Vice-chancellors have told the Cancer Research Campaign that its draft code of practice on tobacco industry backing for research is unacceptable to universities.
Diana Warwick, chief executive of the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals, says fears have been raised that the code represents a blanket embargo on universities accepting tobacco industry money. While recognising there were circumstances where it would be right to refuse tobacco funding, Ms Warwick has written to Gordon McVie, director general of the Cancer Research Campaign, setting out the CVCP's concerns.
For instance, it may "even be considered illegal", she says, for universities or charities to reject funding from sources where there is no connection between tobacco products and the proposed research.
Ms Warwick has also stressed the importance of distinguishing between donations, sponsorship and contracted funds, a point also raised by the Association of Medical Research Charities. Its members fear that they may be excluded from universities under the proposed guidelines if they accept money from tobacco firms.
The association says some small medical charities that support conditions unrelated to tobacco use are dependent on support from firms in tobacco conglomerates.
Ms Warwick says the CRC concerns about the positive public relations derived from corporate donations and sponsorship are not confined to the tobacco industry. In medical research, for example, concerns might also arise from links with pharmaceutical companies, car manufacturers, the alcohol industry, fatty foods, sugar, nuclear energy and defence industries.
"If charities, including universities, were required to respond to these by a similar embargo as that of the draft code, it is unlikely any corporate funding would be acceptable,'' she says.