Student-activists held a three-day protest outside the University of St Andrews Careers Centre from Tuesday, November 8th to Thursday, November 10th, calling for an end to the Careers Centre’s links with the fossil fuel industry, and decarbonisation of the University’s earth science curriculum.
Organised by End Fossil Occupy, an international student-run climate activism group, the protestors formed a picket line, set up a table distributing leaflets, and held signs proclaiming messages like “End Fossil!” and “Fossil Fuel Flops”.
On Wednesday, STV News filmed the picket line and interviewed students for a television segment. On the final day, the protestors also collected items for donation to a student-run food bank.
The St Andrews protest is one of many organised by affiliates of End Fossil Occupy at UK universities in recent months. Louis Foster, a second-year history student and organiser with End Fossil Occupy, explained, “this has been happening in Leeds, Falmouth and Exeter universities, with us at St Andrews having organised a 3 day solidarity picket”.
The protest was supported by the Student Solidarity Network (SSN) of St Andrews, an alliance of organisations including CASH, the Campaign for Affordable Student Housing.
Speaking of their demands, Foster said, “every UK occupation is working towards the same national demand: the nationalisation and dismantling of the UK fossil fuel industry”.
“Each occupation also has its local demands for their institution as well: in St Andrews, we demand an end to the Careers Centre’s connections with fossil fuel companies [...] there are talks by BP and an internship with Shell, which the careers centre refers people to”.
In response, a spokesperson for the University of St Andrews told The Saint, “The University Careers Centre is committed to [...] offering an impartial and non-judgemental service”.
“It shares information, opportunities, and vacancies from organisations across all sectors to allow our students to make their own informed decisions concerning whom they want to engage with and their own unique career paths”.
During the protest, activists with whom The Saint spoke acknowledged the University’s ongoing sustainability efforts. In 2017, the University announced it had divested from fossil fuel companies, while the University’s environmental sustainability strategy outlines it aims to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2035. But the protestors called for further action.
Foster explained, “We also demand an examination and decarbonisation of the Earth Science module 4007, which despite the name “subsurface modelling”, is effectively on petroleum engineering”.
Per the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences webpage, module ES4007, “Subsurface Modelling and Geophysics for Earth Scientists”, teaches “the fundamental concepts, techniques and practices of the hydrocarbon exploration industry”. In previous years, the module was explicitly titled “Petroleum Exploration and Geophysics”.
In comments to The Saint, a spokesperson for the University of St Andrews said: “It is also important to recognise that just as the University supports the right to freedom of speech and the right to protest, we also uphold the right to freedom of choice. We would be very concerned should an organisation or movement try to limit the ability of any of our students to exercise that fundamental freedom”.
The statement went on, “We must all recognise that many companies with a history of fossil fuel extraction are now playing a key role in developing technologies that will allow a global transition to renewable energy. It’s important that, should they so wish, our graduates are able to play an active role in driving forward sustainable, secure and inclusive change within the energy industry”.