Britain’s prestigious London School of Economics (LSE) was guilty of a “chapter of failures” during its close dealings with Libya’s deposed Qaddafi regime, according to a report released on Wednesday.
It singled out former LSE director Howard Davies’ decision to let the school accept a ￡1.5 million (US$2.3 million) gift from a foundation run by Saif al-Islam Qaddafi, the son of former Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi.
Davies resigned over the issue in March, as international outrage grew over Qaddafi’s crackdown on the uprising in his country.
The report also revealed that Oxford University had rejected a request by the government of former British prime minister Tony Blair to offer Saif al-Islam a place there to smooth relations between Libya and the West.
The LSE had exposed itself to a “significant degree of risk,” which materialized with Qaddafi’s violent response to Libya’s February uprising, said the report’s author, former judge Harry Woolf.
There had been a “chapter of failures” in scrutinizing the proposed donation, which was to be paid in five annual installments of ￡300,000, he wrote.
“The actual source of money gifted ... was never established,” the report said. “Saif Qaddafi’s word alone was relied upon.”
Woolf added that responsibility for the mistakes “must rest” with Davies, despite his “great experience and ability.”
Saif al-Islam graduated from LSE with an MSc in philosophy, policy and social value in 2003 and a PhD in philosophy in 2008. A separate investigation is probing claims that his doctoral thesis contained plagiarized material.
The receipt of the first installment, six weeks after Saif al-Islam was awarded his PhD, was “unfortunate” and “risky,” the report said, and led people to believe that he had “purchased his degree.”
The university’s North Africa program was set up in 2009 with a grant from Saif al-Islam’s International Charity and Development Foundation.
LSE said the foundation’s grant came “without any academic restrictions” and was used to research human rights, democracy and civil society.
The school had also agreed a ￡2.2 million deal to train Libya’s civil servants before the uprising.
Woolf said the school had been “naive” and had been driven by an “idealism factor,” believing it could help Libya through Saif al-Islam.
Woolf also wrote that professor Valpy FitzGerald, the head of Oxford’s Department of International Development, had told how a senior foreign ministry official had approached him in 2002 about getting Saif al-Islam a place there.
“It was made clear, he told me, that the [foreign office] would appreciate help in this case since Libya was opening up to the West again,” Woolf wrote.
FitzGerald had responded that apart from the question of professional ethics, there was also an issue of whether an under-qualified student would be able to keep up.
Once they had turned down the request on academic grounds, the ministry did not pursue the matter, FitzGerald added.
Woolf’s report recommended that the LSE set up an ethics code to protect its reputation, create a body to monitor the admission of postgraduate students and adopt a fresh policy on outside donations.
The LSE said it accepted the report’s recommendations.