Oxford and Cambridge University Colleges hold £21bn in Riches
A Guardian newspaper study reveals how wealth of nearly 70 colleges is held in estates, endowments and artworks owned by these institutions affiliated to Oxford and Cambridge Universities in the United Kingdom.
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.
Oxbridge’s total of at least £21bn is far beyond those of other British universities, and more than the combined investments of the other 22 members of the Russell Group of elite research universities, such as University College London.
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.
Oxford [recently] published details of its undergraduate intake, in an effort in highlight the progress it has made in recruiting students from diverse backgrounds. But the university admitted that it “still has more work to do in attracting the most talented students from all backgrounds”.
The Guardian revealed [recently] that 82% of offers from Oxford in 2015 went to British students from the top two socio-economic groups.
Earlier this year, Louise Richardson, Vice Chancellor of the University of Oxford, defended the university’s efforts by pointing out that the university spends £17m a year on outreach activities and financial support.
But that spending amounts to just over 2% of the £787m cumulative net income that Oxford and its colleges enjoyed in 2017, and just a fraction of the central university’s assets of £3.2bn, which rises to £9bn once college funds are included.
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 Oxbridge colleges not spending even a tiny sliver of this wealth on foundation years to improve access for under-represented students?” Lammy said.
“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?
“There can be no more excuses or passing the buck. With such a vast amount of wealth at their disposal I simply fail to see how it is tenable for Oxbridge colleges to continue to pay lip service to access and dedicate such a tiny proportion of their wealth to improving access.”