ExxonMobil holds a lecture every year for chemical engineering students on safety and business.ROSIE BRADBURY/COMPOSITE: NOELLA CHYE

The chemical engineering department has “paused” a scheme which gave oil companies a say over the academic content of its courses in exchange for money, a freedom of information request (FOI) has revealed.

As paying members of the department’s so called “teaching consortium”, oil companies such as BP, Shell and ExxonMobil were able to “assist with teaching” and “provide input” on the contents of the chemical engineering course in return for funding.

According to the FOI, the teaching consortium has now been “paused” and all memberships have “lapsed” amid departmental concerns over “the external political environment”.

During Lent term, the chemical engineering department was subject to vandalism from the activist group "This Is Not a Drill".

In response to the decision to pause the scheme, a representative for the department of chemical engineering and biotechnology told Varsity: “We are committed to providing a syllabus to our students that is fully in line with our overall department commitment to generate impact in sustainability and healthcare. As a result, we are revising both syllabus and corporate engagement strategy”.

Under the arrangement, the chemical engineering department also gave oil companies on the consortium priority access to its undergraduates, claiming on its website that "this leads to more opportunities for recruitment of Cambridge chemical engineering students".

Set up in 1999, the teaching consortium had been strengthening links between the department and industry for 23 years until it was put under review this academic year. Healthcare company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) as well as Swedish tech manufacturer ABB have also been members.

The chemical engineering department has a long history of collaboration with the fossil fuel industry. Having helped found the department in 1945, Shell continue to fund a professorship in the company's name. ExxonMobil holds a lecture every year for chemical engineering students on safety and business.

News of the department's decision comes in anticipation of the University's report into the future of its fossil fuel funding. The report is set to be published in Easter term. Following its publication, academics will vote on whether to end all funding relationships with fossil fuel companies.

The old consortium will likely be replaced with a new “teaching and research consortium”. The terms and conditions of this reformed scheme are under discussion. The FOI states: "T&C's for this will be available once internal discussions have been concluded".

BP and ExxonMobil have been approached for comment. Shell declined to comment