UK universities receive £7m from Russian donors over five years

Top UK universities have accepted more than £7 million in funding from Russian sources over the past five years, openDemocracy can reveal.

It includes at least £3.4million from donors with close ties to the Kremlin.

The Colleges and Universities Union (UCU) today criticized higher education institutions for helping oligarchs and authoritarian governments to ‘bleach their reputation’ by donating to the sector – but said the united should be better funded to avoid relying on unsavory liquidity.

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Oxford University alone has accepted more than £5m, including £2.6m from the Russian-British son of an oligarch now under sanctions.

He also accepted £3million from one of Russia’s richest men, Vladimir Potanin, who was recently appointed to parliament as one of Vladimir Putin’s ‘buddies’.

The findings come as the UK government plans to crack down on “undue foreign influence” in universities, forcing them to report any financial arrangements with “foreign actors”.

Under the new measuresuniversities should declare any donations over £75,000 from overseas states that are not close allies of the UK.

openDemocracy has now discovered that at least 14 major universities have accepted funding from Russian sources. The figures have been released under the Freedom of Information Act and cover the past five years.

“No university should be accepting donations from oligarchs or authoritarian governments who are trying to whitewash their reputation,” said Quinn Roache, head of policy and equality at UCU. “Clearly there needs to be a lot more scrutiny of where college money comes from.”

But he said government proposals to manage foreign donations are “difficult to take seriously” when the Conservative Party itself accepts money from Russian sources.

He added: ‘If the government is serious about stopping these kinds of donations, they need to fund universities properly so they don’t turn to big donors.’

Friday, the Times reported that the University of Oxford had taken a £2.6m giveaway of Said Gutseriev in 2019. His father, Mikhail Gutseriev, is an oil tycoon who was sanctioned by UK and is on the US Treasury’s “Putin List”.

The Times said the gift came just months after she received shares from her father worth millions – although there was no suggestion of wrongdoing on the part of Said Gutseriev, who holds the nationality. British.

Elsewhere, the University of Nottingham has accepted funding for a Russian government scholarship worth £12,000, as well as funding of £113,000 from a Russian university.

Last year, Queen’s University Belfast was awarded nearly £47,000 for a ‘Russian Federation Presidential Scholarship’, funded by the Russian Ministry of Science and Higher Education. After first accepting the grant in April last year, the university said it was now on hold.

The Russian Ministry of Education and Science also gave £20,000 to the University of Leeds in 2019 and over £10,000 to the University of Bristol in 2018.

Heriot-Watt University received nearly £100,000 in research funding from a university and two Russian-based companies, while Imperial College London also received £720,000 from a Russian company to fund energy efficiency research.

Cambridge University told openDemocracy that it has not accepted money from Russian sources for the past five years. But it was given £260,000 from two Gazprom subsidiaries between 2013 and 2015.

Not included in the overall figures, the university also took £888,000 from LetterOne, a European investment firm which had a number of Russian billionaires on its board. They resigned earlier this yearwhen two of the main shareholders of the company were placed under sanctions.

Meanwhile, the University of East London said it had a partnership with Russia’s Kazan University since 2014.

When Russia invaded Ukraine, scholars and politicians wrote a letter highlighting how UK universities are ‘repositories’ of the wealth of Russia and Eurasia.

“There is no requirement at this time to publish such donation information, so those in the public domain may be the tip of a very large iceberg,” the letter said.

They called on university leaders to carry out stricter checks and be more transparent about finances.

Last week Oxford University faced calls to return Said Gutseriev’s £2.6million gift. Susan Hawley, executive director of Spotlight on Corruption, told The Times: “It is simply unacceptable for a major UK university to withhold donations from a businessman who was a top business official in Russia under the regime. of Putin.

“Oxford University must either return this money or donate it to a charity supporting the reconstruction of Ukraine.”

The university has also been asked to repay money it received in 2019 from Vladimir Potanin, who was Russia’s deputy prime minister in the 1990s and is now chairman of one of the world’s largest metal producers. .

Speaking to openDemocracy earlier this year, Labor MP Margaret Hodge said: “While it is true that Potanin has donated to the University of Oxford, I expect this venerable institution to do what’s needed.

“Oxford should sever all ties with Potanin, call Time on the Exchange on its behalf and – instead of returning the money – why not donate it to a major anti-corruption campaign organization, like Spotlight on Corruption? “

Universities UK, which represents higher education bosses, said it has asked universities to review any funding from Russian-linked sources after the country invaded Ukraine.

A spokesperson said: “Universities exercise due diligence on funding from external sources on an ongoing review basis in accordance with government regulations and the most accurate financial information available at the time.”

Oxford University has previously defended itself from receiving donations from certain Russian sources, saying it has a “robust approval process”. A spokesperson added that the university was “deeply saddened by the events unfolding in Ukraine”.


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