Oxford and Cambridge university colleges hold £21bn in riches

Britain’s ancient universities of Oxford and Cambridge have access to a staggering pool of wealth totalling almost £21bn, analysis by the Guardian has revealed.

Using a combination of freedom of information requests and audited accounts to piece together the estates, endowments, investments and other assets – including artworks and antiques – held by nearly 70 colleges and institutions shows the full extent of Oxbridge’s remarkable wealth.

The scale of Oxford and Cambridge’s affluence, built up over hundreds of years, is such that their assets could pay the tuition fees of every home and international student at UK universities and colleges for a year – and still leave £3bn to spare.

Trinity College, Cambridge, is the wealthiest of the individual colleges with published assets worth £1.3bn in its latest accounts. In Oxford, St John’s College tops the table with close to £600m in assets.

The concentration of accumulated reserves of wealth in the hands of just two institutions raises questions over their slow progress in reforming their admissions processes, as well as casting doubt on Oxbridge’s insistence that its expensive tutorial system of teaching undergraduates is underfunded by student tuition fees.

David Lammy, the Labour MP who has been a vocal critic of Oxbridge’s admissions failures, said some of the universities’ vast wealth could be put to better use in funding sophisticated access and outreach programmes.

“Why are colleges relying on undergraduate students to run outreach and access programmes instead of employing experienced professionals to go out to under-represented and disadvantaged areas to find the most talented students, regardless of their background?”

Trinity’s net assets have grown by nearly £160m in the space of a year in its most recent accounts – more than Oxford’s Balliol College has accumulated over 750 years. Trinity’s huge £563m investment fund recently included shares in the world’s largest arms companies, several partners in the Dakota Access pipeline, and Arconic, the supplier of the notorious cladding on Grenfell Tower.

Not all colleges are privy to immense swaths of wealth and there is a huge disparity between the richest and the poorest. The £32m assets of Cambridge’s Clare Hall College pale into insignificance against those of Trinity and its neighbour, King’s College, which has assets of £350m, including the £748,000 it received in annual literary royalties, including from the estate of the novelist EM Forster.

Read the full article Oxford and Cambridge university colleges hold £21bn in riches

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