In an official statement, Carolyn Fowler, Durham University Registrar has said:
“The University has been made aware that a confidential document which details academic funding applications made by the University, or by individuals acting on the University’s behalf, has been leaked on the internet.
“Durham University has established processes for the management of academic income and receives funding from a broad range of research and education partners whilst remaining true to the principles of independent academic discovery.”
No-one from the University has been made available for an interview with Palatinate at this time.
A recently released Wikileaks cable suggests that Durham University has been involved with the U.S. State Department in gathering information on Iran, in return for substantial secret funding.
The cable suggests that the University was offered and may have accepted over $400,000 from the U.S. State Department for running a series of seminars “under the auspices of Durham University’s School of Governmental Affairs”. The cable dates from April 2008 and emphasises the usefulness of Durham’s ties with high ranking Iranian officials as “political cover” for the projects.
Originally posted on Friday evening as part of the Telegraph’s ongoing release of U.S Embassy Cables, it has since been removed from their website. Current members of the School of Government and International Affairs (SGIA) have been named in the cable.
According to the cable, sourced from the U.S. Embassy in London, it appears that these seminars were used as a platform for offering “U.S. and USG (U.S Government) observers a useful look inside Iranian politics at a grassroots level”.
The document alleges that Durham has “networks within Iranian academia and unofficial policy circles,” including one academic who is linked to the IRGC (Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps), a branch of Iran’s military founded to prevent internal dissidence and uprising. In November 2007, the academic then became a spokesman for the Iranian National Security Council.
It is believed that the University has held a number workshops and seminars with the dual purpose of bringing over reform-minded Iranian students, as well as government officials.
The cable states: “Durham University’s demonstrated access to academic and civil institutions, reinforced by [name removed by Palatinate]’s apparently successful creation of political cover with IRI [Islamic Republic of Iran] authorities for Iranian participants, gives this proposal the strongest prospects of broad, meaningful Iranian participation given the restrictive current political conditions in Iran.”
If true, the allegations will raise serious questions about the conduct of several senior academics and staff within Durham University. Any Iranian students travelling to Durham for the seminars are unlikely to have been aware of how they were funded.
It remains University policy to strongly advise students and academics against all travel to Iran. “Durham University does not wish to impose a blanket ‘ban’ on travel to Iran or to override any academic consideration which may be given to proposals to travel to this region. However, we would like to take this opportunity to stress some of the sensitivities around travel to Iran for Durham members at this time and to clarify that the University is currently unable to sanction travel insurance for any University member wishing to travel to this country.”
From the Cable:
“Durham Workshops: Civil Society ——————————-
6. (C/NF) An ambitious project at Durham University, entitled “Iran-U.S. Civil Society Engagement” (lasting 12 months, asking $123,050 in funding) aims at bridging “the communicative gap between influential Iranian individuals affiliated with strategic research centers” and their U.S. counterparts, and would convene additional and expanded symposia along the lines of recent (2007) Durham events held with USG [U.S. Government] assistance… The workshops and symposia would provide the opportunity and space for engagement and exchanges among individuals and institutions in Iran and the U.S. who, though private academics and entrepreneurs themselves, bring significant degrees of informed perspective and critical ability to bear on strategic and regional questions of interest to both countries.”