New colleges to transform Oxford academic landscape

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The academic landscape of Oxford is poised for transformation after two major building projects planned for the heart of the historic city moved a step nearer fruition. As details emerged of a pounds 20m donation from King Fahd of Saudi Arabia to finance a minaret-topped Centre for Islamic Studies close to the city centre, Oxford University yesterday announced a proposed site for a new business school to be paid for by Saudi entrepreneur Wafic Said.

Construction of the business school will go ahead subject to approval by the University's Congregation - its "Parliament of Dons" - and to the granting of planning permission. The two separate developments will mean a dramatic expansion in academic accommodation in an already closely-packed city centre, where land for new buildings is near impossible to come by.

Proposals for the Oxford Business School ran into controversy earlier this year after the university suggested locating the pounds 40m building on a parkland site in the same area as the planned Islamic Centre development. The scheme was overturned by University dons who claimed open land should be protected. Now the planned construction of a mini-college for Oxford's 12-year-old Islamic Centre, complete with minarets and a domed mosque, on another green-field site just behind Magdalen Dear Park has prompted Brasenose College to present a report detailing objections to the plans with Oxford Council. Bursar Dr Robert Gasser said the proposed building, adjacent to a new Brasenose accommodation block, was too large for its site.