Conservative MP decries LSE’s “blood money”
Robert Halfon, Conservative MP for Harlow, has claimed that the LSE is guilty of accepting “blood money” in its acceptance of a gift from the Gaddafi International Charity and Development Foundation (GICDF) in 2009. Halfon implied the gift to be an “exchange” for the doctorate received by Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi.
In a question to the Leader of the House of Commons, Sir George Young, on 15th December, Halfon stated that the School had “refused to divulge information as to the circumstances in which he was awarded his PhD, despite freedom of information requests.” He went on to ask that Young urge the “Minister with responsibility for higher education”, David Willetts MP, to “call on the LSE to publish what really went on in this disgraceful episode of taking blood money for PhDs.”
Halfon’s criticism of the way in which the School has handled the GICDF gift is not new: in February 2011, he commented that the fact that the money had come from the GICDF rather than the family itself did not “make the money any cleaner.”
When responding to Freedom of Information requests, an organisation may refuse to release documents for a variety of reasons. In his reply, Young stated that an exemption from Freedom of Information requests exists such that information pertaining to third parties “can be released only if that would be in compliance with the provisions of the Data Protection Act.” He added that Halfon should follow follow up any concerns with the Information Commissioner
Contrary to Halfon’s misgivings as to the propriety of the PhD award, the report of the Woolf Inquiry, an independent inquiry established by the LSE to investigate the links between LSE and Libya, found no causal link between the donation and the PhD award, noting that the offer of a gift was “only first made after Saif was awarded his PhD.” A second investigation by the University of London into allegations of irregularity pertaining to the thesis has not declared any findings that Gaddafi’s thesis was plagiarised.
The LSE, however, is not alone in searching for donations from abroad: a study by the Centre for Social Cohesion found that “levels of giving [to UK Higher Education institutions] are now over £200 million a year.” The Al-Maktoum Institute, a postgraduate centre concerned with the study of Islam based at Dundee University and accredited by Aberdeen University, was funded and named after the Deputy Ruler of Dubai and the Minister of Finance and Industry of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in 2001. The UAE’s government has a history of alleged human rights abuses in the same vein as those of Libya. Durham University, through information received through diplomatic cables intercepted by the WikiLeaks website and published in late November 2010, “might have accepted close to $300,000 from the Iranian state department” for running a series of seminars “under the auspices of Durham University’s School of Governmental Affairs.”
Additionally, Wafic Saïd’s 1996 donation to the University of Oxford was enough to establish their Saïd Business School. Saïd was part of the negotiating team in the £6 billion Al Yamamah arms contract between Saudi Arabia and Britain. Similarly, the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies benefited from a donation of £20 million from the late King Fahd of Saudi Arabia.
According to The Independent, the School replied to Halfon’s freedom of information requests by stating that the doctorate award’s investigation was a “private matter.”