Thatcher endowment row

January 30, 1998

Cambridge University looks set to accept a Pounds 2 million endowment from former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher for a new professorship in "enterprise studies" - but not without a row.

The Cambridge General Board is recommending the establishment of the Margaret Thatcher Professorship of Enterprise Studies from October this year, following an offer of Pounds 2 million from the Margaret Thatcher Foundation, a think-tank dedicated to promoting entrepreneurship.

The recommendation is likely to cause controversy when it is debated at a senate discussion in mid-February.

It is understood that some on the Cambridge governing Council fear the proposals could create a row of similar proportions to the controversy over the university's acceptance of an endowment from British American Tobacco in July 1996.

"If it is not dirty money," said one source, "it is at least grey money. And beyond that, it looks like a political appointment for an academic post."

When the endowment was first mooted in summer last year, Frank Hahn, a leading Cambridge economist and critic of Thatcherism, said the chair might be exploited as propaganda.

Now retired, he refused to speak this week.

But the proposal has been welcomed by Sandra Dawson, director of the Judge Institute of Management Studies. She said: "Thanks to the Thatcher Foundation, we will be able to establish Cambridge as a leading centre in this area and ensure that our students had a very well-founded international perspective on the dynamics of successful enterprise."

A spokesman for the Thatcher Foundation said: "This chair is designed to make Cambridge a repository of the knowledge and conditions that enable enterprise to flourish."

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