Birkbeck, University of London has become the first university in the UK to end fossil fuel industry recruitment on campus, resulting in a first win for the student-led Fossil Free Careers campaign.
The Birkbeck careers service, Birkbeck Futures, which serves all 14,000 students at the London university, has adopted an Ethical Careers Policy stating that it “will not hold relationships of any kind with oil, gas or mining companies as part of our commitment to increased sustainability and addressing the climate crisis.”
This comes after campaigning by Birkbeck Climate Network, a society made up of Birkbeck students and staff who are pushing for stronger environmental action at Birkbeck. Although the Birkbeck Futures team will continue to provide students with “impartial one-to-one careers guidance on any industry of their choosing,” they will no longer hold any relationship with fossil fuel or mining companies.. In practice, this covers activities like “attendance at careers fairs and other recruitment opportunities, posting role vacancies, sponsorships and advertising.”
It is the first victory for the UK-wide Fossil Free Careers campaign, which is coordinated by the student campaigning charity People & Planet. The campaign has been officially endorsed by the National Union of Students, as well as 8 student unions representing over 210,000 students. The University and College Union (UCU) voted to back the campaign on the floor at their national congress, and in the 14 months since the campaign launched, student-led campaigns have formed at 36 universities across the UK, all calling for their institution to exclude the oil, gas, and mining industry from its careers service.
J Clarke, Co-Director: Climate Campaigns at People & Planet, said:
‘Birkbeck deserves full recognition for being the first university to take the bold step to break ties with oil, gas and mining recruiters. With over 60% of the UK higher education sector having already removed fossil fuel companies from their investment portfolios, we expect many institutions to follow Birkbeck’s lead. This win will be the first domino for UK universities ending the recruitment pipeline from education into the companies most responsible for the climate crisis and global environmental injustice. It’s time for Fossil Free Careers.’
Julius Cassebaum, Careers Consultant at Birkbeck Futures, said:
‘Birkbeck Futures are happy to announce that we are now a fossil free careers service, in line with People & Planet's mission to end university careers services working with oil, gas and mining companies. As the climate crisis continues, we are proud to help minimize exposure to those industries in any capacity that we can. We hope that our commitment can be a stepping stone for other universities to follow suit soon.’
Chris Davis, Key Organiser for the Birkbeck Climate Network, said:
‘We are really thrilled that Birkbeck is leading the way on ending the recruitment pipeline into the oil, gas and mining industries. For nearly 200 years social justice has sat at the heart of Birkbeck’s mission to provide an inclusive education for all, and climate justice should therefore be central to the College’s institutional vision as it enters its third century. We hope this will encourage Birkbeck to take further steps on its journey towards becoming a leader in environmental sustainability and look forward to seeing other universities taking similar action.’