Oxford University is to receive a philanthropic donation of £26 million from the widow of the founder of Atlantic Records, Ahmet Ertegun.

The ‘Ertegun Scholarship’ programme will be the single largest donation for humanities students in Oxford’s 900 year history. The money will initially provide full funding for 15 humanities postgraduates every year but will be endowed in perpetuity in the future, allowing up to 35 postgraduates to attend for free every year.

The money has been bequeathed by Mica Ertegun, widow of Ahmet Ertegun, founder of the Atlantic Records label. Ertegun was responsible for some of the success of the Rolling Stones, Ray Charles, Eric Clapton and Led Zeppelin amongst others.

Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones gave a speech about Ertegun’s vision and generosity at the press conference at the British Academy in London, where the Scholarship was announced.
Also at the conference was the University’s Chancellor, Lord Patten, who said that, “Through the generosity of Mica Ertegun, the best humanities graduate students in the world will have the opportunity, in perpetuity, to undertake high-quality research, to interact with other fine minds, and to increase the sum of human knowledge and understanding.”

Funding for the humanities has had to bear the brunt of recent government cuts to higher education. Oxford, like other universities, has been affected. The University recently announced that £90 million is required to keep 75 of its humanities teaching posts funded in perpetuity, and that it will rely on philanthropic donations for much of this.

Thanking the Erteguns for their generosity, Lord Patten noted that, “Oxford was not created by the State, Oxford was created by a million and one acts of philanthropy.”

Mica Ertegun, who currently works as an interior designer in New York, said, “For Ahmet and for me, one of the great joys of life has been the study of history, music, languages, literature, art and archaeology.”

Stressing the importance of academic study, she added that the funding will be awarded “regardless of race, colour or creed … to students from around the world.

“My dream is that, one day, Ertegun scholars will be leaders in every field – as historians and philosophers, as archaeologists and literary scholars, as writers and composers, as statesmen and theologians.”

Oxford’s vice-chancellor Andrew Hamilton said that the gift is “important in its timing,” coming at a period when “in the UK, government support for the humanities is under intense pressure.” He said, “Vision and generosity like this is going to be what saves the field for future generations.”

The University said that, under the scholarship, “The world’s top graduate students in the humanities [will be] brought together with Oxford’s exceptional community of scholars in a unique setting that fosters dialogue across academic disciplines, across cultures and across generations.”