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LSE response to the Woolf Inquiry

The Council of the London School of Economics and Political Science today (Wednesday, 30 November) publishes the report of Lord Woolf's Inquiry into the School's links with Libya. It also announces the results of a separate inquiry by the University of London into alleged academic misconduct by Saif Gaddafi.

Lord Woolf, commissioned by LSE Council in March to review LSE's links to Libya following the resignation of Director Howard Davies, finds that there were failings of governance, management and communication at LSE concerning Saif Gaddafi's PhD and the decision to accept a gift from the Gaddafi International Charity and Development Foundation.

LSEThe School will implement all 15 of Lord Woolf's recommendations in consultation with the academic community. It has already brought in many of the changes recommended by Lord Woolf. On PhD admissions and supervision, the School has brought in major changes since 2004 to enhance the quality of PhD programmes. In an Institutional Audit earlier this year, the Quality Assurance Agency reported that "arrangements for the selection, learning support, training, supervision and assessment of research students were found to be exemplary". The School has already revised its donations policy and will now develop this further.

Professor Judith Rees, Director of LSE, said: "The publication of this report will help LSE move on from this unhappy chapter in its otherwise celebrated history. It is consoling that Lord Woolf finds that no academic or other staff member at LSE acted other than in what they perceived to be the best interests of the School. He also describes the work of LSE Enterprise in training Libyan professionals and civil servants as of merit. We will now work to take LSE forward, learning the lessons of the report and implementing Lord Woolf's recommendations."

Peter Sutherland, Chair of LSE Council, said, "The Council is grateful to Lord Woolf for this thorough report. It was commissioned to address the many concerns around LSE's links to Libya, and has been published in full as there are lessons in here for both LSE and for the higher education sector as a whole."

The Inquiry examined three areas of LSE's links with Libya:

  • Saif Gaddafi as a student (2002-2008)
  • The £1.5 million donation from the Gaddafi International Charity and Development Foundation (GICDF), of which £300,000 was received. The School subsequently put this sum towards scholarships for students from North Africa
  • LSE's other links with Libya, notably the Director's appointment as the UK economic envoy to Libya and his position on the international advisory board of the Libyan Investment Authority as well as the work of LSE Enterprise for Libya's National Economic Development Board.

Lord Woolf did not set out to investigate whether Saif Gaddafi received an impermissible amount of assistance with his PhD. A Panel to consider the allegations of academic misconduct against him was set up by the University of London, which awarded the degree. The University of London has concluded that the PhD should not be revoked. The PhD thesis has been annotated to show where attribution or references should have been made.

Lord Woolf's 15 recommendations are set out below, with LSE's action set against each one.


Action already taken

Action to follow

1.The LSE should have an embedded Code dealing with ethics and reputational risk which applies across the institution. That Code should be reviewed at regular intervals to ensure it is in accord with best current practice. The LSE should set up a Committee, which may have subcommittees so far as this is desirable, to effectively deal with issues relating to the Code.

LSE's Strategic Plans have long stated our institutional values and commitments upfront and incorporated them into our mission statement, as acknowledged by Lord Woolf. Ethical guidance for different research areas is also available.

A sub-committee of Council will work in the first instance to implement this recommendation. It is currently proposed that the committee will meet as often as necessary in order to prepare an Ethics code for consideration by Council in March 2012.

2. The LSE should consider – a) How to achieve greater uniformity of practice for the admission of PhD students b) To what extent it is appropriate in the case of PhD admissions to take into account a student's potential ability to benefit society as a result of their attendance at LSE.

a) In 2004 LSE began the process of reforming its PhD regulations. As a result there is already a greater degree of uniformity in PhD admissions, with better co-ordination across departments and more stringent English language requirements. In an Institutional Audit earlier this year, the Quality Assurance Agency reported, "arrangements for the selection, learning support, training, supervision and assessment of research students were found to be exemplary".

b) The key factor in deciding whether to admit a PhD student is academic merit. No student will be considered if they do not have appropriate qualifications. In 2005 Academic Board also resolved that other factors to be taken into consideration were the quality of the initial research proposal and the motivation of the applicant.

a) LSE will continue its process of reforming its PhD regulations, in particular through proposals to ensure that more PhD students are fully-funded, thereby resulting in a smaller number of high quality students. It will build on arrangements described as "exemplary" by the Quality Assurance Agency earlier this year.

b) This matter will be discussed by Academic Board in 2012. The key factor in deciding whether to admit a PhD student is academic merit. Since 2005 this has covered academic qualifications, the quality of the research proposal and motivation.


3. There should be an academic body, staffed by academics from across the institution, charged with oversight of the admission of postgraduate students and their continuing work programme.

The review of LSE procedures for research students earlier this year by the QAA found procedures well organised across departments: "Each department has a doctoral programme director, with responsibility for overseeing: the training, support and supervisory workload of supervisors (all supervisors receive bespoke training); the induction of new research students; and the training of all research students. The obligations and responsibilities of research students, supervisors, and departmental doctoral programme directors are clearly specified: these include the minimum frequency of supervisions and early support from supervisors with identifying research training needs, planning time and drawing up a research framework."

We will build on current arrangements, developed since 2004 and praised by the QAA, to take forward a proposal in the lent term. In particular, we will look again at the terms of reference of the existing Research Degrees Sub Committee. Further, new proposals for fully-funded PhDs will see the establishment of a body for the oversight of PhD admissions as of 2013.


4. Departments and academics should be regularly reminded of the importance of good lines of communication. That should be supported as necessary by procedures or written guidance. Particularly, they might be required where multiple departments are involved in the work of a single student, for example, when a postgraduate degree involves multiple departments.

LSE has already worked to ensure that procedures and written guidance are clear and accessible. The QAA review found that we had "well-established, clearly-written and easily-accessible regulations, procedures (which includes complaints and appeals) and codes of practice".

Further, we use "admissions sheets" for PhD applications, which make it clear to Department B if Department A has rejected a candidate.

LSE will put in place a system for regularly updating all staff on current regulations and procedures. It will build on the measures already introduced and the work praised by the QAA to ensure cross-departmental communication.

5. LSE should lay down guidance which is as precise as possible on what assistance is and is not appropriate for a postgraduate student to receive.

LSE has already drawn up draft guidelines on editorial assistance and the use of plagiarism detection software. It is currently developing a School-wide Handbook for Supervisors.

Paper on editorial assistance and the use of plagiarism detection software at PhD level to come from Research Degrees Sub Committee to the Academic Board for approval in the lent term.

6. There should be a clear policy on setting out in what circumstances, and in what manner, the question of a student's possible contravention of that guidance will be investigated.

This is already set out clearly in the draft editorial guidance as advised by Lord Woolf.

Guidance to be ratified by Academic Board in the lent term.

7. Academics should be made actively aware of the School's Regulations and should be reminded of their utility as tools for regulation of a student's academic progress in cases of concern.

Our improved regulations are accessible and widely publicised, as evidenced by the QAA.

LSE is happy to draw the attention of academics to existing regulations, and again the QAA found our regulations to be clearly written and accessible. The further guidance on editorial support and plagiarism will assist in this process as will the new all-School Handbook for Supervisors.

8. The LSE should adopt, as an institution, an up-to-date policy on donations. That policy should be contained as part of or in a separate document contained within the School's Code on ethical and reputational risk.

LSE has already undertaken further work on a donations policy under the relevant pro-director, as acknowledged in the Woolf report. It builds on an initial document drawn up by the Office of Development and Alumni Relations in January 2009.

As set out by Lord Woolf, the LSE will develop a Code on ethical and reputational risk and hopes to provide a draft to Council in March 2012. The donations policy will be clearly linked to this code as also advised by Lord Woolf.

9. The donations policy should include a procedure for the scrutiny of proposed donations with clear lines of responsibility. The roles and responsibilities of ODAR, the Development Committee and any additional Committee that might have responsibilities in connection with donations should be set out in writing. Any individual who has responsibilities in relation to gifts should have those identified in writing.

The work undertaken to date reflects Lord Woolf's thinking on this. LSE has developed interim "Guidance on the assessment of the sources of donations and grants". These are already on the LSE website and will inform the work of developing long-term guidelines along with the "Ethical Principles behind the Acceptance of Gifts" as recently published by CASE Europe. In addition we have already established a rigorous interim process for the scrutiny of all grants and donations with the clear escalation of difficult cases.

While Council will establish a sub-committee to oversee an Ethics code for LSE, there will also be an Ethics (grants and donations) committee specifically to scrutinise grants and donations. The relationship of this committee to ODAR and to the Development Committee is currently under review and will be clearly set out, with individual responsibilities in relation to gifts set out in writing as recommended.

10. The donations policy should identify whether, and in what circumstances, it is appropriate for an individual, centre or department to request a donation on their own initiative. The donations policy should require that ODAR must be informed promptly of any potential donation.

LSE has been working to better co-ordinate academics and the professional support services, particularly in relation to donations. Earlier this month the Director of the School wrote to all departments and research centres requiring that they consult ODAR before requesting donations.

It will no longer be acceptable for an individual, centre or department to request a donation on their own initiative without first consulting ODAR. This has already been acted on.  

11. The School should set out written guidance on the appropriate relationship between the LSE and a donor.

LSE has a clear statement that has already been agreed and is incorporated in all gift and grant agreements: "LSE accepts donations on the clear understanding that the funder can have no influence over the academic freedom and independence of LSE".

This relationship will be set out as recommended in the donations policy. LSE has already made it clear that:

"LSE accepts donations on the clear understanding that the funder can have no influence over the academic freedom and independence of LSE".

12. The recommendations of the Sutton Report on the governance of research centres should be implemented.

Review of LSE Global Governance undertaken by Professor Sutton and series of recommendations on governance of research centres put forward.

Sutton Report already discussed by Council, will be discussed by heads of departments and research centres in early December and detailed implementation proposals will go to Academic Board in January 2012.

13. The Code should be regarded as being applicable to all individuals performing activities which could reasonably be perceived as being performed on behalf of LSE.


LSE Enterprise readily agrees to incorporate the LSE Ethics code into its own guidance and procedures. LSE will consult on wider application.

14. The Committee dealing with ethics and reputational risk must have sufficient awareness of the activities of LSE-E and other bodies operating under the name of the School, to ensure that Committee has a holistic view of potential and cumulative risks to the School.

The School is developing a register of activities and interests in order to improve oversight of School-wide activities.

LSE intends a sub-committee of Council to begin the process of establishing an Ethics code for LSE. It will oversee the creation and running of the Code, and ensure that it embraces all areas of the School, including areas such as LSE-E and the developing register of activities/interests. As already indicated this sub-committee hopes to present a code for Council's consideration in March 2012.

15. The LSE should consider the width of the principle that no gift will be accepted from a current student and should determine whether it extends to other benefits, including commercial contracts.


LSE will extend the currently applied principle that no gift will be accepted from a current student to cover commercial contracts.


Notes to editors

The Inquiry was set up on 3 March 2011 following criticism of LSE's links to Libya and the resignation of the Director, Sir Howard Davies. The terms of the Inquiry were as follows:

An independent inquiry to establish the full facts of the School's links with Libya, whether there have been errors made, and to establish clear guidelines for international donations to and links with the School. Lord Woolf is to make recommendations to the LSE Council as soon as possible. He is to have total discretion as to how he conducts the inquiry, and as to the matters on which he is to report.

The full report of the Woolf Inquiry can be found here: Woolf

Governance structures at LSE:

The 28-member LSE Council, as governing body, is responsible for determining strategy and its members are company directors of the School. The Court of Governors (80 members) deals with some constitutional matters and has influence in the School through pre-decision discussions on key policy issues and the involvement of individual governors in the School's activities. Peter Sutherland KCMG chairs both bodies. The Academic Board is the principal academic body, which considers all major issues of general policy affecting the academic life of the School and its development. It is chaired by the Director, with staff and student membership. There are a number of committees of the Council, Court and the Academic Board, and others, which are advisory to the Director. 

Published: Wednesday 30 November, 2011 

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