OXFORD – Fuelling academia: OpenDemocracy and Investigate Europe find that Europe’s leading universities have received at least €260 million from fossil fuel giants and taken advice on degree curricullae. 

Working in tandem with openDemocracy (oD), Investigate Europe (IE) requested data from a selection of European universities to try and gauge the amount of money donated by the fossil fuel and mining industries.

The aim was to give a broader European view to the story that had previously been done by oD, following their template and learning from them how to improve the requests. openDemocracy developed their side further, by sending FoI requests to all universities in the UK and creating a detailed database of donations.

This database also revealed the number of European-based companies donating to UK universities and has given a stronger top-line to IE’s story. It is coupled with evidence that shows the level of influence that fossil fuel companies have in some British universities.
IE’s story is also one about transparency and the ease, or otherwise, of accessing such information across Europe. Unusually the UK was better than many other European countries when it came to this request (along with, as expected, the Scandinavian countries). Spanish universities were also open about responding positively to our request. For other countries the data was much harder to access – commercial confidentiality was cited as a reason for withholding Italian data in one example. France doesn’t have a Freedom of Information Act, although they do make some information publicly available.
 The project provided a snapshot overview of both funding and transparency, but there is scope for much more detailed projects on both funding and transparency.

Photo credit:  Alexia Barakou 

Team members

Jenna Corderoy

Jenna Corderoy is a reporter for openDemocracy’s investigations team.

Jenna Corderoy

Lorenzo Buzzoni

Lorenzo Buzzoni is an investigative journalist and documentary filmmaker based in Italy.

Lorenzo Buzzoni

Ingeborg Eliassen

Ingeborg Eliassen is an experienced journalist from Norway.

 Ingeborg Eliassen

Juliet Ferguson

Juliet Ferguson is a British investigative journalist. 

Juliet Ferguson investigative journalist UK

Finlay Johnston

Finlay Johnston is a freelance reporter and documentary researcher.

Fin Johnston

Chris Matthews

Chris Matthews is a web-editor for Investigate Europe. 

Chris Matthews, web-editor, Investigate Europe

Maxence Peigné

Maxence is a French journalist based in London.

maxence peigne

Manuel Rico

Manuel Rico is investigative reporter and editor, based in Spain.

Manuel Rico

Amund Trellevik

Amund Trellevik is an experienced Norwegian journalist.

Amund Trellevik

Martin Williams

Martin Williams is an editor and author. 

Martin Williams open democracy editor

Investigate Europe

A cross-border team of reporters, editors and producers, Investigate Europe (based in Berlin) delivers in-depth investigative journalism from a changing Europe.

Investigate Europe


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