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Export controls explained

The University is operating in an increasingly global capacity, with international research partners, international funding bodies and overseas students all contributing to the vital work we do. An unfortunate consequence of thriving in this vibrant environment is that some of our research and its outputs have the potential to be misused when exported.

In order to safeguard ourselves and the work we do, and to mitigate any threats to national security, we must comply with Government legislation and its rules governing the transfer of certain items (tangible and intangible) from the UK: export controls.

All governments of UN countries must have systems in place to oversee the movement of certain items. In the UK, the Export Control Joint Unit (ECJU) administers the UK’s system of export controls and licencing for military and dual-use items (an item designed for civil purposes, but which may be used for military purposes).

What do export controls apply to?

The UK government’s aim is to control the risks posed by weapons of mass destruction, abuses of human rights and terrorism. Therefore, export controls have two main areas of concern that will apply to your work at the University: dual-use and end-user.

  1. Dual-use concerns apply to the movement of goods, software or information/data out of the UK. The nature of your research project or content of your teaching courses may be of concern for its potential unintended purpose/application.
  2. End-user concerns relate to the organisation, company or institution (referred to as an ‘entity’) you’re engaged with or planning to engage with. This includes collaborators (formal or informal), visitors, international travel, guest professorships, teaching (from abroad or online from the UK), or consultancy work (either providing it or commissioning).

If it is determined that export controls apply to your work, this does not mean that you will be prevented from continuing with your project/activity, it means that you will be required to apply for a licence from the ECJU, with support from the University’s Export Controls Compliance (ECC) team.

Determine whether export controls apply to your current or proposed activity and if you may require a licence.

The movement of items out of the UK is not limited to physical items

Export controls apply to the movement of tangible and intangible items (goods, software or technology) out of the borders of the UK.

It refers to both the export of physical goods (samples, equipment, materials, parts, laptops, etc) as well as the transfer (sharing) of information (including data/knowledge/know-how).

  • Physical exports mean:
    • Physical movement, including goods shipped overseas and research data carried overseas on electronic devices
  • Transfer of intangible items means:
    • Digital transfers, including sending emails, text messages and faxes, telephone conversations, video conferences and accessing your emails and files stored on a UK server, whilst overseas and storing your files on non-UK servers.
    • Face-to-face conversations, including those had by University staff and students travelling overseas for research activities, such as meetings, and visitors travelling to the University from overseas
    • Via digital platforms, conversations about research or providing online courses.

If you inherit or are gifted an item, sample, equipment, etc (either from within the UK or from outside the UK) which could be classified as goods, software or technology which could be controlled, you are responsible for checking if export control legislation applies if you intend to export it

Consequences of not working with an export licence where one is required

  • You have a legal obligation, and it is your responsibility to ensure your work complies with export control regulations, and you will be held accountable should you fail to comply
  • If your work requires a licence, the Principal Investigator (PI) must have a licence in place before engaging in any project activity
  • Very few activities at the University require an export controls licence. However, if you engage in an activity which requires a licence and you do not have one in place, the consequences of non-compliance could include:
    • Unlimited fines
    • Disciplinary action in accordance with relevant University policies
    • Termination of contract
    • Up to 10 years imprisonment