The University of Portsmouth has been criticised by the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) after securing a contract with a new military technological college in the Middle-Eastern country of Oman.
The University will be overseeing courses at the college in an academic guidance role, in exchange for money.
The agreement is the first of its kind for the University, and the Faculty of Technology will be involved in the development of the college from the outset.
The partnership between the University and the Military Technological College in Oman will see the joint development of four engineering degrees for up to 4,200 students. The college, funded by the Omani government, is due to welcome the first 1,000 students in September 2013. However there are no plans for Portsmouth students to visit the college in Oman.
The University will oversee programmes in Marine Engineering, Systems Engineering, Aircraft Engineering, and Civil Engineering. A lecturer from the University will spend two years at the military college to oversee the initial development of these programmes.
Over the past five years, the UK has sold over £846 million worth of military equipment, mainly warships and small arms, to Oman. The UK has a historical military relationship with Oman, dating back to the 1950’s, and just before Christmas David Cameron visited Oman to mark a new £2.5 billion Eurofighter and Hawk deal.
Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) believes that the military engineers being trained at the new military college in Oman will be involved with using, supporting and maintaining these weapons.
CAAT said: “Oman has an authoritarian government and there is a real likelihood that this weaponry will be used for internal repression or in regional conflict.
“We believe that universities should not be involved in supporting militarism or the arms trade, whether that be through research, investments or giving arms companies a place on campus.
“These principles should extend to their work overseas, whether that is setting up a new campus or overseeing courses as the University of Portsmouth is doing in Oman.”
The University International Director, Joe Docherty responded to CAAT claims, saying: “The University is sensitive to the ethical issues raised around education and training contracts with the military. Oman is a major strategic and business partner of the United Kingdom and over 20 UK HE institutions offer programmes there.
“The University’s involvement in Oman will strengthen its engagement in the Middle East, where the University has long been a destination of choice for students looking for advanced training in engineering and technology.”
The Military Technological College will provide academic education and training for the Omani armed forces and Ministry of Defence engineering services.
Students will study for a BEng (Hons) degree with a Diploma of Higher Education exit point at the end of the penultimate degree year. Students would achieve recognition from professional engineering bodies, and for the aeronautical students, an international civil EASA 66 licence.
Wing Commander Nasser Bin Khamis Al-Suwaidi, the head of the Omani delegation team, said: “This project is a milestone for the Omani Ministry of Defence and Oman itself, providing students with international professional recognition.
“The Military Technological College chose the University of Portsmouth as its partner institution because of the University’s strong reputation, its long history in validating military aligned programmes and in its continuous professional accreditation record.”
The University has a record in accrediting education and training of military engineers with the British Royal Navy assisting HMS Collingwood, HMS Sultan, and DSEME Arborfield.
Oman was affected by the 2011 Arab Spring, with one protester shot dead during protests. The Omani government responded by granting greater power to the elected Consultative Council, or Majlis al-Shura.