Birkbeck, University of London has been widely slammed by the energy industry for its decision to ban fossil fuels recruiters from its careers fairs.
The institution’s “ethical careers policy” means it will “not hold relationships of any kind with oil, gas or mining companies”, placing the industry into a similar category of banned sectors like tobacco, pornography and gambling.
He added: “Energy companies, which is what these ‘oil’ companies are now or are rapidly becoming, are the main source of funding for research into CCS, critical for the energy transition, and for hydrogen and geothermal.”
While more work is needed, he added that “no other industry” has the capital and technical ability to deliver the energy transition. He also asked how Birkbeck University heats its buildings, if not via fossil fuels.
A careers consultant at Birkbeck said that, as the climate crisis continues “we are proud to help minimise exposure to those industries in any capacity that we can”.
Meanwhile J Clarke of People & Planet told the Guardian that “these jobs are terrible for the planet” and “simply don’t make sense” since they are industries which are “going to rapidly downsize of cease to exist entirely within the working lifetime of students”.
However, the UK’s Committee on Climate Change estimates oil and gas will continue to be a part of the country’s energy mix beyond 2050, and efforts are underway to transition oil and gas jobs into areas like hydrogen, CCS and floating wind, as per the North Sea Transition Deal signed with government last year.
‘The university will continue to take their course fees’
Birkbeck University has been asked to comment.
According to its website, the uni runs 12 geology courses, which one industry professional highlighting that means the “cohort will not now have the same opportunity to engage with recruiters”, unlike other institutions, “whilst the university will continue to take their course fees”.
Andy Wood, subsurface manager at Ceraphi Energy, a company specialising in geothermal energy – a renewable resource – condemned it as “wokeism”.
“I’m concerned that what are described as the sharpest minds of their generation are so focused on the fad of wokeism, they are unaware of the importance and implications of their action.”
He went on to add: “Yes, it’s incredibly important to acknowledge the damage fossil fuels do to the environment. It’s also important these budding minds know that companies which produce oil and gas also build wind farms and invest in alternative energy
“As a geothermal champion my hope is my adopted industry becomes a significant piece of the energy puzzle, aiming to bring the planet to net zero.”
‘Hysteria wins again’
Louise Wood, managing director at Prodrill Energy Resource Solutions in Aberdeen, said it is “idealism at its worst”.
She added: “Oil & gas companies are part of the solution for energy transition… whilst we are all entitled to our own beliefs and ethics, I am astounded that an educational establishments have taken this line.”
Alongside dozens of others condemning the move, Andy Quallington, head of geoscience information products at Getech – a firm specialising in production of green hydrogen – said “hysteria wins again, conveniently ignoring measures these companies are taking on the low carbon path”.
Iman Hill, CEO of the International Association of Oil and Gas Producers, added: “I’d be a bit concerned attending a university that holds such an unbalanced and short sighted view. And also thinks it can limit my freedom of choice for my future.”
It comes as academic institutions across the country have taken steps like divesting from pension funds linked to fossil fuels.
Aberdeen University, considered one of the UK’s top academic institutions for petroleum studies, decided last year to exclude fossil fuel extractor companies from its £52.7m investment portfolio by 2025.
At the time, the uni became the 90th such institution to commit to divestment.