Letter: High price of Said's pounds 20m gift to Oxford

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The Independent Online
Sir: Alexander Murray (Letters, 24 July) is entitled to his negative view of Oxford's proposed new School of Management Studies, but that is a matter of opinion. What is not a matter of opinion is that Mr Said's proposed benefaction is conditional upon the university's matching it from other sources to the tune of pounds 18m (plus the sacrifice of a playing- field site valued at pounds 2m).

Those whose vocation is fund-raising will see only a magnificent gift of pounds 20m. Others might put it differently: the university has been sucked into an obligation to find pounds 18m for management studies which, to put it mildly, it might have preferred to devote to an alternative purpose.

Our euphoric fund-raisers will say that Mr Said's gift will act as a magnet for further donations. Maybe. But if, as seems likely, after the five years' grace a substantial residue remains to be taken out of general funds, the university has to consider whether it would have wished to devote that amount to management studies rather than something else. Moreover, during the fund-raising period, the university is obliged to contribute to management studies the income that pounds 18m of endowment would have yielded if it had already been raised, ie approximately three quarters of a million pounds per annum. Finally, even if Mr Said's benefaction does stimulate other donors to earmark gifts for management studies up to the full matching sum needed, it is impossible to know how much of this money would have been given to Oxford anyway. Supporters of alternative causes such as the Bodleian could fairly see such amounts as losses, not gains.

Some of us will be voting against accepting Mr Said's generous offer when the matter is debated in Congregation on Guy Fawkes Day this year.


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