Toope refused to answer questions about the University’s ties to BP, Shell and SchlumbergerPeach Rose

Stephen Toope, the vice-chancellor, “stormed away” after being asked questions about Cambridge’s connections with the fossil fuel industry on Friday afternoon (22/04).

Following a keynote speech from Sir Patrick Vallance on science and policy-making, a student approached Toope and asked how a recent report will impact the University’s climate policy. The student questioned the University’s “continued involvement with companies like Shell and BP and Schlumberger”.

Toope refused to answer the question, covering the camera when he noticed he was being filmed.

Video footage shows that the vice-chancellor quickly strode away, avoiding further questions about accountability to indigenous communities.

The student involved said: “I wanted to know how the vice-chancellor can justify the University’s continuing research collaboration with companies like BP, Shell and Schlumberger.”


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They continued: “These companies are continuing to ignore this overwhelming scientific consensus by investing millions in new fossil fuel infrastructure and exploration, further devastating frontline communities in the process.”

The University hosts the BP Institute and Schlumberger Research Centre as well as Shell and Schlumberger professorships. These ties have previously been criticised by activist groups and the Students’ Union.

Recently, a campaign backed by 90 Cambridge academics called on universities to end ties with the fossil fuel industry.

The attendee who filmed Toope’s reaction said: “I was surprised he seemed so angry at being filmed… I believe the Vice Chancellor should be publicly accountable – to students, but more importantly to frontline communities whose voices are rarely heard in these decision-making processes.

“It seems like the University is more willing to work with the companies driving the destruction than those being directly harmed.”

A University spokesperson told Varsity: “The Vice-Chancellor was caught by surprise when filmed without warning or consent leaving an event.

“The University has given serious consideration to its relationships with the traditional energy sector and engaged with a broad set of views before developing its guidelines on accepting research funding and donations in relation to its commitment to address climate change through a transition to a zero-carbon world.

“We only enter partnerships with the traditional energy sector where they have a role in accelerating the transition to renewable or decarbonised energy and in scaling-up promising green technology.”

This article was updated on 24/04 to include comments from a University spokesperson