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UK: Lessons learned from LSE and Libya

The London School of Economics (LSE) wrapped up an uncomfortable period in the spotlight this year with the release on 30 November of The Woolf Inquiry – an inquiry into the LSE’s links with Libya and lessons to be learned. The report presents the findings of Lord Woolf who, in March of this year, was tasked with conducting an “independent external inquiry into the School’s relationship with Libya and with Saif Gaddafi”, who received a PhD from the institution in 2008 (see ACA Newsletter – Education Europe, March 2011). The inquiry focused on three main areas: 

  • Saif Gaddafi as a student (2002-2008); 
  • the GBP 1.5 million (EUR 1.8 million) donation to LSE from the Gaddafi International Charity and Development Foundation (GICDF), of which  GBP 300 000 (EUR 357 000) was received by the institution; and 
  • LSE’s other links to Libya, including (but not limited to) its former director’s appointment as the UK economic envoy to Libya.

The report concluded that there were “failings of governance, management and communication” at the institution in all of these areas. In the final analysis, a total of 15 recommendations were put forth all of which LSE has announced it plans to implement (where it has not already initiated action). The recommendations focus heavily on the need for clarity, consistency and transparency of activities relating to student admissions and oversight of student progress, donation decisions and donor relations, as well as institutional ethics and reputational risk management. Although not technically part of the Woolf Inquiry, the LSE also announced that a panel set up by the University of London, which awarded Saif Gaddafi’s PhD, had determined that the degree should not be revoked. However, Gaddafi’s thesis “has been annotated to show where attribution or references should have been made”.

LSE’s experience with the Gaddafi family brings into sharp relief the potential complexities of international donor relations, an unquestionably high-stakes game amongst highly competitive higher education institutions around the world.

London School of Economics