United Kingdom

Margaret Thatcher's former Oxford college scraps investments in coal

Margaret Thatcher's former Oxford college is scrapping investments in coal in a bid to divest from all fossil fuels by this summer.

Nearly 40 years after the miners' strike that saw coal production halve in Britain, Somerville College has announced it plans to spend £100million investing in 'new green investments'. 

The college, which Thatcher attended in the 1940s, says it has already cut £400,000 worth of investment in the coal industry, along with a 'significant proportion,' of holdings in gas and oil companies.  

Somerville College says it has divested £400,000 worth of investments in coal, along with a 'significant proportion' of holdings in oil and gas companies

Margaret Thatcher attended Somerville College while at Oxford University in the 1940s. Her time as PM was later defined by the year-long miners' strike that began in 1984

In a statement on their website, the college said: 'We aim to fully divest from fossil fuels by July 2021.

'We have already divested from £400,000 of investments in coal, and from a significant proportion of our holdings in oil and gas companies. We will re-invest this income in new green investments.'

The college also announced that it aims to be carbon neutral by 2050 at the latest. 

The news comes just weeks after it was revealed Somerville College had ordered students to pass an 'unconscious bias' test in which they had to concede that a black lecturer would be more unpopular than white colleagues.  

Following an outcry, Somerville's principal, Lady Royall, said students would no longer be compelled to take the course, but other colleges are still insisting undergraduates and dons complete the often 'poor quality and ineffective' training. 

A University of Oxford spokesman said: 'Unconscious bias training is one of a range of resources available to staff.

'There is ongoing public debate about unconscious bias training and Oxford staff are free to challenge and question it under our Freedom of Speech policies.'

Last month it was revealed Oxford undergraduates are being told that simply not being racist ‘isn’t good enough’ and they must be prepared to take action on the issue. 

Thatcher's former college said it aims to be carbon neutral by 2050 at the latest, and plans to invest £100million on green projects. The college has recently dropped its mandatory 'unconscious bias' test

Students were told they were ‘expected to make time’ to attend the It’s About Race event at St Hugh's College.

Attendees were shown a series of slides during the session.

Under the heading ‘Be an anti-racist’ on one slide, they were told: ‘Are you racist? “No” isn’t a good enough answer.’

The slide stated: ‘We need to... stop thinking that injustice going on in the world isn’t to an extent our fault’, adding: ‘Stop being a non-racist and start being an anti-racist.’ 

Another slide encouraged a ‘commitment to action’, asking the question: ‘What is your individual contribution/commitment/pledge to tackle inequality and racism?’ 


The miners' strike saw strikes take place outside collieries across Britain, following an announcement from the National Coal Board that 20 pits and 20,000 jobs were set to be cut in March 1984.

Arthur Scargill, president of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) called the national strike, which would last 12 months and see at least two people die.

The NUM did not hold a national ballot, but its aim was to cause a severe energy shortage, similar to one seen in 1972.

The approach of Margaret Thatcher's Government was to stockpile coal to prevent such a shortage, while keeping miners at work and using police to break up picket lines.

The resulting action would see dozens injured and two people die. 

More than 120 people were injured as 10,000 picketers were met by mounted police officers at a strike that later dubbed the 'Battle of Orgreave' on June 18, 1984

Miners in Yorkshire and Kent were the first to go on strike, followed by pits in Scotland, South Wales and Durham. 

The Midlands, however, largely continued to operate during the action. 

Picket lines were often marred with violence, particularly at a now infamous confrontation dubbed the Battle of Orgreave.

Around 10,000 picketers were out on June 18 when they were met with police in riot gear, police horses and dogs. 

A total of 123 people were left injured after violent clashes outside the coking plant in Rotherham, while 95 people were arrested.   

In April 1984, miner David Gareth Jones died after he was hit in the neck by a brick thrown while picketing at Ollerton in Nottingham. A post-mortem later revealed it was more likely that he was killed after being pressed against the pit gates earlier in the day.

David Wilkie, a taxi driver, died after taking two 'scab' miners to work at Merthyr Vale Colliery when a concrete post was dropped from a bridge onto his car by two miners who were on strike in November 1984. 

On March 3 1985, the NUM executive, running low on funds and with striking families struggling to feed, heat and clothe themselves, narrowly voted to end the industrial action. 

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