Tills ring out over Oxford

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The Independent Online
So you've visited Oxford and bought the T-shirt. Maybe even the baseball cap and high-quality cotton sweatshirt, complete with approved university logo, writes Lucy Ward.

Now, to show real loyalty to an ancient institution confronting a highly modern funding problem, you can buy the malt whisky and "Oxford Blue Bicycle", all paid for on a newly launched university credit card.

While Oxford's academics are preparing to resist any government assault on college fees - the extra income which allows Oxford and its Fenland counterpart of Cambridge to maintain their famed tutorial system - its marketing men have been busy squeezing the maximum return from the dark- blue brand. Employees and alumni of 25 out of 35 colleges last week received invitations to acquire an "affinity card" - a credit card bearing a photograph of their college.

The scheme, launched by Oxford Limited, a subsidiary company of the university, has proved most popular with poorer colleges.

Last week, Oxford Limited proudly unveiled a pounds 285 bicycle, complete with "Oxford University" written within the back wheel, and a malt whisky available only in Japan.

The new venture will add to the pounds 200,000 annual profit for the University's coffers earned through licensing its logo.

Meanwhile at Cambridge, which launched an affinity card in 1993, plans are afoot to add to its range of goods, starting with an Egyptian beer brewed from an ancient recipe found by a professor.

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