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Oxford hits £1.25 billion target

Drive for donations launched in 2004 reaps rewards for the University
Joe Iles on Saturday 17th March 2012
Photograph: Oxford University

Oxford Thinking, the fundraising campaign for the University of Oxford, has passed its initial target of £1.25 billion and now stands at almost £1.3 billion.

Launched only in May 2004, this marks the shortest time ever taken by a European university to reach such a target.

36% of the total came from alumni of the University, with 16% of all alumni contributing last year, the highest of any university in the UK. Oxford's Vice-Chancellor, Professor Andrew Hamilton, commented, “We are enormously grateful to all those who have supported the campaign and who are helping us to secure Oxford’s place as a world-class university for generations to come.”

5.4% of the money raised has been donated by corporations, providing support for academic posts such as the KPMG Professor of Taxation Law and the Lovells Professor of Law and Finance. This has had mixed responses from students: some reacted positively, with a first year linguist commenting, “I approve of positions in the University being supported by big corporations. If it’s a means to an end, I think it’s a good thing.”

Others, however, were more sceptical: first-year classicist Jasmine Krishnamurthy-Spencer said that she doubted whether the donations really were “no-strings-attached money”.

A University spokesperson commented, “Corporate funders providing philanthropic support are treated the same way as any other donation. Donors who choose to support academic posts do not determine the direction or academic content of a chair – this is left to the University.”

23% of the money came as donations from those with no previous affiliation to the University, including major gifts from Russian-born US businessman Leonard Blavatnik and Mica Ertegun, the widow of Atlantic Records founder Ahmet Ertegun.

The University’s reliance on philanthropy has led some to question the sources of the money, but a University spokesperson commented, “All proposed donations over £100,000 are subject to formal scrutiny and review by the University’s Committee to Review Donations, whether from individuals or organisations.”

Results of the funding drive include the development of the UNIQ summer school programme and the provision of scholarships for graduate research, as well as the restoration of University buildings, notably the Ashmolean Museum and the Department of Earth Sciences.

Oxford has stressed that despite the increase in fees, the accompanying reduction in government funding will “to a large extent ‘cancel out’ the increased fee income” meaning that the university will still rely heavily on outside funding.

The Oxford system costs around £16,000 per student per year and “only around half the costs of that education have ever been met by the combination of fees and government funding.” The next stage of the campaign is said to have “a special focus on student support.”

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