The Guardian has reported that Oxford and Cambridge university colleges hold a combined £21billion in wealth. This figure was calculated using a combination of freedom of information requests and audited accounts, to uncover the wealth distributed amongst estates, endowments, investments and other assets held by the nearly 70 colleges and institutions that comprise Oxbridge.
The combined wealth of the two institutions exceeds that of the collective other 22 members of the Russell Group of elite research universities, such as University College London.
Oxford’s wealthiest college is St. Johns with almost £600m of assets. St. Johns is followed by All Souls, and then Christ Church. Whilst, Oxford’s least wealthy college is Harris Manchester.
Nonetheless, Oxford does run an equalisation fund, which means the wealthier colleges provide support to their poorer counterparts, however some college bursars have accused the wealthiest colleges of obscuring or undervaluing their asserts to keep these contributions to a minimum.
The Guardian estimates that the wealth possessed by Oxford and Cambridge would be sufficient to pay the tuition fees of every UK and international student currently studying at a UK university or college for a year-and still have £3bn to spare.
However, college bursars have pointed out that in many cases colleges do face formidable costs, and use the returns they make on assets to fund fellowships or student support, as well as to maintain their ancient buildings and grounds.
It is expected that the financial advantage of Oxford and Cambridge is likely to grow relative to other UK universities, since the high credit ratings and international reputations that the two have, has meant that they can issue bonds worth hundreds of millions of pounds on the capital markets.
The current figure itself could actually be higher, since many colleges do not place a value on their historic main sites, and on the “heritage assets” they possess, which include works of art, libraries or artefacts. For instance, Oxford’s museum, the Ashmolean houses artwork by Michelangelo, Raphael, and Da Vinci, as well as Stradivarius violin.