the employment prospects of our students".

But Amanda Walters of the University of Manchester Students' Union told the Manchester Mule that "our large Bahraini community on campus have seen their families and friends persecuted back home with products that our university have helped to make".


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