Universities need to lift the lid on donations

4 Mar

[Originally posted on the website of Heather Brooke]

Sir Howard Davies resigned as director of the London School of Economics council last night due to controversial links between the LSE and Libyan money. An inquiry headed by Lord Woolf will now investigate the links between LSE and Gaddafi, including a £1.5 million donation from Saif Gaddafi – who was awarded a now-contested PhD by the university in 2008.

In a statement Sir Howard said:

The short point is that I am responsible for the School’s reputation, and that has suffered…There was nothing substantive to be ashamed of in that work and I disclosed it fully, but the consequence has been to make it more difficult for me to defend the institution.

The inquiry is also to establish future guidelines for internal donations to the university. The university was forced to admit they had also signed a £2.2 million contract with Libya to train civil servants for the country, over half of which has been received from Gaddafi’s regime, which slightly dampens Sir Howard’s protestations over disclosure.

Sadly, this case is indicative of the behind-closed-doors policy that many academic institutions have when it comes to funding. If information about donations is more transparent, potentially embarrassing revelations are wiped out. The public gets to see where the money is coming from, and university bigwigs retain their integrity – it isn’t difficult for anyone to “defend the institution” if the information is there for everyone to see from the outset.

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