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LSE Funding Row: More Donations From Dictators To British Universities

March 6, 2011

LSE funding row: more donations from dictators to British universities
Centre for Social Cohesion Press Release, 4 March 2011

Sir Howard Davies, Director of the London School of Economics (LSE), yesterday resigned following public outcry over LSE accepting funds from the Libyan regime.

Donations from foreign despots, however, are not uncommon among British universities. Our research reveals that many UK universities cannot run courses without financial backing from foreign donors – many of whom, like Colonel Gaddafi, preside over unelected governments notorious for regular human rights abuses.

The Centre for Social Cohesion (CSC) report A Degree of Influence revealed that Iran, Saudi Arabia and China in particular have contributed significantly to UK institutions – often with preconditions that threaten academic independence.

Robin Simcox, author of A Degree of Influence and Research Fellow at the CSC, said:

The CSC raised this two years ago. It is no surprise that a prominent British university has been embarrassed over its ties to a dictatorial, murderous regime. Sadly it took Gaddafi massacring his own people to shame LSE into acting.

Britain's best universities taking money from the world's worst governments is an established trend. What more needs to happen before our universities wake up to this problem?


£10,000 – University of Durham (2009)
• The university entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the Iranian government, which includes an arrangement to publish joint books, conferences, and research, as well as an exchange programme for students and members of staff.
• Dr Colin Turner, co-director of Durham's Centre for Iranian Studies, admitted that a subsequent event was ‘monopolised by pro-regime speakers' and that ‘Iranian money comes with strings attached'.

£100,000 – University of St Andrews (2006)
• The Institute for Iranian Studies at the university was established in 2006 with a donation from a former high ranking member of the Iranian regime.

£35,000 – School of Oriental & African Studies (SOAS) (1999)
• The money funded two studentships over a three year period, of which one was awarded to an Iranian cleric with close links to the regime.
• In conjunction with the Institute of Islamic Thought – affiliated with the regime – a government representative was invited to deliver a lecture praising Ayatollah Khomeini's ‘modernisation of Islamic thought'.
• The donation was delivered by a registered charity, the Islamic Centre of England. Its constitution states that its board of trustees must ‘at all times' include a ‘representative of the Supreme Spiritual Leadership of the Islamic Republic of Iran'.

Saudi Arabia

£16m – University of Cambridge & University of Edinburgh (2008)
• The University of Cambridge received £8m from Prince Alwaleed of Saudi Arabia, via the Kingdom Foundation, to establish the HRH Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Centre of Islamic Studies.
• The University of Edinburgh also received £8m to establish the Alwaleed Bin Talal Centre of the Study of Islam in the Contemporary World.
• As part of the agreement, Alwaleed is allowed to pick appointees on the management committees at both Centres.

£1m – Oxford's Middle East Centre (2001)
• The Centre received the donation from the King Abdul Aziz Foundation for Research and Archives, an arm of the Saudi government. The Centre ‘celebrated' this donation by inaugurating the annual King Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud Lectures, ‘named in honour of the founder of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia'. Every other year, a member of the Saudi government is invited to address Oxford students.

£20m – Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies (OCIS) (1997)
• King Fahd of Saudi Arabia gave £20 million to OCIS towards the construction of their new buildings.

£1m – SOAS (1995)
• The donation from King Fahd helped establish the Centre for Islamic Studies.


£500,000 donation across UK universities
• The Chinese government donated approximately £500,000 to fund Confucius Institutes, cultural and language centres, at ten UK universities including the LSE, SOAS, the University of Sheffield and the University of Edinburgh.
• The Chinese government refers to the Confucius Institutes as part of its ‘foreign propaganda strategy'.
• Members of the Chinese government sit on Confucius Institute advisory boards, and the Chinese government sets the curriculum.

The full report can be read here:

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