Tyne & Wear

Durham University defends British American Tobacco cash

Durham University has been criticised for accepting £125,000 from a tobacco firm to help fund scholarships for women from Afghanistan.

The British American Tobacco (BAT) donation was one of 2,700 which raised about £630,000 in 2010 for a programme of postgraduate scholarships.

Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) said the company was attempting to improve its corporate image.

The university said the cash was only accepted after "careful consideration".

The donation was made to a special fund which will pay for five young women from Kabul University to read for their postgraduate degrees at Durham.

Martin Dockrell, director of policy and research with anti-smoking charity ASH, said: "It's a shame the university accepted this money.

"Asia is one of the world's biggest untapped markets for the big international tobacco companies.

"They have been working very hard to increase smoking rates among Asian women by making it look sophisticated and western. This appears to be very cynical."

Tim McInnis, director of development and alumni relations at Durham University, said: "Durham University's 2010 Chancellor's Appeal has been widely recognised as pioneering and enjoyed unprecedented success raising approximately £630,000.

"The BAT donation was accepted following careful consideration by the University Executive Committee (UEC) in line with its Gift Acceptance Policy.

"The feedback we have had suggests most of our staff and students accept the benefits of directing this gift towards the funding of scholarships for Afghan women outweigh any other considerations."

A BAT spokesperson said: "As a major international company we recognise the role of business as a corporate citizen and have long supported local community and charitable projects.

"We approach corporate social investment as an end in itself, rather than as a way to promote ourselves, and our local companies.

"We have long supported adult education, including management and business education, and will continue to do so."

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