Professor Andrew Hamilton, the University’s Vice-Chancellor, has announced that the University of Oxford is to increase its fundraising campaign from £1.25 billion to £3 billion.

The Oxford Thinking Campaign reached its initial £1.25 billion target in the middle of March. Money raised will be channelled into three main areas: supporting students, funding academic programmes and improving buildings and infrastructure. Money raised so far has funded new scholarships and academic posts, particularly at the Blavatnik School of Government, and has also supported new research programmes and access schemes.

The campaign, which was launched in May 2004, draws on support from individuals, organisations and corporate bodies.

Professor Hamilton, in his annual oration to the University last week, said that reaching the £1.25 billion target had been “a remarkable milestone, but a milestone nevertheless on a continuing road.” He said of the new £3 billion target, “I am sure we can do it – and frankly we have to do it, because it represents the essential down payment on the future aspirations and achievements of our university.”

The Vice-Chancellor also touched on the issue of philanthropy in light of the recent change in government funding for universities. He said, “The retreat of the state from providing direct funding for important aspects of higher education is a trend that has caused a great deal of anger, sorrow, and soul searching.” He added, “With greater weight and reliance being placed upon the individual and the private, it is no surprise that the role and the importance of philanthropy is being drawn into ever sharper focus.”

Although Professor Hamilton praised philanthropy, drawing on the success of the recent launch of the Moritz-Heynman scholarship scheme and the Blavatnik School of Government, he also pointed out its limits, saying that it is not a “magic bullet” for university funding, or “a door through which the state can progressively leave the scene.”

When asked about how achievable the target was and how long it would take to achieve, an Oxford University spokesperson told Cherwell, “Only time will tell how long it takes the University to raise £3 billion”, but pointed out, “We managed to reach £1.25 million in just under eight years, the fastest that such an amount has been raised in European university history.”

An example of Oxford’s commitment to supporting students has been through a funding scheme for postgraduate students worth £100 million, announced at the same time as the new £3 billion target. The scheme hopes to bridge the “graduate funding gap”.

Chris Gray, OUSU Graduate Officer, told Cherwell, “The Student Union is aware that there is a long way to go until the graduate funding gap is filled at Oxford, but the new graduate match funding initiative is a big step forward.” He continued, “Funding is by far the biggest obstacle to prospective graduate students, and it is one the University must overcome if it is to guarantee that it is admitting the best and the brightest.”

David J. Townsend, OUSU President, commented, “Philanthropy has been a part of Oxford’s history since its foundation.” He added, “When half of our students have absolutely no access to a government loan scheme and pay unregulated fees, our generation must be able to say to the next generation that we did everything we could to make this university accessible to talent, regardless of wealth, regardless of passport.”

The news of an increased target has been subject to some criticism. James Kleinfeld, representative of the Education Activist Network and a second year at Keble College, asked, “How much money do they need to raise until they can reconsider the stupidity of charging students three times more to receive an education here?”

Kleinfeld continued, “With such reputable names as BP and Rupert Murdoch adorning academic posts in this university, it can be difficult to tell where this great training centre for multinational corporations ends, and where the University of Oxford begins.’

“The University can rely on its mass of millionaire graduates to support its agenda of growth, though I would hate to think of all the other universities without such fundraising potential.”

Second year Jessica Norris questioned the sustainability of fundraising, commenting, “Obviously the university is free to ask for money and it is up to people whether they would like to donate, but I don’t really see how philanthropy could reliably replace public funding. If I were to donate, I would want to know exactly where my money was going”.