OXFORD, UK – Today, Oxford campaigners cordoned off the historic Sheldonian building in central Oxford and started to prospect for oil under the banner “WELCOME TO THE SHELL-DONIAN” to highlight the ongoing investments of the university into the fossil fuel industry. Donned in biohazard suits complete with a giant cardboard oil rig, the stunt highlighted the complicity of the university in fossil fuel extraction just days before the University Council meet to decide whether or not to recommend fossil fuel divestment (Monday 18th May). This has been done in solidarity with the students attending the speaker’s corner in Radcliffe Square, who are also acting to put pressure on the university to divest from fossil fuels.

Quote from student campaigner:

“We’re calling the university out in its hypocrisy; how can they tell others to act on climate change, but continue to profit from it themselves? Today we, the students of the University of Oxford, are showing that we won’t stand for it any longer”

Since the failure of the University to make a decision back in March, the case for divestment has been growing, with the Church of England divesting from Coal and Tar Sands along with 180 global institutions including the University of Glasgow, the University of Bedfordshire and the University of London SOAS.

The Univeristy of Oxford had in 2012 £3.8bn of endowments, making up 41% of the total wealth of UK universities, and following on from previous divestments on arms manufacturing, campaigners are asking the university: to evaluate the carbon risk across their portfolio; to move from high­carbon assets to low­carbon alternatives; to cut direct investments in coal and tar sands oil; and to engage with policy makers, financial regulators and corporate management.

36 common rooms in Oxford have so far given their support to the campaign, as well as over 100 academics and almost 800 alumni (who have also pledged not to donate to the university if it does not divest. In addition, over 65 Oxford alumni have decided to give back their degrees if the university does not divest.

Quote from Sunniva Taylor, an alumna who will give back her degree if the university foes not divest:

“This is not just a question of integrity for me. I want to use the privilege having [an Oxford degree] gives me to try and shake things up; to use my power to draw attention to others’. The University of Oxford still has a lot influence – nationally and globally – and so the choices it makes about where it puts its money really do matter.”

Quote from Jeremy Leggett, solar energy entrepreneur and alumnus:

“I don’t think universities should be training young people to craft a viable civilisation with one hand and bankroll its sabotage with the other.”


For photos and quotes: Rowan Davis, /


  1. People & Planet is Britain’s largest student network campaigning on environmental justice and human rights coordinates the UK university fossil fuel divestment movement.­free
  2. UK universities invest an estimated £5.2 billion annually in the fossil fuel industry (Knowledge and Power, 2013). See a full list of all the institutions that have divested.
  3. Information on the growth of the divestment movement can be found in Measuring the Global Fossil Fuel Divestment Movement (2014) by Arabella Advisors.­the­Global­Divestment­Movement.pdf
  4. More information on the Oxford University campaign so far can be found at their website.
  5. Jeremy Leggett wrote an article in the Guardian on why he will give back his degree:

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