In an expected ruling, the Information Review Tribunal has ordered Elizabeth Denham, the Information Commissioner of the United Kingdom, to respond to her decision protecting the identity of University of London thesis examiners. Denham has been given until March 16 by the court to explain why she is protecting the identity two thesis examiners who purportedly reviewed the 1984 London School of Economics thesis of Tsai Ing-wen.
Tsai Ing-wen, president of the Republic of China in-exile, triggered an academic firestorm when she submitted her PhD thesis to the London School of Economics Library in June 2019, thirty-five years late. The thesis, entitled “Unfair Trade Practices and Safeguard Actions,” was to have been submitted to complete Tsai’s degree process when she graduated. The tardy thesis finally submitted by Tsai appears to be a draft document, unbound with pagination problems, footnote issues, and handwritten entries including a question mark.
President Tsai, the London School of Economics where she studied, and the University of London which issued her diploma, all refuse to name the two professors who allegedly approved the thesis. Tsai has publicly bragged about the examiners claiming they were so impressed they wanted to give her an extra degree. Tsai won’t say why she is keeping the examiners’ identities secret. The two London schools say they cannot tell because that is Tsai’s private information.
The Freedom of Information request for the names of the thesis examiners has been working its way through the system since September 2019, when the London School of Economics said the University of London had the answers. The University of London says they know who the examiners are but can’t divulge the identities because of Tsai’s right to privacy.
The Information Commissioner’s Office upheld the University of London and the matter went to court. Resolution of the Freedom of Information request has been delayed by a territoriality issue limiting the court to United Kingdom citizens. The Information Review Tribunal has now ruled that anyone in the world may make information requests.
Denham was given twenty-eight days, until March 24, to respond to the lawsuit and ordered to inform the University of London of the pending case. If the University chooses to not intervene the school will not be allowed to make its own arguments to the court and will have to rely on Denham to defend its privacy decision.
Tsai’s thesis was briefly an issue in her reelection campaign but stonewalling by LSE and the University of London allowed the controversy over the thesis and claims of a fraudulent degree to die down. A future ruling by the court that the University must disclose the identity of the thesis examiners may well bring the issue back to life.