The PR industry has backed a controversial sponsorship deal between British American Tobacco (BAT) and a new masters degree in strategic corporate communications at University of Manchester, Institute of Science and Technology (UMIST).
Industry bodies, the PRCA and the IPR, have lent their support to the involvement of BAT in the MSc - the first of its kind in the UK.
Their endorsement follows a public outcry earlier this week when it was announced the cigarette manufacturing giant had given pounds 3.8m to finance a school of business ethics at Nottingham University.
The PR Standards Council chairman, Roger Haywood urged the course sponsors - which include Burson-Marsteller, Tesco, Allied Zurich, Reuters and the BG Group - to boycott the course.
'Potential candidates should also consider postponing their participation until BAT has either pulled out or announced a timetable to change its business ethics.' said Haywood.
But both the IPR and PRCA rejected Haywood's call.
IPR Director General Colin Farrington said: 'The IPR doesn't have an issue with BAT sponsoring the course at UMIST.'
PRCA chairman Tom Watson echoed Farrington by saying it was entirely a matter for UMIST on how it chose its partners. The part-time course has its first intake of candidates next April.
Each of the backers are offering pounds 10,000 a year for the next five years, and have a seat on the course advisory board.
BAT corporate and regulatory affairs director Michael Prideaux said: 'We have a contribution to make to the teachings of corporate communications in order to make it a professional discipline. It is better to involve BAT rather than ostracise us.'
'The PR industry will be tainted by BAT's involvement,' claimed Haywood.