Case sets out the principled way to accept a gift

LSE awaits outcome of probe into Gaddafi regime gifts to publish guidelines. David Matthews reports

October 20, 2011

Universities must make public their ethical guidelines for accepting gifts, according to new advice drawn up after the scandal over donations to the London School of Economics by the Gaddafi regime.

The LSE has not made its guidelines public, and the record among other institutions is mixed.

The Council for Advancement and Support of Education (Case) has set out 10 recommendations, including that universities must be "guided by clear policies" that are "in the public domain".

Kate Hunter, executive director for Case, said that members had been working towards common guidelines for some time, but the LSE scandal in the spring "put a spotlight on this issue".

She said that making policies public was "normal practice". "I don't think it's a massive change," she said.

However, a spokesman for the LSE said that it had produced written guidelines in 2009 but they were not public.

Large or controversial donations are considered by the university's development committee, which is made up mainly of major donors and is chaired by Cato Stonex, a fund manager.

Although the LSE's council has a veto over any donation, the development committee can choose whether or not to ask the council for an opinion on a gift.

The spokesman said that the LSE was reviewing its guidelines, but had been awaiting the Woolf Report into its dealings with the Gaddafi regime.

Lord Woolf, former Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, will examine issues including a £1.5 million donation from the Gaddafi International Charity and Development Foundation, and questions of plagiarism around Saif Gaddafi's PhD thesis, awarded in 2008. He is expected to report in November.

The stance of other Russell Group universities - which received nearly three-quarters of all philanthropic income in the UK in 2009-10 - varies significantly.

The University of Glasgow said that its guidelines were not available publicly.

The universities of Oxford, Warwick, Newcastle and Cardiff do not yet have their guidelines online, but provided them on request. Warwick said it would shortly be putting its guidelines on its website.

A spokesman for the University of Cambridge said that its criteria have been available online for 10 years. The University of Bristol also has its guidelines on its website.

The Case guidelines recommend that: "Universities should have procedures in place for reviewing and reconsidering previous decisions...if subsequent events or the subsequent availability of additional information require it."

The guidelines were developed by the Ross Group of Development Directors, which includes many members from the Russell Group, and the 1994 Group of development directors.

Ms Hunter said the guidelines should apply to all UK institutions. However, she stressed that they were "not enforceable in any way".

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