November 27, 2014

Fossil Free UCL students respond to management snub by blockading meeting of university’s highest governing body

Contact: e-mail:; telephone for Beth, UCL student and Fossil Free UCL campaigner: 07455595549

* See bottom for leaked management commitments which have since been reneged upon. *

UCL die-inFossil Free UCL, a campaign demanding UCL ends its investments (worth more than £14 million) in the fossil fuel industry, today staged a ‘die-in’ blockading the meeting of UCL Council, the university’s highest governing body. High profile members including UCL’s president and provost, Michael Arthur, were seen clambering over students wearing placards denouncing UCL as “London’s Global Warming University” and demanding “UCL Stop Killing Our Future”.

One member of UCL Council told protesters that: “It’s too undignified to walk over pretend dead students.” The protesters’ response questioning the dignity of UCL contributing to climate change-induced loss of lives and livelihoods through its investments in fossil fuels was not responded to.

This is the first step in a major escalation of the campaign after UCL management closed off all channels of negotiation with Fossil Free UCL.  UCL management has previously made commitments from which they have since backtracked.[1]


Guin Carter, a second year Politics and Economics student, recounts how the university’s president and provost clambered over her to enter the meeting: “I couldn’t quite believe it. Michael Arthur, the head of our university, demanded that security ”come remove this person” before stepping on me to get to his meeting. If UCL management choose not only to invest in climate-killing fossil fuels but refuse to negotiate with those demanding change, how else do they expect us to communicate with them? The provost’s demand that protestors are manhandled brings shame upon UCL’s history of dissent and progressive politics.”

Pekka Piirainen, who graduated from UCL this summer with a degree in History, said: “After several rounds of discussion with senior management, they have cut us out. In our meetings with management, both parties agreed that the current system is entirely unfit for the purpose. After months of promises, no meetings of the Ethical Investment Review Committee have happened. Management’s position to our campaign is a list of empty promises in a hope that we’ll be kept quiet long enough for us to graduate and move on. That the campaign has expanded hugely since September shows that their cynical tactics aren’t going to work.”

Beth Parkin, a Cognitive Neuroscience PhD student, said “UCL management sent us on a wild goose chase, with Richard Jackson, UCL’s head of sustainability, shockingly seeming to collaborate in their delaying tactics. It probably won’t surprise you that the chair of UCL Council, DeAnne Julius, is a former chief economist for Shell and worked for BP during the Deep Horizon oil spill. The fossil fuel rot spreads further than UCL’s investments: UCL’s research is used to greenwash the world’s largest mining company, BHP Billiton, with whom the university partners to set up the ironically named ‘Institute for Sustainable Resources’.”

Tom Youngman, a third year European Social and Political Studies student, said: “A raft of reports from the IPCC to the IEA and World Bank have reinforced the view that we have a decade and a half to turn around the global economy, fully phasing out fossil fuels by mid-century. UCL’s world-leading academics research the causes, impacts and solutions to climate change. UCL management needs pay a little more attention and respect its staff and cut the university’s shameful ties to the fossil fuel industry.”

Notes to editors:

The Die-In was held at 15:30 on Thursday 27th November outside UCL’s Conference Centre at 188 Tottenham Court Road.

High quality photos of UCL Council members clambering over student protestors are available here:


Fossil Free UCL are part of a growing global divestment movement aiming to move investments from dirty fossil fuels to the urgent transition to renewable energy. The campaign’s full demands are listed on our petition:
[1] Leaked communications. At a meeting with Fossil Free UCL in April 2014, UCL management acknowledged the university’s current ethical investment framework was inadequate and committed to review it in this memo: UCL’s Head of Finance, Phil Harding, said he was willing to investigate putting a portion of the university’s investment portfolio into a specific ethical fund: In November 2014, after no progress was made on these two issues, Rex Knight, UCL Vice-Provost (Operations), essentially closed off negotiations with this e-mail to the campaign: He had already denied  us a meeting with UCL Council chair DeAnna Julius:

Leaked draft (unapproved) minutes from UCL’s Ethical Investment Review Committee. This Committee is supposed to ensure UCL invests ethically but is entirely stifled by its management-granted terms of reference, which bar it from acting an anything more than a snail’s pace. Minutes from the most recent meeting have not been published yet so Fossil Free UCL has taken it upon itself to leak the draft minutes which are as yet unapproved by committee members: