Oxford hits £1.25 billion fundraising target

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Oxford University has passed its initial fundraising target of a “daunting” £1.25 billion this week.

The fundraising campaign Oxford Thinking reached the target in less than eight years, the shortest time such a sum has been raised in European university history.

Oxford Thinking began in 2004, and was launched publicly in May 2008. By October 2010, it had already reached the £1bn mark.

The money is helping to pay for new buildings and improved facilities, and fund academic posts and scholarships.

Funds made possible the UNIQ summer schools, Oxford’s flagship access programme, which gives bright students from disadvantaged backgrounds a free week at Oxford. 40% of its students end up receiving places at Oxford. The funds also made it possible for the first Afghan woman to do an Oxford master’s degree.

36% of the total money raised came from alumni of the University, as 16% of all alumni contributed last year, the highest participation rate of any UK university.

A third of all Oxford alumni have donated overall, four times the Russell Group average.

Individuals who had not studied at Oxford gave almost a quarter of the total funds. The University received a donation of £26m from Mica Eretgun last month, widow of the founder of Atlantic Records.

The Vice-Chancellor, Professor Andrew Hamilton, said: “When we first embarked upon the planning for the Campaign…our aim of raising a minimum of £1.25 billion seemed ambitious and perhaps rather daunting. The fact that we have been able to pass this target in only seven and a half years is testament to the strength of support for Oxford University.

“The Campaign has changed the face of Oxford’s landscape with award-winning new buildings and many enhanced College facilities. Gifts of all sizes from around the world have helped us to secure existing teaching posts, expand into new areas and introduce more scholarship schemes to ensure that the brightest and best students are able to come to Oxford to study and spread the benefits of an Oxford education across the globe.”

But the fundraising campaign did not stop Oxford’s large increase in tuition fees, which comes into effect next year. The University said it costs £16,000 a year to educate each student, adding: “The collegiate University will continue to meet almost half the £16k annual cost of educating an undergraduate at Oxford out of its own resources.

“The increase in the fees cap is accompanied by a radical reduction in government funding for teaching, and for capital investment ,which will to a large extent ‘cancel out’ the increased fee income.

“Oxford is offering the best no-strings-attached financial support for the poorest students of any university in the country from 2012 (worth up to £22,000 over three years). Those on family incomes below £16k (the threshold for free school meals), of which there are around 1,000 at any one time, will receive maximum support, both bursaries and fee waivers. We believe this is important for access – but clearly it is costly to provide.”

Oxford currently has an endowment of £3.8bn, the second highest in the UK, after Cambridge’s £4.5bn, but far above the third highest, Edinburgh’s £200m. Oxford’s endowment is still far below those in the US, with Harvard’s reaching about £20bn.