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The opinions expressed on this page are mine alone. Any similarities to the views of my employer are completely coincidental.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Saif al-Gaddafi: My part in his downfall

In my last couple of years at the London School of Economics I coordinated admissions into the PhD programme of what at the time was called the Interdisciplinary Institute of Management (IIM). One day I received a phone call telling me that I was about to receive an admissions file containing information that should be treated in confidence. I don't now recall from whom or from where the call came, probably from someone in the admissions bureaucracy. As it  happened I could already guess what  was in the file. A rumour had been circulating for several weeks in Houghton Street that one of Gaddafi's sons had applied to do a doctorate. 
When I opened the file the decision was a no-brainer. Gaddafi Jnr had no relevant qualifications for our programme, no viable research project and there was nobody in the Institute with an interest in supervising him. I ticked the reject box and returned the file to the admissions office. I remember seeing a note to the effect that the next destination of the file was to be the Department of International Relations. There is nothing suspicious about that, it being routine for students to apply to several departments before they find the right home for their project. Nobody at any time tried to twist my arm or suggest that it was in the LSE's  (or the IIM 's) financial interest to accept Gaddafi. It was all very low key, routine , banal. 
It seems to me that the exercise of power in  universities is like that. You rarely have to exert it explicitly. You just set the ball rolling and somebody somewhere will probably follow the line of least resistance without being told to do so. This is very convenient because it makes plausible deniability a piece of cake.


vbacak said...

That is an incredible story. If he got into management, perhaps he would have managed the rebellion better? Colin, do you believe that, as some suggest, the doctorate was plagiarized? Even German ministers do it, why not a son of a dictator? - Valerio

Colin said...

Valerio - I don't know whether the thesis was plagiarised. I've looked briefly at the site where people are collecting alleged examples of unacknowledged quotations and textual similarities. In my experience you have to look at these things very carefully before jumping to conclusions and I don't have the time to do that. I gather the LSE is mounting an official investigation into the allegations and I would expect that once things have escalated to that level there won't be a whitewash. Petty cover-ups in all organizations tend to happen further down the feeding chain.