Dodgy Donations

Conservative MP Robert Halfon describes Durham University’s acceptance of a £2.5 million donation from an ex Kuwaiti PM as “astonishing”.

Conservative MP Robert Halfon has criticized Durham University for accepting a £2.5 million donation from former Kuwaiti Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser Al-Sabah.

Mr Halfon, who has previously condemned Durham University and many others for accepting foreign donations, described the University’s decision as “astonishing” given the controversial source of the money, describing Kuwait as country that “we cannot consider to be democratic or tolerant”.

The money was pledged in March 2011 but the official handover  was held until last month, by which time Sheikh Nasser Al-Sabah had stepped down from his position after a corruption row.

The debate sparked last year following the resignation of Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser Al-Sabah after claims that his government had taken state funds illegally. Four months ago a judicial tribunal cleared the ex-Prime Minister of any wrongdoing; nevertheless the controversy remains.

Chris Higgins, Durham’s Vice Chancellor, was quizzed about such ethical funding issues last year in Question Time at the DSU. He responded “I’m not concerned because we put that money to good use, for example those studying politics benefit from the Al-Qasimi building. We feel that it is appropriate to support the education of our students.”

The University also responded to the debate, stating, “We are aware that His Highness Sheikh Nasser Al Sabah has previously faced charges brought by opposition MPs in the Kuwait Parliament and that he was able to satisfy his Parliament on that issue. Kuwait is one of the more open and progressive societies in the Middle East”.