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Bloody mess: LSE’s rearguard action against Libyan links continues

Tainted money, allegations of plagiarism and surrender to the demands of angry student occupiers: the London School of Economics’ links to Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the son of Libyan leader Mu’ammer Gaddafi, has become an ethical and public relations quagmire.

As Times Higher Education has reported, the LSE, where Gaddafi completed a PhD in governance and international relations, acted quickly to cut ties to the regime following the start of the bloody uprising in the country. It ended several programmes, and announced that it would take no further instalments of a £1.5 million donation from a charitable body headed by its former student.

However, the steps failed to mollify student activists, who last week occupied a building and confronted Howard Davies, LSE’s director, to make a series of demands.

According to Ashok Kumar, LSE Students’ Union education officer, Mr Davies told the students he was “ashamed” that Gaddafi’s money had been accepted. He acquiesced to a number of their demands, including agreeing to put £150,000 that the school has received as part of Gaddafi’s donation into a scholarship fund.

In a public statement, the LSE says its director “shares the students’ revulsion at the recent violence and gross violations of human rights in Libya, and much regrets the association of the school’s name with Saif Gaddafi and the actions of the Libyan regime”.

It adds that the £1.5 million donation, of which £300,000 has already been received, was accepted “in good faith” and that the decision had undergone “due diligence”.

The potential embarrassment for the LSE was further increased by allegations that sections of Gaddafi’s PhD thesis may have been plagiarised. The institution said it was “aware that there are allegations of plagiarism…and is looking into the matter”.

Responding to students’ demands that Gaddafi’s alumni status be revoked, it said: “An LSE degree may only be revoked if there are substantiated concerns about the manner in which it was attained in the first place – for example if there is a later discovery of plagiarism – and not on the basis of any subsequent shortcomings of personal conduct.”

Another unusual aspect of Gaddafi’s doctorate is that he is reported to have used a firm known to employ former senior British intelligence officers to conduct research.

It emerged in 2009 that he used the corporate consultancy Monitor Group, whose advisers included a former head of the Secret Intelligence Service, to interview the heads of non-government organisations. He acknowledges the firm’s input at the start of the thesis.

john.gill@tsleducation.com

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