The announcement from the University of Glasgow Court follows a year of campaigning by more than 1,300 students led by the Glasgow Climate Action Society. Full divestment will mean the reallocation of around £18m of current investments over a 10-year period, bringing the total number of academic institutions committed to fully separating from the fossil fuel industry to 181.

Society member Sophie Baumert said: “We are delighted that the University of Glasgow has decided to take a committed stance against climate change and cut its financial ties with the fossil fuel industry. This is huge step for the Fossil Free campaign in the UK and we hope that our university will serve as a role model for other universities.”

Over the past 12 months, student campaigning organisation People & Planet has launched more than 50 Fossil Free campaigns involving 15,000 students across the UK.

Decisions from other universities, including the Edinburgh and Oxford, are imminent. Oxford University has the largest endowment wealth of any UK higher education institution with investments of £3.8bn.

Clean investment

People & Planet member Andrew Taylor said: “Divestment now has a firm foothold in the UK. Student and academic pressure to get out of fossil fuels is building across the sector. It’s time to stop profiting from wrecking the climate, whether you’re an institution with lots of money like Oxford or Edinburgh, or a world leader in climate research such as the University of East Anglia.

“Glasgow has helped make the moral case crystal clear and we expect more universities to very soon put their money where their research is.”

University Court secretary David Newall said: “The University recognises the devastating impact that climate change may have on our planet and the need for the world to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels. Over the coming years we will steadily reduce our investment in the fossil fuel extraction industry, while also taking steps to reduce our carbon consumption.”

People & Planet have noted that the movement away from fossil fuels and investment in clean alternatives has doubled in size since January 2014. In the UK a number of non-academic institutions including the British Medical Association, Oxford City Council and the Quakers have already pledged to divest.

In April this year, the National Union of Students (NUS) reported that today’s students want to gain employment with companies who truly value the importance of sustainability. A Higher Education Academy (HEA) and NUS survey found that more than 80% of students believe that sustainable development should be actively promoted and incorporated by UK universities.

Lois Vallely

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