DURHAM University chiefs faced a backlash from their academics yesterday after accepting £125,000 from a tobacco giant.
Unnamed members of the faculty at Durham University criticised the university’s management for accepting the money from British American Tobacco (BAT) to help fund for a scholarship programme for Afghan women.
The money was used to help fund the Chancellor’s Scholarship for Afghan Women Appeal, which aims to bring five female graduates from Kabul University to the North East each year for five years.
But academics told Durham University’s Students’ Union newspaper, the Palatinate, the decision had shown “poor judgment” and had gone against the overall ethos of the university.
One of the quoted academics said: “The poor judgement in taking funding from the profits of a universally-maligned tobacco giant speaks volumes for the contempt that the university’s leaders and fundraisers have for the ethos and values of this university and its staff and students.”
The sentiment was echoed by members of the student body yesterday. Union officer Jake Wanstall said the donation would be deemed inappropriate or unethical by many students.
However, Tim McInnis, director of development and alumni relations at Durham University, defended the decision to accept the money.
He said: “Durham University’s 2010 Chancellor’s Appeal to fund a programme of post-graduate scholarships for Afghan women has been widely recognised as a pioneering fundraising drive and it enjoyed unprecedented success with more than 2,700 donors raising approximately £630,000.
“We are proud of the project and delighted that its humanitarian ethos resonated with such a cross-section of Durham University alumni, friends and supporters.”
The university confirmed that in June 2010 it accepted the donation from the Charities Aid Foundation fund of BAT to support the appeal alongside donations from more than 2,000 others to fund the Afghan women’s education over the five-year period.
Mr McInnis added: “Upon completion of their studies in Durham the scholars will return to Afghanistan to help rebuild the country. The BAT donation was listed alongside other donors on the appeal’s website for the duration of the 2010 Chancellor’s appeal campaign.
“The BAT donation was accepted following careful consideration by the University Executive Committee in line with its Gift Acceptance Policy, which is approved by University Council.
“Maximising the resources available to support studentships is an important way in which the university supports its educational purpose.
“And the feedback we have had suggests most of our staff and students accept that the benefits of directing this gift towards the funding of scholarships for Afghan women outweigh any other considerations.”