David Held was adviser to Saif al-Islam Gaddafi at the university and
director of a research programme funded by his charity
Jeevan Vasagar, education editor
Tuesday November 1 2011
A British academic with close links to Muammar Gaddafi's son Saif al-
Islam has left the London School of Economics before a report on the
university's relationship with Libya is published.
David Held was an academic adviser to the toppled dictator's son when
he studied at the LSE and was director of the research programme
funded by his charity.
Held, who is currently Graham Wallas professor of political science at
the LSE, has announced that he is leaving in January to take up a post
at Durham University.
The LSE is expected to face sharp criticism over the academic
independence of the North Africa Research Programme, which was funded
with a £1.5m donation from the Gaddafi charitable foundation, and
Held's departure is regarded internally as the latest aftershock from
the donation. The LSE's links with Libya have already triggered the
resignation of its director, Howard Davies.
Held has extensive ties to Saif al-Islam, now on the run after the
violent collapse of his father's dictatorship. Held was on the board
of the Gaddafi foundation, the charity run by Saif al-Islam.
He was appointed to the board of the charity on 28 June 2009, a few
days after the gift was discussed and accepted by the LSE council, the
university's governing body. He subsequently resigned from the charity
on the LSE council's advice.
The donation - £300,000 was received - was paid to a research centre
LSE Global Governance, of which Held was co-director.
Saif al-Islam was allowed to lay out "objectives and expectations" for
the programme, according to leaked LSE documents.
Lord Woolf, a former lord chief justice, has completed an independent
inquiry into the university's Libyan links. Its publication has been
delayed pending the results of a separate inquiry into allegations of
plagiarism in Saif al-Islam's PhD thesis.
Held is taking up a new position as master of University College and
chair of politics and international relations at Durham University.
An LSE insider said that he expected the Woolf inquiry report to
criticise the "close consultations" between LSE scholars and the
Gaddafi regime. The funding was accepted despite internal protest.
Fred Halliday, a distinguished Middle East expert at the LSE,
criticised the donation in a letter that described the country's
rulers as a "secretive, erratic and corrupt elite".
The letter calls Held "the leading proponent of our accepting this
Held viewed Saif al-Islam as a potential reformer.
The academic introduced the dictator's son when Saif al-Islam
delivered the Ralph Miliband memorial lecture at the LSE last May,
telling the audience: "I've come to know Saif as someone who looks to
democracy, civil society and deep liberal values as the core of his
The North Africa Research Programme was suspended when the Libyan
uprising began this year, while LSE Global Governance was closed at
the end of July. The LSE has agreed to put £300,000 - equivalent to
the cash it has received from the Gaddafi foundation to set up the
research programme - into a scholarship for north African students.
Held said in a statement: "I will be taking up the positions of master
of University College and chair of politics and international
relations at the University of Durham from January.
"This move is being made for academic reasons and I look forward to
the new avenues of research that this role will bring. I have many
links to LSE which will be maintained in the years ahead."
An LSE spokesman said: "Prof Held was offered, and has taken up, a
position at Durham University. This is a personal decision made by
Prof Held for academic reasons."
Referring to the Woolf inquiry report, the university's spokesman
added: "No donor can expect to influence the academic content of
research. I don't know what the report says but that has always been
our understanding and our strong expectation."
guardian.co.uk Copyright (c) Guardian News and Media Limited. 2011
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