BY ELICIA SAVVAS
& JAMES FRAZER
ADELAIDE — The Students Association of Flinders University (SAFU) has discovered that the Flinders Academic Senate intends to set up a research centre within the university's history department that will foster business links between Scandinavian companies and the university.
The research centre is to be named the Saab Centre for Scandinavian Studies. The major sponsor of the centre is Saab Systems, which — according to its web site — "specialises in high technology military systems".
The web site boasts how Saab Systems was responsible for the "combat management system" on the Australian warship HMAS Anzac which provided naval gunfire to the Royal Marines in an assault on the Al Faw Peninsula during the war on Iraq.
Saab Systems is part of the Saab Group, the Swedish-owned aerospace and weapons systems manufacturing company.
Saab has contributed an undisclosed amount of money to the centre, although the centre has no formal budget and has been described by a number of academics as a "financial blackhole".
The SAFU is concerned that Saab may be using the centre in some way to further its commercial interests. In particular, SAFU is concerned that the centre may function as a "revolving door" for Saab and other armaments corporations to gain access to the Faculty of Science and Engineering, and, ultimately, government R&D funds.
These concerns have been strengthened by the discovery that, since 2001, Saab Systems has participated in the Science and Technology Enterprise Partnerships scheme (STEPs). This scheme promotes "collaborative R&D and access to government R&D funds" as a benefit to commercial partners.
SAFU representatives have meet several times with the University administration, which initially denied Saab's involvement with the Science and Engineering Faculty. Later, the administration admitted that Saab participates in STEPs, but SAFU has still not been able to find out the full extent of Flinders commercial relationship with Saab.
SAFU does not support any public funding being used for private military research and it opposes the appropriation of research by Flinders students for the profit of military corporations.
SAFU is calling on the administration to establish ethical guidelines for the funding of education, effectively banning the sponsorship of research by private sector defence corporations.
The impact of war on the education system is not simply the diversion of funds from social spending to weapons that will kill and maim thousands of civilians. Universities, which now exercise a virtual monopoly on scientific and theoretical knowledge and its production, become an integral part of the war machine itself.
For our education to be truly free, the links between universities and the military must be broken down. We must question whose interests our knowledge and research are serving.
[Elicia Savvas is the SAFU education officer and James Frazer is SAFU education research officer. For further information contact the SAFU education department on (08) 8201 2428 or email <firstname.lastname@example.org>.]
From Green Left Weekly, May 14, 2003.
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