Notts: we welcome clarity on tobacco funding

August 2, 2002

Nottingham University has welcomed tighter guidelines designed to stop universities accepting funding from the tobacco industry.

Cancer Research UK accused tobacco manufacturers of attempts to "exert influence on academic activities" and has sent proposed changes to its code of practice to vice-chancellors and principals for consultation.

It said the changes were a direct result of Nottingham's decision to accept £3.8 million from British American Tobacco in December 2000 to fund corporate responsibility research.

A Nottingham University spokesman said clear guidelines were essential, but insisted the university had followed current guidelines to the letter.

He said: "The money was used to help fund a new academic centre completely removed from any area funded by Cancer Research UK."

The new code states: "Nothing in this code shall be taken to imply that CRUK supports or approves of the use of tobacco industry funding for research."

The code now says that CRUK has "a duty to publicly criticise such funding". It extends the charity's right to withhold funding from departments, faculties or whole universities. In applications of equal merit, it will favour universities that receive no tobacco funds.

Jean King, director of tobacco control at CRUK, said: "Nottingham made out that our code supported its action. This was extremely misrepresented."

David Thurston and most of his 15-member anti-cancer drug design team left Nottingham after it accepted the BAT donation.

Professor Thurston, now at the London School of Pharmacy, said: "Had such measures been in place when I was at Nottingham, perhaps senior managers would have consulted CRUK-funded researchers to seek their view prior to acceptance of the BAT grant."

Cambridge and Nottingham are the only UK universities that receive tobacco industry funds. CRUK spends about £1.5 million a year at Nottingham.

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