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Gaddafi Son Expelled from Top MBA Program

The rebel uprising in Libya is causing something of an uprising of its own in the world of business education, resulting in the resignation of a prominent dean and the expulsion of a student at one of Europe’s top business schools.

Madrid-based IE Business School expelled the 27-year son of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi from its one-year international MBA course last week after learning that he is reportedly leading an elite military brigade trying to crush the rebellion. Khamis Gaddafi had enrolled in the program last April and was supposed to be serving an internship with an unidentified American company based in Texas that has business interests in Libya. He was set to graduate with his MBA in June.

IE Business School Dean Santiago Iniguez de Onzono said his failure to show up for the internship was a violation of the school’s Code of Ethics. “We tried to contact him and he didn’t reply,” said Iniguez. “It’s not just our code of ethics, of course. What he is allegedly doing is a violation of human rights. So he’s not finishing up.”

It is not uncommon for many European business schools to accept the sons and daughters of high-ranking officials and leaders in the Middle East. Hannibal Gaddafi, 34, yet another son of the Libyan dictator, graduated with an MBA from Copenhagen Business School in 2007. A former associate professor at Copenhagen became his private tutor through the experience, sometimes travelling to Tripoli where he was met by chauffeured cars, put up in a five-star hotel, and summoned for private sessions to Hannibal’s home where gazelles and antelopes strolled around a garden. Not exactly how most MBAs study.

Khamis, the youngest of Gaddafi’s seven sons, has a B.A. in military arts and science from the military academy in Tripoli. Among other things, he reportedly had been recruiting mercenaries to shoot pro-Democracy protestors while still enrolled in IE’s MBA program. He also allegedly is leading the so-called Khamis Brigade to help quell the rebellion. The elite unit is known as the most well-trained and well-equipped force in the Libyan military.

Meantime, the director of the London School of Economics Sir Howard Davies resigned his post after disclosures that the school had accepted a $2.4 million donation by another Gaddafi son, Saif, which was made a year after he was awarded a PhD in 2009 by the school.

The British tabloid press has been having a field day with the controversy. One Daily Mail headline blasted: “The Day that LSE Sold Its Soul to Libya.” The newspaper also has reported that “there have been allegations that Saif’s work was the result of plagiarism.” Yet another British paper, The Independent, has reported that one Libyan academic drafted in to help Saif Gaddafi was later rewarded with an ambassador’s posting to Europe.

The London School of Economics disclosed that it had signed a 2.2 million pound contract with Libya to train its civil service and had already received the bulk of that money from the dictator’s regime.

In a statement, accompanying his resignation, Sir Howard said: ‘The short point is that I am responsible for the School’s reputation, and that has suffered. I advised the council that it was reasonable to accept the money and that has turned out to be a mistake. There were risks involved in taking funding from sources associated with Libya and they should have been weighed more heavily in the balance. Also, I made a personal error of judgment in accepting the British Government’s invitation to be an economic envoy and the consequent Libyan invitation to advise their sovereign wealth fund.”

Former Lord Chief Justice Lord Woolf is to conduct an independent inquiry into the LSE links with the Gaddafi regime but academics remain angered at the damage done to the university’s reputation in accepting Libyan money.

IE, ranked among the top five non-U.S. business schools in the world, expelled Gaddafi’s son as soon as it found out that he was active in the fight against the rebellion, according to a spokesperson. Unlike the London School of Economics, IE had not received any donations from the country. But the decision does raise another issue, says Iniguez. “The question shtat comes up is whether we should educate the families of those who run dictatorships or those that are not now Democratic governments,” he says. “But what happens with China? What happens even to Singapore? I believe that education is the only way to change these regimes.”

About The Author

John A. Byrne is the founder and editor-in-chief of C-Change Media, publishers of Poets&Quants and four other higher education websites. He has authored or co-authored more than ten books, including two New York Times bestsellers. John is the former executive editor of Businessweek, editor-in-chief of Businessweek. com, editor-in-chief of Fast Company, and the creator of the first regularly published rankings of business schools. As the co-founder of CentreCourt MBA Festivals, he hopes to meet you at the next MBA event in-person or online.