First Three English Universities Divest from the Border Industry

1 Nov 2023 10:30, Migrant Justice Team

Great news! As the Divest Borders campaign ramps up across the UK, we are excited to announce that the first three English universities have excluded the border industry from their investment portfolios. This is a sign of the momentum we are building, and we're just getting started. If you're a current student or member of staff interested in getting involved with the campaign, we'd love to hear from you so we can chat about how to smash borders on your campus.

PRESS RELEASE: First three English universities divest from the Border Industry

Today we can announce that three more universities have chosen to divest from all companies profiting from violence against migrating people, marking further success for People & Planet’s student-led Divest Borders campaign. The University of Kent, Northumbria University and Worcester University have become the first English universities to exclude the border industry from their current and future investment portfolios. This makes them the first higher education institutions in England to make such a commitment, following the historic move by Cardiff Metropolitan University in October 2022.

This announcement comes in the context of ongoing resistance to the government’s increasing hostility towards migrating people. As private companies profit from the business of bordering, universities are refusing to remain complicit in the deportation, detention and surveillance of people seeking sanctuary. However, research by People & Planet estimates that over £300 million of university endowments remain invested in the border industry.

Since launching in 2021, the Divest Borders campaign has gained public support from over 100 migration scholars and university workers from across 35 universities. For the students organising on campuses across the UK, the demand for universities to cut ties with the border industry is made in solidarity with those frontline communities resisting border violence worldwide.

The University of Kent and Kent Union said: “Migration and movement are core themes in our research and activity. Given our location, as a university we have a key role to play in discussion around migrant justice. Through our leadership in intellectual debate and as a creator of advocacy and evidence-based research around migration, its contexts, histories and benefits. This includes regularly working with students to ensure our investments match our joint priorities and values, so we are pleased to see this important aspect of advocating for migrant justice recognised by the People & Planet's Divest Borders initiative.”

Simon Newitt, Chief Financial Officer of Northumbria University, said: “Northumbria University is taking a bold step towards a more sustainable and ethical future by making a commitment not to invest in Border Industry companies and we are proud to be recognised by People and Planet as one of the first UK universities to do so. We do not hold any investments in such companies, and we are not making changes to our investments. By choosing not to invest in industries that do not align with our vision for a better world, Northumbria sets an inspiring example for educational institutions globally. We believe in fostering a positive impact through our investments, and this step is in line with our dedication to a more inclusive and responsible future. This move not only showcases our dedication to positive change, but also underscores the powerful role universities play in driving progress towards a more sustainable and just future for all.”

Northumbria SU said: "As students of Northumbria, we're amazed to see our university take this significant step towards a more just and inclusive campus. We would like to congratulate the Northumbria university commiting to creating a welcoming, inclusive space for all. We're proud that our university does not invest in companies profiting from border violence. This is an incredible moment in our journey towards a more compassionate and diverse Northumbria.”

Dr. Rachel Seoighe, Lecturer in Criminology at the University of Kent, said: "As academics, we expect our universities to be leading on the major social and environmental issues of our time. Our universities should be examining and exposing industries that systematically cause harm, not benefitting from them. We have a responsibility to contribute to building a better world and that includes challenging punitive and profit-driven border practices, and scrutinising the financial relationships that enable them.”

Dr. Lucy Williams, Visiting Researcher at The University of Kent, said: “The hostile environment, facilitated and maintained by profit-making multi-national companies dehumanises all engaged in it - from refugees and asylum seekers, to the border officials and agency staff that maintain the system, to the landlords, medical practitioners and others whose work is limited by it and makes even the tax paying public complicit in the abuse of people seeking protection and a better chance in life. The news that the University of Kent has divested from companies that profit from border violence is therefore greatly to be welcomed.”

André Dallas, Co-Director of Migration Justice at People & Planet, said: “Kent, Northumbria and Worcester should all be commended for their pioneering policy actions in the face of increasing border violence. In taking a stand against the companies profiting from controlling, surveilling and preventing the movement of migrating people, they set a precedent which all universities must follow.”

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