Considering Howard Davies

The Director of the London School of Economics (LSE), Sir Howard Davies, has resigned from his post, an unexpected casualty of the popular uprising in Libya. He had accepted Libyan money on LSE’s behalf, and had acted as adviser to Gaddafi’s government. As the Libyan régime suddenly began to look toxic, the role played by Howard Davies in creating this link for the college became a serious problem, and he resigned.

Two issues arise from this. First, there is Howard Davies himself. He was no typical university head, having been a senior public servant as well as a businessman and business representative (he was, amongst other things, Director-General of the Confederation of British Industry and chairman of the Financial Services Authority). As head of LSE he was seen as a tough manager but also a sympathetic leader, and I believe was on the whole liked and respected by the academic community. However, his business background may have contributed to the Libyan misjudgment. The debate about the best credentials for university leaders will continue, with Davies as a mixed-message example.

Secondly, what position should universities adopt in their relations with other countries? Is there a ‘liberal democracy test’ that should be applied before any relationships are forged? If so, does that imply a cultural as well as political frame of reference? Might it look as if, for a European university, it is not safe to do business with any country outside of Europe and North America? That LSE should now withdraw from all Libyan links is understandable and right. But how judgmental should we all be that these links were created in the first place? And what should other universities now be doing in reviewing their portfolio of global partnerships?

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5 Comments on “Considering Howard Davies”

  1. Vincent Says:

    With the best will in the world to the fellow. But is this not a case of overinflation. Short of him being directly involved in some way with what’s going on ‘right now’, what earthly difference has his involvement had on the price of eggs.
    If, to follow the logic, this holds, then all who ever worked or got a few shillings from Libya should resign. In the Cold War days they had to find some gorgeous Armenian -female or male- to compromise some straight-laced figure of the English establishment. I bet the Kremlin is today musing the simplicity of getting them over to balance the chequebook.

  2. Al Says:

    Who could have predicted the unrest.
    At least the man recognised the honourable thing to do!
    Not much of that going on here…..

  3. Niall Says:

    If we follow that logic, no university in the west would have any dealings with China

    • Jilly Says:

      Well, it’s a thought, isn’t it? I do think however that there is a difference between taking individual students (I might draw the line at a dictator’s son, but that’s a tricky one), and making formal alliances with a regime itself. One can be argued to work in favour of democracy, one can’t.

  4. Kevin Perez Says:

    Was the relationship between LES and Libya a recent development; the past 10 years? Or did it go back to the 80s?

    To make a moral judgment one has to ask what did he know and when did he know it. Absent that information I’ve got to give Davies the benefit of the doubt and say he acted in good faith with good intentions.

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