University divestment from fossil fuels - the latest

Tuesday 07-03-2017 - 15:49

Vice President Robbiie Young rounds up NUS's powerful divestment campaign so far, and looks at the vital work being done by students' unions and student activists to push their institutions to commit to ethical energy.

Emissions Impossible has been going from strength to strength this year, all thanks to the amazing and inspiring actions taking place in our students’ unions and across campuses! This is driven by both officers and student campaigners linking up and pushing their institutions to challenge the ‘social licence’ of the fossil fuel industry. 

A great example of the hard work being put in can be seen in UCL’s recent blog which highlights the concerning conflict of interest that exists at their institution. Our own research has revealed that 14% of university governors have had links to the fossil fuel industry, now or at some point in their career – which severely impedes progress on divestment. 

We hope that our campaign outline will contribute to pushing your campaigns in an ever more successful direction, and that our shareable graphics for social media will be useful. We also really recommend checking out the paper Birmingham Students’ Union submitted to university management on their campaign demands. 

Forty-six institutions shared their investment data with us through our Freedom of Information research, which found £100 million of endowment investments in extractor fossil fuel companies. Since then we have seen £37.3 million divested from the fossil fuel industry. Across the sector, universities with overall endowment values totalling more than £1.3 billion have committed to divestment and over £28 million has been explicitly ring-fenced for reinvestment into renewables.  

We have noted that 17 universities - of the c.120 in the UK - have fossil fuels exclusions in their investment policies, of which five have positive policy commitments relating to future investments. We have also discovered and celebrated that 14 universities are using 100% renewable electricity.  

And students are leading all the (radical) way. Just today we've published a guest blog by a student campaigning for democratised reinvestment in renewables at Sheffield

Despite various institutions dragging their heels, we’ve no doubt that with the energy and creativity there is across the student movement it won’t be long until the quarter of UK universities who have divested will be pushed to half! We are working closely with People & Planet, as well as a number of officers, to achieve this!  

And with the Global Divestment Mobilisation culminating in May it promises to be an exciting 6 months…  

We hope our new campaign outline will support your struggles, and don’t hesitate to get in touch if we can help at all. 


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