Despots linked to UK universities

Katy Davis 10 March 2011

The resignation of Sir Howard Davies, the Director of London School of Economics (LSE), follows revelations of dubious donations received from the Gaddafi regime

LSE received £300,000 of the £1.5 million it was due from Libya, a transaction accused of being a betrayal to the spirit of the university.

However, further investigation has proved that between 1995 and 2008, eight universities – Oxford, Cambridge, Durham, University College London, Exeter, Dundee, City and LSE – have received more than £233.5mn from Arab rulers and those linked to them.

Moreover, it has come to light that other autocratic governments have given money to British universities.

Combined, Iran has donated a quarter of a million pounds to Durham, St Andrews and the School Oriental and African Studies (SOAS).

The latter used the money to fund two scholarships, one of which was awarded to an Iranian cleric who had close links with the regime.

The head of the Iranian studies program at Durham asserted that money from the country definitely comes with “strings attached.”

Similarly, the Chinese government have given one million dollars to universities including Sheffield, SOAS, LSE and Edinburgh in order to fund culture and language centres.

However, the Chinese government referred to such matters as part of their “foreign propaganda strategy.”

Professor Anthony Glees (who gathered the initial figures about the donations between 1995 and 2008) argued in The Guardian that “despite claims by foreign governments to merely promote the study of Islam, their real agenda is to advocate an extreme ideology and act as a form of propaganda for the Wahhabist strain of Islam within universities.

“It is the wrong sort of education by the wrong sort of people, funded by the wrong sorts of donor.”

However, the Prisons Studies department of King’s College in London have formed a partnership with Libya’s government to reform prisons in the country.

Professor Andrew Coyle, director of the Prison Studies centre told The Guardian: “Always when we work in problematic countries, one of the first questions we ask is, are these people serious about change, or are we simply a fig leaf for a regime?

“They were serious about reform, and one of the first indications of this was that they accepted the suggestion that the prisons system should move from the Ministry of Public Security to the Ministry of Justice.”

Katy Davis