The donation, made by Leonid Blavatnik in 2010, was the subject of criticism in a letter written to the Guardian. The letter, which was signed by a number of academics, Oxford alumni, and Russian dissidents, urged the university to rethink its decision to accept the donation and should “stop selling its reputation and prestige to Putin’s associates”.
The donation from Blavatnik has been used to fund the Blavatnik School of government, and the construction of a new site for the school on Walton Street in Jericho.
The criticisms centered on Blavatnik’s involvement with a consortium of Russian billionaires known as Access-Alfa-Renova (AAR). The group has been accused of pressuring BP in Russia resulting British and other Western managers being forced out of the country.
The consortium was also accused in the letter of conspiring with FSB intelligence agency officials in order to bring about a case against two Oxford graduates.
In the letter it was stated that: “These corporate abuses took place in Russia with active official support. There was a backdrop of state-sponsored propaganda. Russian state media broadcast libellous assertions against western and Russian citizens…Oxford University apparently failed to investigate these facts, AAR’s track record from the beginning, and its close ties with the Kremlin.”
A spokesperson for Oxford University responded to the Guardian by stating: “Oxford University has a thorough and robust scrutiny process in place with regard to philanthropic giving. The Committee to Review Donations conducts appropriate due diligence based on publicly available information. The University is confident in this process and in its outcomes.”
“The University is a world leader for research and education at a time of growing global competition. Generous philanthropic donations help make this possible, supporting outstanding teaching and research discoveries of worldwide benefit.”
The Blavatnik School of government was founded in 2010 following the large donation made by Mr. Blavatnik. The school states its aims are to bring about an improvement in the quality of policy-making worldwide and offers students the chance to study for a Masters in Public Policy.
Mr. Blavatnik is considered to be the UK’s richest person with an estimated worth of £17.1 billion. He was born in the USSR in what is now Ukraine in 1957 but is now an American citizen residing in London. Blavatnik’s fortune is managed through his holding company Access Industries.
Oxford is not the only university to benefit from Mr. Blavatnik’s philanthropy; Harvard University received a $50 million donation this year.
Image: The Guardian