U should get out of metrix!

 While the party of Wales Plaid Cymru sells us down the river
What an atrocious statement!! Pretence that "high quality jobs" are planned and no 'concerns' about training foreign troops or bringing in Serco, Raytheon for a 25 yr PFI, binding Wales to the 'English' military machine.

from their manifesto..
"Plaid Cymru has a number of concerns about the proposed development of the St. Athan Defence Training College. We will continue to seek reassurances that this large sum of public money will produce the promised high-quality jobs and boost to the local economy."

The Voice  The ou and the military

When the Vice Chancellor said  he felt ‘passionate about the vital role education plays in changing lives for the better’ and Open Door stressed he was ‘deeply committed to inclusion and social justice’, the ‘voice’ was delighted. Sadly, however, the OU has strayed from that commitment. 
It is currently a partner in Metrix, a partnership of companies bidding to obtain a large contract for the privatisation of military training in the UK.

One of the partnership members runs Yarl’s Wood, the immigration detention centre where innocent children are locked up behind high fences and barbed wire. Another has just been described by an official inquiry as showing  “incompetence, complacency and cynicism” , the direct cause of fourteen deaths. Another  member of Metrix, Raytheon, is the world’s largest manufacturer of missiles. It also makes ‘bunker buster’ bombs and ray machines to quell civilian demonstrators.

Although the details of the OU’s role in Metrix are shrouded in secrecy, the aim of the partnership is to provide training at a new military college that is planned for St Athans, South Wales. Even if the college opens, and so far millions of pounds have been poured into it without a single brick being laid, the OU will be lumbered with secretive partners — with no commitment to academic freedom. In addition, as the government has refused to rule out the training of forces from regimes which abuse human rights, the OU could be involved in work which does little to ‘change lives for the better’.

The OU cannot hope to keep its involvement  in this deal under wraps for long. The government contract will run for 25 years. Campaigners for Books not Bombs have been at the forefront of protests in universities at Nottingham, London, Cardiff and elsewhere. There has even been a demonstration outside the Wales OU Office. This partnership squanders any benefits the OU might have gained through re-branding and puts us at the centre of a partnership which promotes weaponry, not curiosity.

Put education first and pull the OU out of Metrix, Martin!


DODGY  DEAL -             
 More Tax Millions Prop
     Up Metrix Partnership

An MP has revealed the contents of a leaked Ministry of Defence (MOD) memo declaring the privatisation of military training (involving Metrix, in partnership with the OU) has a billion pound ‘affordability gap’ in its finances.

At the same time, a future Tory government may scrap the contract Metrix is hoping to be awarded!

Metrix was established as a partnership to obtain the estimated £12 billion government contract to centralise and part-privatise all the UK’s military training. The key feature of this Public Private Partnership (PPP) is a new Military College, reported to take 6,000 trainees studying 1,100 courses. This is planned to be built on the former site of an RAF base at St Athan in South Wales.

By the start of 2009, the project looked so unviable that Ministers had to quietly slip an “unnumbered  command paper” through the Commons providing Metrix with a £32 million risk guarantee to prevent the partnership going ‘belly up’. 

Then Mark Pritchard, Conservative MP for the Wrekin, obtained an MOD memo which stated “Currently there is a £1.3 billion affordability issue in the programme”. The programme referred to is the Defence Training Review (DTR) programme, the official name for the contract Metrix is bidding for. The role of the OU in the programme is ‘hush, hush’.

Metrix responded by claiming the ‘affordability issue’ had been resolved with bank finance ‘under negotiation’.

The final decision by government to go ahead and award the contract has already been delayed several times. The MOD claims this allows “further analysis...to ensure best value for money”. Last time such language was used, the scope of the project was cut back.

The leaked memo indicates that central to Metrix’s problems is the price of borrowing money. Supporters  of PPPs, which usually involve bank borrowing, frequently refer to such deals as ‘more efficient’ than schemes funded directly through tax revenue. But the memo states Metrix has a problem “borrowing money at a reasonable rate”. The Swiss UBS bank has  down-rated its investment advice on Metrix, suggesting its a very high risk venture.

Credit Margin
Funding problems are afflicting all PPP schemes. Where once banks would lend to such schemes at 1% ‘credit margin’ (the Royal Bank of Scotland is up to its neck in PPP-financed schemes) that has now risen to more like 3.5%.

‘Credit margin’ is the premium banks charge over and above the cost they themselves have to pay to obtain finance. In other words, the banks now view PPP
schemes as riskier. And are, in effect, now charging a ‘risk premium’. This despite Bank of England borrowing rates being at an all time low.

The Metrix partnership may however find itself way back in the queue for further government largesse, as political pressure mounts to divert funds to the more immediate need to fight the war in Afghanistan.

But the DTR may be scrapped completely after the forthcoming General Election! It was expected that a decision would be announced by the government this February regarding its future but this has now been postponed until  after the General election.

David Cameron has accused the government of “being disingenuous” over the project. But he refused to confirm that any future Conservative government would continue with it. Instead, he has said any incoming Tory government would conduct “a proper strategic defence review”.

Given the Conservative desire for spending cuts, will this “privatisation too far” be binned or cut back drastically? If it is, the substantial millions already sunk in it will cause Metrix (and the partners within it) to come under both Parliamentary and media scrutiny.

Giss Fewer Jobs!
In January, Metrix  publicly admitted what protestors have long claimed — the Military College will not create the number and kinds of jobs claimed when it was
first announced to the Welsh Assembly.

Now the jobs the project will create is declared to be 2,200, mainly in security, cleaning and catering. Previously Welsh politicians supporting the project had claimed it would generate 5,000 jobs. Rhodri Morgan, when First Minister in the Assembly stated “This will be a major boost for Wales, bringing 5,000 jobs, many of which will be highly skilled." By the end of last year, the press were referring to 4,000 jobs. What was initially referred to as a ‘military university’ (wonder where they got that idea?) was then re-branded to the status of a ‘military college’.

Meanwhile the Welsh Assembly Government (WAG) has agreed, with strings, to spend up to £12.5 million on ‘site clearance’ at St Athan for the MOD, before the construction of the  Military College can even begin in earnest.

In October 2009, the Vale of Glamorgan Council, covering St Athan’s, gave planning permission for the new College. A public inquiry regarding the site starts shortly and a number of anti-Metrix and local resident groups are preparing to oppose the development at the hearing.


Corruption, Human Rights Abuse, Under-Development, ebt, Death and Money

1. Global military expenditure in 2008 is estimated at $1464 billion. This is an increase of 4 per cent in real terms compared to 2007, and a 45 per cent increase since 1999. It was equal to 2.4 per cent of world gross domestic product (GDP) in 2008.
2. During the eight-year presidency of George W. Bush, US military expenditure increased to the highest level in real terms since World War II, due to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
3. The USA is the principal driver of this trend. US weapons are present in over half of the world’s current conflict areas.  American military expenditure makes up 41.5% of the world total,  followed by China, UK, France and Russia, (the last three each with 4-5 % of the world share). All these countries are veto-wielding permanent members of the UN Security Council - a body charged with promoting international peace!

4. The Defence Industries Council (DIC), a lobbying group of British arms companies, says the UK ‘only’ spends £528 a year per citizen on defence and this is not enough! But the UK’s spend increased by nearly 21% between 1999 and 2008. Nevertheless, the DIC claims “Politically [arms manufacture] has not been a priority despite the fact we are fighting wars. We have been too quiet as an industry.” Yet the UK ranks number 4 in the world in military expenditure (see Table A). A DIC spokesperson stated “Without a big stick or military capability I believe (the UK) would not be listened to” - a grim reflection of our approach to international relations.
5. Arms manufacture is  dominated by a small number
of US and W. European companies. US companies make up 63% of the top 100 arms manufacturers. W. European countries together make up a further 29%. Meanwhile, there is an increasing concentration of military expenditure, with just 15 countries spending 83 per cent of the world total.

6. The largest arms company in the UK, Europe and third in the world, is BAE Systems (see Table B). BAE Systems is the UK Ministry of Defence’s (MOD) main supplier, the only company to ever receive orders for more than £1 billion in a single year from the MOD, (in 2004/05). It employs 105,000 people world-wide.

7. BAE is buying up arms companies in the United States to gain market share in the world’s largest arms manufacturing market. But the US Department of Defence only buys from American companies, so BAE’s US subsidiaries are controlled by American executives under ’Special Security Arrangements’.

8.The fifth largest world arms manufacturer and largest missile manufacturer is Raytheon, which the Open University is partnering in the Metrix consortium. Raytheon is the leader of the Metrix training team.

9. Small arms business is booming. The BAE  factory in Cheshire, is working 24 hours a day, seven days a week producing 5 million machine gun and rifle bullets a week. A BAE manager said  "For the last 60 or 70 years we've been delivering into training. Now we're delivering into the highest operational tempo we've had for years”. BAE has spent  £25m on new
equipment to cope with the massive increase in demand for ammunition since British troops went into Afghanistan.

10. In other areas of its UK business BAE is making cut-backs with 2,300 redundancies in 2009, predominantly in activities related to the British pull out from Iraq. This emphasises the instability of arms manufacture employment.

11. The arms trade is notorious for bribery and corruption. OU partner Raytheon has been involved in a number of scandals. The largest scandal in the UK concerns BAE’s involvement in the infamous Al Yamamah deal, from which the company has earned an estimated £43 billion profit over twenty years. BAE has been accused of running a £60 million ‘slush fund’ to bring about the Al Yamamah (Arabic for ‘The Dove’) arms deal, selling fighter aircraft to ‘democratic’ Saudi Arabia.

12. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), a grouping of leading industrial countries, has said corruption “is the primary threat to good governance, sustainable economic development, democratic process and fair business practices”.

13. BAE runs an ‘Ambassadors’ programme encouraging employees to visit schools to “raise awareness of engineering as a career for young people”. At it’s launch, Alan Johnson, then Minister for Education and Skills, said he was “..encouraged and delighted that BAE Systems is actively promoting engineering in local schools”

14. The UK arms industry has been embroiled in scandals concerning sales to Indonesia, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Zimbabwe, Chile, the Czech republic, Qatar, Romania, South Africa, and Tanzania.

15. Civil liberties in arms manufacturing countries can also come under threat. In  2003 and 2007 BAE hired private detectives, to gather personal and confidential information on members of the Campaign Against The Arms Trade (CAAT).

16. The arms sector claims 10% of UK manufacturing jobs and exports more in value than the automotive industry.  These claims suggest the UK is strategically ‘over-dependent’ on the arms trade. As a number of high tech components are increasingly ‘dual-use’ (incorporated in civilian goods and military hardware) more companies over time will be sucked into dependency on arms manufacture. The OU partner, Raytheon, is currently seeking to adapt Apple’s iPhone for battlefield purposes. A Raytheon spokesperson said of the project “We are committed to providing innovative technology solutions for warfighters.” (a favourite Raytheon PR term).

17. Not only is the UK one of the world’s largest arms makers and dealers, it devotes approximately 30% of national research and development (R+D) to military purposes — the third largest R+D arms spend in the world, after the USA and Russia. It has been argued civilian UK engineering has consequently been deprived of skilled personnel, contributing to the overall decline in British manufacturing.

18. Arms supplies and political instability go hand in
hand.  Oxfam says “arms transfers alone do not cause armed conflict” but assert that “extensive research shows how the availability of and access to, conventional arms  and ammunition  can aggravate, intensify and prolong armed conflict”. In 2006 and 2007, the US transferred $11.2 billion dollars in arms and military services to 20 active war zones.

19. The consequences of climate change, such as greater competition for fresh water and desertification forcing mass migration, will promote future conflicts within and between states. This is particularly true where the West  provides arms for both sides in situations of tension, such as between India and Pakistan, Taiwan and China, Turkey and its Kurdish region.

20. Arms sales are of little use to recipient countries without trained military personnel to use them. Between 1997-2006 the UK trained 24,132 military personnel from 145 different countries.

21. Human rights abuses in recipient countries are no barrier to arms sales. The most notorious UK case involved the supply of Hawk fighter-bombers to Indonesia, under the dictator Suharto. Despite assurances they would be used only for external defence, they were employed to bomb supporters of independence for East Timor. The use of British machine guns and armoured vehicles against East Timor civilians is also alleged. One estimate of the subsequent death toll in East Timor came to 20,000 civilian deaths. Arms supposedly for ’external defence’ have also been used within states generating extensive human rights abuses in Sudan, Guinea, Burma (also known as Myanmar) and Nepal. 

22. Arms purchases create crippling national debt and limit development potential. Indonesia owes the UK  £500+ million for arms purchases, which will take until 2021 to pay off.  Eritrea, Angola, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo spend more on the military than on education and health combined. Guinea, Cote d’Ivore and Guinea-Bissau spend more on the military than on health.

23. The links between arms companies and governments are often close. In the UK, the government organisation created to monitor members of government wishing to move into private employment has said “in the case of the (Ministry of Defence) it can be argued that the numbers seeking such employment are so significant as to amount to a ‘traffic’ from the Department to the defence contractors who supply it”. Nine Defence Ministers have obtained jobs with  arms companies since the early 1990s. Former senior  military officers and Prime Ministerial advisors have also found lucrative appointments with arms companies.

24. Another aspect of government-arms linkage is the degree of  public finance (direct and indirect) the arms companies receive. One research study concluded that each arms industry job is publicly subsidised to the extent of £7,000-£14,400. Prime Ministers and members of Royalty have been known to promote UK arms sales on visits abroad. while government export credit guarantees (insuring companies if  buyer states fail to pay up) provides a public ‘safety net’ for the arms makers. In 2007-08 , 57% of UK government credit guarantees for all exporters went to the arms industry.


Child Detention And Fatal Crash Cast
Doubt On University Partnership Approach

The university is committed to ‘quality’ partnerships’. But what are they and do they promote ’social justice’?

Some partnerships now raise serious questions about the  establishment and maintenance of such links.

Here we examine the activities of two OU partners in the Metrix consortium. And suggest ethical guidelines are the sorely needed ‘missing link’ in the university’s partnership strategy.

Privatised Detention
Yarl’s Wood detention centre for asylum seekers near Bedford (a few miles from the OU campus at Milton Keynes) has a fearsome reputation. It is probably the grimmest element in the UK’s immigration removal system. Its history is dogged with scandals related to racism, sexual harassment, child detention, lack of adequate medical care and detainee suicides.

Yarl’s Wood holds people for potential deportation from the UK.. It was custom built and opened in 2001, when it was the largest immigration detention centre in Europe. In 2002 it burnt down 

during a so-called detainees ’riot’ but was re-built and re-opened in 2003.

The Prisons and Probations Ombudsman produced a report in 2004 regarding detainees allegedly subject to racist abuse and violence by staff at Yarl’s Wood. The Daily Mirror had carried out an undercover expose. The Ombudsman broadly supported the Mirror’s allegations but lamely noted that the staff concerned had already been ‘disciplined’.

Then in 2005, Manuel Bravo, an asylum seeker from Angola, in detention at Yarl’s Wood with his 13 year old son, killed himself. He hung himself so his son could remain in the UK, which he is now entitled to do until he is 18 years old. Then he can apply for asylum. Recently a teenage detainee at the Centre attempted to strangle herself to death. Children are held at Yarl’s Wood just because their parents are there.

Health Concerns
By 2006, the Chief Inspector of Prisons had examined Yarl’s Wood and made an astonishing 134 recommendations for its improvement. These included a call for health care at the centre to be directly provided by the NHS. In the same year, a Legal Action For Women investigation publicised detainees’ allegations of  sexual and racial intimidation by Yarl’s Wood staff.
In 2007, the Medical Justice campaign group, (made up of health professionals, lawyers and former immigration detainees) followed this up. It documented a range of concerns about detention centres, including Yarl’s Wood, drawing attention to the fact that, unlike criminal defendants, immigration detainees can be held indefinitely.
A consultant paediatrician at Homerton Hospital in east London, on behalf of Medical Justice, helped some of the detained children at Yarl’s Wood. He stated , "Apart from the intrinsic harm in detaining children, there is a very serious lack of health care in Yarl's Wood. It is a culture in which children remain invisible, a good old-fashioned whistle-blowing scandal. What officials say is happening bears no relation to reality."

Medical Justice called for the whole detention centre system to be scrapped.

Children’s Commissioner Report
Come May 2009, Professor Sir Al Aynsley-Green, the Children’s Commissioner for England, delivered his conclusions on ‘The Arrest And Detention Of Children Subject To Immigration Control’ and included critical comments on conditions at Yarl’s Wood.

The UK authorities, by their often prolonged detention of children at Yarl’s Wood, have been accused of breaching the UN’s Article 37 of the Convention On The Rights Of The Child. The Convention states that  “...the arrest, detention or imprisonment of a child….shall be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time”. Sir Al’s report agreed - “Children should be kept in detention for as short a time as possible”.

But the Commissioner’s report highlighted  

a situation where 1,000 children are locked up in the UK each year for ‘administrative reasons’ and the length of time they are imprisoned seems to be increasing. Britain has  consequently been accused of having the worse record in Europe for child detention.

Based on an inspection of Yarl’s Wood and its facilities, Sir Al went on to comment, like previous reports, on the medical care  of detainees. He concluded the health care provided was well below NHS standards.

His report said “..children at Yarl’s Wood do not get the same standard of health care as other children. In fact .. some children are put in danger by not getting the right healthcare”. Sir Al Aynsley-Green, has subsequently said that the detention policy "can only be described as inhuman".

Medical Risks
Reports suggest medical provision at Yarls Wood involves no effort to retrieve existing medical records; vaccinations are missed or given incorrectly; serious diseases, including sickle cell anaemia and insulin dependent diabetes, are inadequately treated ; and children poorly prepared for the health risks they may face on deportation.

A senior GP has referred three of his medical colleagues to the General Medical Council (GMC) for their lack of ‘quality’ care at Yarl’s Wood. Whether the GMC  will act against them remains to be seen.

In October 2009, a team of paediatricians and psychologists reported their findings from examining 24 children, from 3 months to 17 years old, held at Yarl’s Wood.

They found 73% of the children had ‘significant emotional and behavioural problems’, ranging from bed wetting, 

through sleep difficulties, regressed language skills, and weight loss. Of the nine parents interviewed at the Centre, six had contemplated suicide and two were, at the time, on suicide watch.

Quality Partner?
Now all this may constitute a substantial scandal and infringement of UK detainees’ human rights but what direct concern is it to the OU?

Well, the company that has held the contract from January 2007 (from the UK Border Agency) to run Yarl’s Wood is called SERCO — an OU partner in the Metrix consortium. It holds direct managerial day-to-day responsibility for Yarl’s Wood and the conditions there. These include medical care for detainees, employing the nurses  and bringing in sessional locum doctors.

Operating internationally, SERCO obtains two thirds of its near £2 billion annual turnover, from government contracts.  It is well on its way to becoming the biggest private operator of prisons in the UK, recently winning contracts to build new prisons on Merseyside and in South-East London. Nearly 30% of its revenue stems from military-related contracts. In short, Serco is very much in the business of privatising public services.

Dignity and Respect
SERCO’s literature asserts that at Yarl’s Wood “We ensure all detainees are treated with dignity and respect”. Unfortunately, not what the series of investigations above suggest. Nor what events at the gates of Yarl’s Wood just before Xmas 2009 bear witness to.

On that occasion two clerics visited Yarl’s Wood, one dressed as Santa Claus, with presents to hand out to children held in detention. SERCO staff refused them entry or to hand over the presents to the children.

The SERCO guards seemed to think that Santa Claus was a ‘security risk’ and decided to call the police. The two clerics (one a canon  from Westminster Abbey) were consequently turned away from carrying out their small act of charity. Don’t forget, children at Yarl’s Wood are not there because they have committed any crime

The incident provoked one national newspaper to  point out ”Yarl’s Wood is a prison for people who have not been found guilty of any crime ….Clearly SERCO…. has everything to gain from locking up kids in this dreadful place”. SERCO has a vested financial interest in the continued operation of the detention centre system.

Following the ‘Santa Claus’ incident, 70 of the UK’s leading authors and illustrators of  children’s books, including Phillip Pullman, Jaqueline Wilson, Benjamin Zephaniah (the holder of an honorary OU degree) and  Carol Ann Duffy the Poet Laureate, called in an open letter for the government to immediately end child immigration detention in the UK. Other countries  have already moved away from this approach, with Australia for example, introducing a more humane  ‘sheltered housing’ accommodation system for asylum seekers.

Nimrod Inquiry
The second OU partnership link also concerns a member of the Metrix consortium — QinetiQ (pronounced as ‘kinetic’). And, like SERCO, it also operates in a sensitive political area - this time, arms research and development.

In fact the very creation of QinetiQ was wrapped in controversy. Privatised from state ownership within the Ministry of Defence (MOD) in 2001, it was floated on the London Stock Exchange in 2006. The floatation overnight made the former MOD civil servants who became its Directors, multi-millionaires. Media reports at the time suggested Sir John Chisholm, QinetiQ's Chair, made £20 million from the floatation.

Since then QinetiQ has expanded its activities world-wide, seeking (like BAE Systems), to break into the lucrative US arms market via 

 acquisition of American arms companies.

But now, the deaths of service personnel in the skies above Afghanistan have raised serious issues regarding the ‘quality’ of QinetiQ's activities, culture and management.

Mid-Flight Explosion
The Haddon-Cave Inquiry, named after the QC who lead it, was charged with investigating the circumstances surrounding the mid-air explosion of an RAF Nimrod surveillance aircraft over Afghanistan in 2006. Fourteen service personnel lost their lives in the explosion — the largest single loss of life for the UK military since the Falklands War.

The conclusions of the inquiry were published in November 2009 and they couldn’t have been more damning. The immediate cause of the disaster was identified as the ignition of fuel as it fell on a hot air pipe within the aircraft, causing the whole plane to explode in the air.

But beyond that fact, Haddon-Cave did not spare his criticisms of two companies involved in the overhauling of the Nimrod fleet — BAE Systems and QinetiQ.

‘Incompetence, Complacency + Cynicism’
Charles Haddon-Cave, QC, an experienced aviation expert, paid particular attention to the four year refurbishment exercise that was meant to identify and correct potential problems with the RAF’s Nimrod fleet. That exercise was carried out by BAE Systems with QinetiQ contracted to check the quality of the work. BAE therefore should have identified and corrected the lethal fault that lead to the Nimrod mid-air explosion. And QinetiQ 

should have identified if that work had  been carried out safely and correctly. These companies, the report said, had ignored “key dangers”.

The Haddon-Cave report directly and heavily criticised the Ministry of Defence, BAE and QinetiQ. The four-year Nimrod programme was labelled “a lamentable job from start to finish” and  the approach of the three organisations was described as a tale of “incompetence, complacency and cynicism”. Within that, QinetiQ was specifically accused of failing in its responsibilities as a supposedly ‘independent’ verifier of the quality of the work carried out on the aircraft by BAE.

Resignation and Legal Action
Within hours of the publication of the inquiry report, Graham Love, QinetiQ's Chief Executive Officer (CEO), announced he was leaving the company. QinetiQ however refused to reveal how much Mr Lowe would walk away with under any applicable ‘golden parachute’ agreement. It did, incredibly, seek to maintain that Mr Lowe’s departure and the outcome of the Haddon-Cave inquiry were in no way connected.

Mr Lowe, it announced, although standing down as CEO would, fortunately, continue in an advisory capacity to QinetiQ for the company’s involvement in the Metrix partnership!!! Very re-assuring for the future of the OU’s Metrix partnership!

Media sources, noted that many CEOs for FTE 250-listed company (such as Qinetiq) often receive a 12 month salary payment. It is therefore estimated Mr Lowe’s pay off could amount to £500,000.

Meanwhile, lawyers for the families of the military victims of QinetiQ's ‘incompetent, complacent and cynical’ actions, are considering legal action against QinetiQ and BAE, who were contracted to identify, resolve and verify air worthiness work on the Nimrod fleet. 

Ethical Partnerships                
What the links with SERCO and QinetiQ, through Metrix, tell us is that in terms of  corporate responsibility (Figure 1 below) the OU’s approach to partnerships appears to focus on the economic and the legal. But if a partnership generates an economic profit/

surplus and the external  organisation’s activities are legal, is that all it takes to make it an OU ‘quality partnership’? What about organisational ‘values’?

For some, the legal and economic elements are sufficient  — ’We operate legally and profitably. Those are our values’.  But is that good enough for an organisation that claims to promote values of ‘social justice’?

Increasingly even commercial organisations no longer see the legal and economic elements as

longer see the legal and economic elements as sufficient in a world of increasing pressure from consumer and other stakeholders to operate ethically. They want to know what values an organisation operates with in practice, not theory.

And they want organisations to set out the   steps they operationally employ to promote those values. The missing element from the corporate responsibility pyramid in the OU’s partnership arrangements  at present appears to be an open, formal and transparent set of ethical  guidelines linking in practice the university’s values to economic and legal legitimacy.

’Quality partnerships’ call for value criteria to be applied to partnership selection and operations. It is hard to see how the activities of QinetiQ and SERCO, contribute to ’quality’ partnerships  promoting ’social justice’.

If the university fails to employ an ethical measuring stick to set partnerships against, merely proclaiming ‘quality partnerships’ and ‘social justice’ becomes a hollow exercise. A charade that will, in time, damage the university’s most valuable intangible asset — it’s brand.

As the troubling activities of SERCO, QinetiQ and Metrix suggest, the need to put a partnership ethical framework in place at the OU appears to be an increasingly urgent one.


The Co-operative Banked started in 1872 as the Loan and Deposit section of the Co-operative Wholesale Society.

After the First World War, it began opening branches, taking in business from trade unions.

It was formally registered as a   separate organisation and became a bank, under the Co-operative Bank Act of 1971.

Through the 1970s it acquired a reputation for innovation. It was the first bank to bring in free banking on current accounts in credit and interest-bearing current accounts.

By the 1980s however, other banks had caught up and the Co-operative Bank was struggling to assert its market identity.

Then a new managing director proposed the Bank needed to  “revisit its inheritance” providing  the differentiation the organisation required.

The Co-operative movement, started in the days of 19th century industrialisation and had strong ‘social justice’ roots.

The first effective co-operative society, in Rochdale, had been established to provide un-adulterated food to its members when staples such as flour and tea were cut with cheaper substances such as  chalk and even gunpowder.

Members of this retail co-operative were entitled to a share of its profits, related to the amount of supplies purchased.

The 1980s re-evaluation of the Bank’s roots in the values of social justice lead to it launching an ethical savings account and charity-related affinity credit cards.

In 1992 the Bank went on to introduce an Ethical Policy setting out guidelines determining the activities the Bank will and will not lend for. Surveys have shown that 80% of the Bank’s customers support the Policy.

The Ethical Policy originally set out criteria relating to potential borrower activities with implications for human rights, ecological  impact, animal welfare, the arms trade and corporate responsibility.

The policy is under constant review. In 2009, after wide consultation with customers, the Bank developed its’ Policy in the areas of human rights, international development, social enterprise, ecological impact and animal welfare.

For example , under the International Development heading, it added the criterion that the Bank would “deny finance to those multinationals that avoid paying tax in the least developed countries through the use of tax havens”. This followed 98% of customers consulted saying they supported this statement.

Since 1992, the Bank has turned down £1 billion of lending business that did not meet its ethical guidelines. At the same time, the Bank’s overall lending has grown from £571 million to £4.4 billion in 2008 — an average annual 14% growth rate!

In 2005-06 it made profits of £96.5 million, referred to by the Bank as ‘profits with principles’.

Every year the Bank has the implementation of its ethical policies examined by an independent auditor.

The Co-operative Bank has returned to the social justice roots of the co–op movement and has clearly reaped the commercial rewards of linking values to its everyday economic and legal obligations.


Involvement In Military Projects Has
Big Implications For The
Future Of Universities

Scientists For Global Responsibility (SGR) carries out research, education, and lobbying centred around the military, environmental and political aspects of science, design and technology.

Chris Langley, SGR’s principal researcher, here reports on the organisation’s research into military influence at UK Universities, highlighting serious concerns and making recommendations for reform.


SGR has been active since 2003 in uncovering the many ways in which the military sector is involved in science, engineering and technology (SET) in the UK.

So to promote informed debate and push for change in this area, SGR uses its research to produce reports, articles and presentations. It networks with a number of different groups and individuals, including a great many academics.

All of this activity generates considerable interest and discussion in a wide variety of fora  in the UK and abroad. And it provides the opportunity for many in the SET community to give voice to their fears about the loss of the traditional academic ethos in the UK.

‘Behind Closed Doors’
In 2008 SGR launched an in-depth study of the more subtle but significant, aspects of military involvement in a sample of 16 universities in the UK (see Box A). The study, ‘Behind Closed

SGR has been active since 2003 in uncovering the many ways in which the military sector is involved in science, engineering and technology (SET) in the UK.

So to promote informed debate and push for change in this area, SGR uses its research to produce reports, articles and presentations. It networks with a number of different groups and individuals, including a great many academics.

All of this activity generates considerable interest and discussion in a wide variety of fora  in the UK and abroad. And it provides the opportunity for many in the SET community to give voice to their fears about the loss of the traditional academic ethos in the UK.

‘Behind Closed Doors’
In 2008 SGR launched an in-depth study of the more subtle but significant, aspects of military involvement in a sample of 16 universities in the UK (see Box A). The study, ‘Behind Closed Doors’ (Reference 1) describes the impact on both individuals and universities of  increasing military involvement with the academic community.

Such involvement over the past twenty years can be traced to two major trends.

Firstly, the increasing dependence on high-technology, weapons-based approaches to tackling complex security threats, most recently as part of the so-called ‘War on Terror’. This can contribute to the marginalisation of alternative approaches to dealing with a broad range of security problems. This ‘Revolution in Military Affairs’, as it has been described, is discussed in detail in SGR’s report, ‘More Soldiers in the Laboratory’ (Ref 2).

The second trend is the rapid commercialisation of universities, encouraging them to work more closely with large corporations in teaching, training and research. Universities then tend  to prioritise work that yields short-term commercial benefits, with the very real danger that free enquiry and the pursuit of socially and environmentally-orientated work may be marginalised.

From 2002, the effort to involve UK universities in military partnerships was stepped up. Three new programmes were created – the Defence Technology Centres, Defence Aerospace Research Partnerships and the Towers of Excellence. By 2006, the government published its Defence Technology Strategy, which marked a further concerted push to involve universities.
Alternatives And Skewed Research
‘Behind Closed Doors’ uses the Freedom of Information Act, interviews with senior university staff and other sources of information to examine the ways in which both military and related commercial involvement affects researchers and the traditional ethos of universities.

It concludes there are much higher levels of military involvement – both corporate and governmental – than officially acknowledged, together with a disturbing lack of openness and accountability on the part of universities and other institutions. The data collected raises serious concerns about bias in research agendas. And about the value for money in public expenditure in UK universities.

The financial data indicates the official figures for military funding at universities is greatly underestimated and is in reality, perhaps five times larger than normally recognised.

A very high proportion of the over 100 universities in the UK receive such military income. For example, 42 out of 43 UK universities investigated (in four recent studies) were found to receive funding to pursue military objectives (data on the other university was inconclusive).

A worrying trend is clear: high prestige universities and departments of engineering and physical sciences are over-represented in university-military partnerships. This potentially limits the availability of skilled staff for work in alternative civilian areas, and reduces access to independent expert advice. Lucrative contracts from this highly profitable sector can be very appealing to researchers on tight budgets. But it is important to remember that funding is only part of the influence exerted by the military within academia (see ‘Soldiers in The Laboratory’, Ref: 3).

Universities present themselves, on their websites and in promotional material, as open, accountable institutions yet, when challenged during this research, they fell well short in a number of important respects. These included the difficulties ecountered in trying to locate detailed, comprehensive data on the different kinds of military involvement in universities. This  is due to a combination of incomplete record-keeping, commercial restrictions, pressures on researchers and, most disturbingly, evasiveness of officials. Senior university academics, corporations and researchers are very reluctant to discuss details of their activities when they are related to military involvement within universities, despite these institutions receiving significant public funding. The study was frustratingly unable to learn more about such issues as intellectual property rights, teaching direction and openness in partnerships involving the military sector.

Details of the publications that arise from military funding is withheld by some universities, even when using the Freedom of Information Act.

Interviews and discussions with many at the sample of 16 universities studied in ‘Behind Closed Doors’, show that there is considerable disquiet among non-military funded university staff about the growing military presence within their institutions. One of the main concerns is related to general worries about the power of vested interests – especially large corporations – to influence the research agenda and make it more ‘conformist’ and less transparent.

Agenda for change
‘Behind Closed Doors’ suggests a number of important recommendations, to curb the undue influence of the military sector and to reinvigorate the traditional academic ethos.

Universities need to remember that they still receive substantial public funding and should be more accountable. University managers too should be more open and transparent about the funding that their university receives and be responsive to legitimate scrutiny. Secrecy damages both the health and the public perception of science and technology.

Steps need to be taken as a matter of urgency to ensure that Freedom of Information requests are properly dealt with and that the legislation is understood and requests are acted upon promptly and efficiently.

There needs to be much greater realisation by senior academics and university managers that military involvement on campus is an area of serious ethical concern among members of staff and students, as well as in the wider community– and that there consequently needs to be a much wider debate on this issue.

Professional and policy circles must give greater recognition to the fact that there are viable and effective alternatives to the dominant high technology, weapons-based approach to security problems. At present, thinking within the military sector still owes much to outmoded notions of where threats lie and is coloured by the power of multinational military corporations, influencing the choice of response.

Academics throughout the UK must feel able to speak openly about and question prevailing orthodoxies, including the growing commercialisation and militarisation of UK universities. The predominant commercial ethos across the university sector must be examined in detail and where necessary challenged. Many in the UK realise that our universities are too important for their independence to be compromised by over attention to business objectives.

There are some encouraging signs that the UK government, in its National Security Strategy launched in March 2008, recognises that security is about much more than weapons and their support platforms, but how these signs might actually translate into action is going to be critical. As scientists and concerned citizens, we urgently need to have a fully informed and open discussion in the UK on the role of universities in society, their damaging commercialisation and their involvement in the security strategy that we adopt.

Dr Chris Langley is sole or lead author of the SGR reports, ‘Soldiers in the Laboratory’, ‘More Soldiers in the Laboratory’ and ‘Behind Closed Doors’.


1. Langley C, Parkinson S, Webber P (2008). ‘Behind Closed Doors’: Military influence, commercial pressures and the compromised university. SGR.

2. Langley C, Parkinson S, Webber P (2007). ‘More Soldiers in the Laboratory’: The militarisation of science and technology – an update. SGR.

3. Langley C (2005). ‘Soldiers in the Laboratory’: Military involvement in science and technology – and some alternatives. Editors: Parkinson, S, Webber, P. SGR.

All three reports can be downloaded from:


Paper copies can be ordered from the SGR office — for prices and further details, see


ter • Autumn 2008 • Issue 36

LADY BRITOMART: There is no moral question in the matter at all, Adolphus. You must simply sell cannons and weapons to people whose cause is right and just and refuse them to foreigners and criminals.

UNDERSHAFT (determinedly): No: none of that. You must keep the true faith of an armourer...To give arms to all men who offer an honest price for them, without respect of persons or principles: to aristocrat and republican, to Nihilist and Tsar, to Capitalist and Socialist, to Protestant and Catholic, to burglar and policeman, to black man, white man and yellow man, to all sorts and conditions, all faiths, all follies, all causes and all crimes…..

George Bernard Shaw’s, play
Major Barbara, Act III

“And so the glossy magazines pile up …….It is a linguistic journey into a fantasy world. Half the words used by the arms-sellers—protection, reliability, optimisation, excellence, family, history, respect, trust, timelessness and
perfection—invoke human virtues, even the achievements of the spirit. The other half—punchy, gutsy, performance, experience,
potency, fightability, brawn and breed—were words of naked aggression, a hopelessly
infantile male sexuality to prove that might is right. The Americans named their weapons—the Apache helicopter, the Arrowhead navigation system, the Kiowa multiple launch platform, the Hawkeye infrared sensors—after a native American population that their nation had laid waste. Or the Western manufacturers called then raptors or piranhas. The only thing they didn’t mention was death”.

Robert Fisk describing ‘sales’ brochures collected from his attendance at a ‘Defence Exhibition’ in Abu Dhabi.

From: The Great War For Civilisation, The Conquest Of The Middle East, by R.Fisk
(Harper Perennial, 2006)

Working Group Opponents
Transformed Into Supporters 

Fears are mounting among
ordinary members of the university’s UCU Branch about how their Executive operates. Concerns centre on a working group looking at ethically investing members funds.

At the March 2009 Branch General Meeting, a motion to set up a Working Group to examine the options for ethical investment of local members’ funds was defeated.

The Branch Honorary Treasurer, David ‘Commercial Sector’ Knowles, opposed the motion by putting forward a counter proposal — to invite the Branch be addressed by Unity Trust Bank, an institution which does not have an ethical policy (??).

Mr Knowles was heartily supported by another Executive member, Alan ‘I Can Talk Louder Than You’ Carr.

About Face!
But what’s this? Having defeated the proposal in March, at the June meeting of the Executive the Working Group idea was mysteriously resurrected.

The original motion proposed the Working Group include up to three Executive members. On this occasion however it was decided only two Executive members would be needed.

And who might those two be? None other than Alan ‘I’m The Man To Listen To’ Carr and David ‘I Love HSBC’ Knowles  - the very people who spoke against the original motion to set up the  Working Group. Huh??

Arms and Dubai Investments
What IS  going on? Is  Alan ’Fidel’ Carr trying to clean-up the Branch Treasurer’s rather tattered image? It’s certainly in need of a ‘wash and brush-up’. Mr Knowles has proclaimed on several occasions that although some funds should go into ethical investment, the Branch needs to keep investing in what he obliquely calls the ‘commercial sector’.

He appears to favour investing with HSBC, which he has stated “is the safest of the High Street banks”.

For a member of the newly-revived Ethical Working Group and Branch Treasurer, Mr Knowles appears however to have overlooked a recent War On Want report. This showed HSBC to be the biggest ’un-ethical’ investor among the ’High Street’ banks thanks to its huge investments in arms manufacture. And HSBC is the biggest foreign bank investor in the United Arab Emirates. With over $17 billion sunk into the confederation of un-democratic Gulf states, HSBC may now be badly hit by the collapse in the Dubai property bubble. Clearly, both HSBC’s commercial acumen and its’ ethical stance  leave a lot to be desired. Still, it’s in the commercial sector. Which is good ?? Isn’t it??

Bets Taken
None of these strange events are thought to have anything whatever to do with the fact that UCU headquarters banks with Unity Trust. Or with the fact that Alan ‘The Member For Havana’ Carr is also the UCU National Treasurer. Could he be looking for ‘brownie points’ from HQ?

We eagerly await the outcome of the UCU Ethical Investment Working Group’s deliberations.

Unity Trust has yet to be invited to address a Branch General Meeting. But guess which is the only organisation members of the Working Group are reported to have met with, to date? No points if you said ‘Unity Trust’. The Working Group has yet to have a similar meeting with the Co-op Bank—the only bank that War On Want found to have a written ethical lending policy AND to operate it in practice. 

The ‘voice’ will willingly take money off any reader who wants to bet that the Working Group finally recommends the UCU Branch invest with Unity Trust , despite it being bereft of a written and operational ethical lending policy?

(Enough with the nicknames ….Ed.)  

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