UMIST's BAT tie-up ignites staff anger

February 6, 1998

The University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology has become embroiled in a tobacco money row after signing a sponsorship deal with BAT Industries.

BAT appeared as the lead backer of a new chair in corporate communications alongside Tesco, Rover, British Aerospace and other industrial concerns in a national newspaper advertisement for the post. But the university's association with the tobacco giant has prompted a storm of protest from some UMIST academics who say the money should be returned.

UMIST spokesman Tim Yates said the matter was being taken seriously and a new ethics committee had been set up to deal with the concerns that would meet for the first time in early March. Mr Yates stressed that the BAT money, about Pounds 50, 000, was not connected with any medical research. "There is no ethical reason why BAT should not back us for a chair in corporate communications," he said. "However, should the ethical committee, chaired by a member of council, take a different view then we would have to take that into account."

Initial sponsorship negotiations had been with Eagle Star Insurance, which was later taken over by BAT Industries, he added.

But not everyone at UMIST accepts the official stance. Association of University Teachers' representative Jo Marsh said a "considerable number" of academics were very concerned about UMIST's association with BAT and an AUT resolution had urged UMIST to give the money back to BAT.

Another senior UMIST academic who asked not to be named said there were worries that funding from other sources, such as cancer charities, could be jeopardised by the deal. "There is widespread unease about this. Any institution of teaching and learning ought to be embarrassed about an association with the tobacco industry."

The chair in corporate communications will be the first appointment in the establishment of the the Manchester School of Management's centre for corporate communications.

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