Russell Group universities take fossil fuel funding


The University of York is in the minority of Russell Group universities not having their research funded by fossil fuel companies

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By Joseph Higgins

A number of universities in the Russell Group have reportedly come under fire recently for accepting large quantities of funding from fossil fuel companies covering the spectrum from oil and gas to coal. The Independent has reported that the majority of the members of the Russell Group, totaling 24 Universities have taken some of the £60 Million total that was paid over the last five years.

The funding appears to mostly have been received by the earth sciences departments of the universities in question, according to the data collected by The Independent, despite the fact that many of those same earth science departments have declared that man-made climate change has caused what constitutes a “climate crisis”, a conclusion that is directly at odds with the fossil fuel industry that is apparently funding some of those same departments.

The largest recipient of funding from the fossil fuel industry was, by far, Imperial College London, whose earth sciences department accepted £30 Million, half of the total accepted by the Russell Groups as a whole. The second-highest recipient was the University of Leeds at £11.2 Million followed by Edinburgh’s £7.5 Million and Oxford’s £4.8 Million respectively. While the top four universities did account for the majority of the total funding, the true total is likely to be higher as some universities declined to comment and the University of Sheffield, London School of Economics, and King’s College were excluded from the research as they do not have definitive earth sciences departments.

The University of York joined the company of the minority of Russell Group universities that responded to *The Independent’*s request by stating they had not accepted any funding from the fossil fuel industry into their research or teaching in the Earth Sciences departments which reinforces the environmental pledges that have been made by Vice Chancellor Charlie Jeffrey in the past, more information on which can be found here. The other universities that said they had not taken funding were Birmingham, Nottingham, Southampton, Queen Mary, and Queen’s Belfast.

Many of the top five universities that admitted to taking fossil fuel industry funding have pledged in the past to divest from that source of funding and sell their shares in fossil fuel companies, although spokespersons from those universities, in particular the University of Leeds, stated in 2019 that it would do so “over time” and, as the figures are for the past five years, there is no evidence that those pledges are not yet being kept.