Oxford University has set up a new society to recognise those who donate money to the institution.

Part of the Oxford Thinking campaign, the donor recognition society known as the Vice Chancellor’s Circle was launched last week with a private reception, debate and dinner hosted by John Hood.

The title of the debate was, “Poetry is beautiful, but science is what matters”, and was chaired by the barrister Geoffrey Robertson QC.

John Hood said at the launch, “We are delighted to recognise our donors’ generous support in this way. Their support helps to strengthen our colleges, divisions, libraries, laboratories, and every centre, society, club and institution that sustains the intellectual life of the University and carries Oxford’s vital mission into the future.”

The society has one hundred founding members and includes college donors, alumni and non-alumni, individuals, trusts and foundations, and corporate organisations. However, the University has not released the names of the members.

The Oxford Thinking Campaign yesterday celebrated its first birthday. In its first year, the campaign has raised £713 million, 57% of its £1.25 billion target. However, the project has been facing difficulties due to the economic slow down.

Nevertheless, the university and colleges have received some notable gifts in the last year, including a single donation of £1.75 million to Wadham college, £3.25 million to the University’s summer schools and a single donation of $50 million to Christ Church.

The Chancellor’s Circle is not the first donor recognition society to be set up at Oxford. In 1990, the late Lord Jenkins set up the Chancellor’s Court of Benefactors, which now has 155 members.

The University’s Encaenia ceremony celebrates generous donors. Last year, eight men and women were honoured.