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Disarm UCL campaign victory

On 1 January 2009 UCL adopted an ethical investment policy Click here for the policy

This is a great victory for student campaigners at UCL. However we believe that the policy should have gone further. Click here on why we think UCL did not go far enough

Brief history of the Disarm UCL campaign

In 2006, in response to a Freedom of Information request from the Campaign Against the Arms Trade [1], UCL disclosed that it had a total of £1,591,627 invested in two multi-national arms companies, Cobham and the Smiths Group, making it the largest known university investor in the UK. Both of these companies profit significantly from the sales of military products such as components for Eurofighter, Joint Strike Fighter, Hawk jets, Apache helicopters and F-16s. Both also predominantly export arms which due to the deregulation of the arms trade are sold to regimes without regard to human rights records including Turkey, Indonesia and Israel, as well as regions of conflict world-wide. disarmUCL was set up to campaign for UCL to divest from arms companies and adopt an ethical investment policy. Our campaign was based on widespread student and staff opposition to the investments, their detrimental affect on UCL’s reputation, and the evidence that ethical investment is a financially viable alternative that is in many ways more secure due to the heavily-subsidized and unstable nature of the arms industry. In May 2007 the Smiths Group sold its Aerospace Division which contained the bulk of its military-related production. Consequently, disarmUCL focused solely on the Cobham shares worth over £900,000, but which have since decreased in market value showing the volatility of the global arms industry. The campaign successfully secured the support of UCL Union and ultimately met with the provost Malcolm Grant in June 2007, following which UCL Council announced that it would pursue ethical investment, setting up a working group to develop a policy. disarmUCL welcomes this commitment and this year will continue to campaign for immediate divestment from Cobham and an ethically responsible UCL.


disarmUCL was set up in November 2006 following the disclosure of UCL’s direct investments in the arms trade. The campaign consisted from the outset of a broad and diverse group of students, staff and alumni, including many from existing UCLU student societies including Amnesty, People & Planet, Stop the War, MedSin and Friends of Palestine. We also had the support of student media including London Student and The Cheesegrater. The campaign so far has used a diversity of tactics, one of the most key being the petition (on paper, web and via text) which got over 1,200 signatures. The alumni network instigated a letter writing campaign. Alongside this conventional lobbying we also put on a gig with the Live Music society and arranged stunts on campus which attracted coverage from the International Herald Tribune [2], Camden New Journal, Peace News, The Times Higher Education Supplement, The Independent (Higher Education Supplement)[3] ,the Guardian Comment is Free website [4] and the New Statesman website [5]. Our overall strategy was to build a broad grass-roots campaign that mobilised campus-wide antipathy to UCL’s arms invesments and highlighted the hypocrisy of UCL’s claims to be a ‘global’ university with a history of liberalism and social justice while investing in the global arms trade. The success of disarmUCL in obtaining a commitment to the adoption of an ethical investment policy from UCL has been due to the hard work and creativity of ordinary students, staff and alumni.

Download the Disarm UCL proposal for an ethical investment policy at UCL here