Founded by Schlumberger, the professorship will be renamed after Alan TuringHannah Mawardi with permission for Varsity

The University has been criticised by campaigners after planning to rename a professorship, while still allowing the oil company which funded it to nominate to its board.

The Schlumberger Professorship of Complex Physical Systems, set to be retitled, is named after the world’s largest oil offshore drilling company, whose links with Cambridge have been repeatedly attacked by campaigners.

The company, recently renamed SLB, houses more than 100 scientists in its research centre on the West Cambridge site, which is often targeted by student activists.

SLB, who founded the professorship with a 1998 donation, are responsible for nominating one member of its Board of Managers. The University has confirmed that all aspects of the fund, apart from its name, will remain in place, meaning that the oil company will retain this power.

This comes after the University committed to the recommendations of the Topping report, which found that Cambridge’s research links to the fossil fuel industry pose “high reputational risk”.

The Organisation of Radical Cambridge Activists (ORCA), who have led actions against SLB, told Varsity: “The renaming demonstrates that our campaign is having an impact: however, it completely misses the point if a Schlumberger (SLB) representative remains on the fund board.”

ORCA cited a recent Open Democracy report which alleged that oil companies maintain influence over UK universities through private meetings with officials. The group said: “Allowing an SLB representative to hold a position on a department board is an example of this problem, and changing the fund’s name without restructuring it only serves to make everything murkier.”

Referencing the Topping report’s “red” rating of SLB, regarding its alignment with Cambridge’s climate goals, ORCA said: “This move is nothing but obfuscation which enables further fossil fuel meddling unless the fund board is restructured to kick SLB out of decision making, and out of the uni.”

Cambridge Climate Justice (CCJ), another student group, said: “Cambridge just wants to sweep the problems under the rug again. The University rightly seems more and more embarrassed to publicly associate with the fossil fuel industry. Unfortunately, this just reveals their selfish motivations.”

The University has insisted, however, that “Cambridge has a robust system for managing donations; no donors direct the work that they fund, and academic freedom is a fundamental principle of the University.”


Mountain View

Student climate protester released on bail

The professorship is to be renamed the Alan Turing Professorship of Complex Physical Systems. One member of CCJ said: “As a queer person, I find it sinister that Alan Turing’s name is used to disguise the fact that the world’s largest offshore drilling company will continue to influence research directly relevant to climate breakdown.”

The plans have been published in a Grace submitted to Regent House, the University’s democratic body, and will be enacted if no objections are raised by the 15th of December.

A spokesperson for the University said: “The Grace proposes that the professorship be renamed in honour of Alan Turing, a Cambridge alumnus and pioneer of mathematical biology — the same area the current Chair works in, and whose research focuses on the mathematical modelling of cells and micro-organisms.”

“The current Chair has no connection to Schlumberger, and his work has no relevance to Schlumberger or fossil fuels,” the spokesperson said.