Positive Investment Cambridge scrutinising Cambridge University’s endowments


A short post following this evening’s event hosted by Stop The War Cambridge

I took Puffles along to this one because one of Puffles’ followers in the House of Commons, Jeremy Corbyn MP, was due to be headline speaker – though main aim was to get a feel for what the positive investment campaign was all about. But both he and Julian Huppert MP got tied up throwing lots of awkward questions and amendments to a controversial section of the Immigration Bill going through Parliament that seeks to give the Home Secretary powers to make persons ‘stateless’.

The event that I attended has details are at here – with the campaign’s Facebook page here. Although I didn’t catch the names of the speakers other than The speakers were  Daniel MacMillen Josh Simons and Sara Stillwell,  their diverse contributions making for quite an intense learning session. In particular I found the basics of how Cambridge University’s endowments are structured (and where the potential pressure points are) was the big new piece of learning. As about 80% of the audience was unfamiliar with the Freedom of Information Act 2000, I found this piece to be interesting too – even though I was familiar with the content. (I used to be a Freedom of Information Officer in the civil service and ran staff training sessions on it).

What I found interesting was the point made by the journalist from the Cambridge Tab about trying to reach out to audiences beyond Cambridge students – in particular their campaigning reports to schools and further education colleges in Cambridge. My only comment on that point was that the three schools named – The Perse, The Leys and Hills Road Sixth Form College serve affluent communities – the first two being private schools. How would students at Cambridge Regional College,  North Cambridge Academy and Parkside Coleridge respond to outreach from Cambridge students to a campaign encouraging Cambridge University and its colleges to invest in some of Cambridge’s more economically deprived communities? Hence my points in my manifesto.

Encouraging student campaigners to lean on local political parties – especially at election time. 

I mentioned me/Puffles are standing in Coleridge, saying that as a result of an exchange with one of positive investment Cambridge campaigners, I included a line calling on Cambridge City Council put pressure on Cambridge University around its investments, and in particular consider investing in the more economically deprived areas of Cambridge and Cambridgeshire, rather than in arms firms. Hence also mentioning the digital democracy challenge (see here – with links to local political parties at the end of the page). Again, rather than having Cambridge City Council seeing putting pressure on Cambridge University as a ‘standalone’ action, I think this could be within a wider theme of civic responsibility that large and/or influential institutions should be encouraged to sign up to. That way campaigners will have something to hold the institutions to.

“Do other universities have ethical investment things?”

Yes – see here for Oxford. Interestingly, I can’t find anything regarding Cambridge University’s ethical investment policies, let alone anything about them being proactive or publicising their ethical investments. As one of the speakers said, there are sometimes bizarre situations where on one side Cambridge University is investing firms that have a ‘colourful history’ of questionable activities regarding human rights and environmental pollution, while at the same time its students and academics are trying to solve the human rights and environmental problems in the same areas that those firms operate in.

This evening’s speakers and many of the audience contributions explained to me why Cambridge University needs to fundamentally overhaul its systems and processes to ensure its investments ***support*** the work of its students and academics in making the world a better place, ***support*** the local ‘non university’ communities and significantly improve its transparency on endowments and investments. Because the lack of transparency risks undermining the legitimacy (in the eyes of its own members as well as the people of Cambridge) of how Cambridge University earns investment income.





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