The decision, announced in a private memorandum to academics at the university, has fuelled rumours that he had a row with the board of governors.
Dr Ashworth's career at the LSE has been marked by controversy since he took up the post in 1990. In the last year he has suffered a number of significant setbacks. He is nearly five years through a six-year contract which ends in September 1996, and critics claim he may be saving face and jumping before he is shoved.
In February 1993, the LSE suffered a cut in research funding despite being rated as among the top three research insititutions in the country. That June, staff vetoed a move by the director to make the college the first in Britain to charge all undergraduates for tuition. Dr Ashworth said "top-up" fees were needed to head off financial difficulties. In late 1994, he suffered another blow when the LSE failed in its bid to take over County Hall, the former home of the GLC.
Officially, the LSE says his memo to staff was not a form of resignation. A spokesman said: "He has taken this decision so that the selection committee can review the position and reach a decision without external pressures.'' The previous director retired at the end of his contract, but Dr Ashworth, at the age of 57 is too young to retire from the £85,000 a year post.
He may be bluffing, however, holding out for a more flexible contract to pursue "other interests.'' He holds non-executive directorships at the Granada Group and J Sainsbury (worth between £20,000 and £40,000 each).
Controversial career, page 4
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