Ex-student cuts fees for poor at Oxford university


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The Independent Online

Hundreds of the UK's poorest bright teenagers are to be given scholarships to attend Oxford after the university was handed a £75 million donation by a former student.

The prestigious institution has been gifted the funds by businessman and former journalist Michael Moritz and his novelist wife Harriet Heyman.

The money is set to be used to kick off a new £300 million scholarship programme to support students from the lowest income families through their studies, Oxford has announced.

It comes as tuition fees in England are tripled to a maximum of £9,000 per year, and amid fears that concerns about debt could still put some disadvantaged students off going to top universities.

Students receiving the new Moritz-Heyman scholarships will have no upfront study or living costs, receive financial support during the holidays and take part in a tailor-made internship programme, Oxford said.

In total, the package will be worth around £11,000 per year, with fees pegged at £3,500, the current fee level before the hike is introduced this autumn.

Oxford said that the £75 million donation was the "biggest philanthropic gift for undergraduate financial support in European history".

At an event to unveil the programme in central London, Mr Moritz said the aim of the initiative was to ensure that "every headteacher throughout the UK understands that there is no obstacle whatsoever for any of their students, any pupil, who has the academic ability and talent to take a place at Oxford, to be able to gain admission to the university".

There is now "no financial barrier" between any student and an Oxford education, he added.

Around one in 10 Oxford undergraduates, about 1,000 in total, come from homes with annual incomes below £16,000, and within three years it is expected that half of these students could receive one of the new scholarships, Oxford said.

Around 100 students will be given an award this autumn, and eventually, all students in this group could be covered.

Mr Moritz, who was previously a correspondent for Time magazine and is now chairman of Sequoia Capital, said: "We hope that these scholarships touch a lot more than just the individual recipients and beneficiaries of the awards.

"Because as those students graduate, and go on to pursue whatever their passion in life becomes, we hope that their work will then touch many more people, as they pursue careers in science, or in business, or in the arts."

Mr Moritz graduated from Christ Church College, Oxford, in 1976 with a degree in history.

He said that the personal reason behind his donation was that he had attended an "ordinary comprehensive school" in Cardiff, and was the only pupil in his year to go to Oxford.

"I would not be here today were it not for the generosity of strangers," Mr Moritz said.

As a teenager, his father had been "plucked" from Nazi Germany and able to attend a good London school on a scholarship, before winning a further award to study at Oxford, he said.

Mr Moritz added that he also had a cousin who was taken from terrible circumstances and given help to complete his studies.

"I think it is all to easy not to remember those that can be so easily forgotten," he said.