University Update - Engagement with Student Encampment

University Update - Engagement with Student Encampment

Dear colleague, 

The University of Aberdeen fully supports the right to peaceful protest.   

Students participating in the encampment on Elphinstone Lawn have demonstrated their passionate commitment, raising awareness and securing action, while conducting themselves in a responsible and considerate way.  This enabled productive meetings earlier this week and last, with representatives of the encampment and the students’ union, to discuss encampment asks and our community’s efforts to campaign for peace.

The University stands with the International Court of Justice[1] in demanding an immediate cessation of military offensive in Rafah, the protection of the Palestinian communities in Gaza from genocidal acts and the opening of channels for basic and humanitarian supplies.  Like the ICJ, we call for the unconditional release of hostages abducted on 7 October 2023.  

The determination of our students that our investments and procurement decisions should reflect our values as a University community is clear.  In response, we commit to the rapid establishment of a University Assembly, building on successful Citizen or Climate Assembly models, to support the development of our values and ethics framework and for the transparent reporting of progress.   We will confirm the format and operation of the Assembly by the end of June with the expectation that the first Assembly will take place during Autumn 2024.    We also provided an update to Senate on 5 June, in relation to its motions on 27 March 2024 which sought support from the University for Palestinian academics, students and knowledge workers.

The student encampment has asked the University to take several specific actions including the termination of contracts with HP and Subway, the introduction of an academic boycott of Israeli institutions, and to divest from all investments related to the arms industry.     

We actively review all our contracts prior to renewal, including those of external catering providers.  To achieve value for money, universities join together to buy many products through sector-level frameworks. We commit to working with APUC (Advanced Procurement for Universities and Colleges) on the criteria for assessing and selecting suppliers.  

The University’s investments, which are held in a series of pooled (indirect) funds, are overseen by an Investment Committee.  Our Sustainable Investment policy[2] currently excludes investment in non-conventional weapons and civilian firearms.  However, there remains a low exposure (0.7%) to other parts of the arms sector. We will review the potential to extend those exclusions to include the wider arms sector and the UN listing of companies involved in specific activities in Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories[3].

The commitment to academic freedom is central to our identity as a university, as well as being enshrined in legislation.  We will not therefore restrict the ability of our colleagues to progress their academic endeavours.  We can, however, confirm that there are no active Institution level agreements with universities in Israel and no intention to enter into any new agreements.   

The University condemns physical and verbal violence resulting from Islamophobia, antisemitism, and other forms of hatred anywhere in the world.  We look forward to working with the Student Union to support anti-racist education and training.

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