Magdalen College announced last week that it has sold a 40% stake in The Oxford Science Park (TOSP) to the Singaporean investment fund GIC, for an estimated £160 million.

The valuation obtained by the Financial Times is a staggering ten times more than what it was worth only five years ago in 2016, a testament to the extraordinary growth of Britain’s medical and life science research sector in recent years. The huge jump in demand for laboratory and office space since the easing of lockdown restrictions has also fueled the remarkable valuation.

Magdalen could now lay claim to be Oxford’s richest college. St. John’s and Christ Church have traditionally competed for the top spot, but with this new influx of cash Magdalen’s endowment fund, set to reach £606 million, could overtake both.

Magdalen has called the sale “a strategic partnership”, and Dinah Rose QC , President of Magdalen, told Cherwell: “it will give the college the opportunity both to enhance the provision it makes for its own students, and to benefit the wider university.”

There have been criticisms of the decision to put the money in an endowment, however. Anvee Bhutani, President of the Oxford Student Union, when speaking to the Guardian, expressed frustration that: “Oxford and its constituent colleges have a lot of money but oftentimes, having this money in investments and endowments means that they are unable to draw on it on a day-to-day basis.”

She also urged: “that colleges prioritise and financially support current initiatives around big issues such as sustainability, diversity, access and more.”

Dinah Rose told Cherwell: “The additional income will principally be used for the benefit of Magdalen’s students,” and the list of plans for the extra spending seem to fit with the Student Union President’s wish list. They include “financial support and student welfare”, “broadening access and outreach”, “sustainability initiatives”, and “improved accommodation and facilities for both graduate and undergraduate students.”

How quickly these benefits come about is yet to be seen, however, as Rory Maw, Bursar of Magdalen College and Chief Executive of TOSP, has said: “[the additional income] will take five years to feed in fully.””

The Science Park, founded in 1991, was originally a joint project between Magdalen and M&G Real Estate, but in 2016 Magdalen acquired full ownership, buying out their partners for £18.1 million. Now the park as a whole is valued at around £400 million.

It is home primarily to start-ups in the field of medical research and life sciences, and hosts over 100 companies and 3,500 employees.

Notable companies based there are Vaccitech, who developed the chimpanzee adenovirus technology that was used in the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine; Exscientia, who use artificial intelligence in drug development, and were recently valued on Nasdaq at $3 billion; and Oxford Nanopore, who on September 30th almost reached a valuation of $5 billion.

The buyer of the 40% stake is GIC, formerly called Government of Singapore Investment Corporation, a sovereign wealth fund with an investment portfolio of £300 billion. It is owned by the Singaporean government, and its mission is to manage the foreign reserves of Singapore.

Rory Maw has said of GIC: “its objectives are aligned with ours… and of Magdalen College.”

The President of Magdalen College JCR was approached for comment.

Image: Ed Webster/CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons


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