UK Hedge Fund Boss Sets Academic Philanthropy Record

Tom Burroughes Group Editor 6 February 2019

UK Hedge Fund Boss Sets Academic Philanthropy Record

The £100 million donation to the university is the largest single UK donation of its kind ever.

The US may lead the way in multi-billion dollar donations to higher education, but a British ultra-high net worth hedge fund tycoon has broken a local record, giving £100 million ($130.2 million) to the University of Cambridge.

The donor is David Harding, founder of the hedge fund business Winton. He is joined in the donation by his wife, Claudia, a trustee of the Science Museum Foundation. 

The gift is made up of two parts, the university said in a statement. Firstly, the Harding Distinguished Postgraduate Scholars Programme, supported by £79 million, will provide fully funded scholarships for the most talented PhD students. Second, the remaining £21 million is earmarked for supporting undergraduate students. 

“In collaboration between the University and the Colleges, The Harding Collegiate Cambridge Challenge Fund, worth £20 million, aims to encourage further donations from alumni for financial support to undergraduates. A further £1 million is set aside to stimulate innovative approaches to attracting undergraduate students from under-represented groups,” it said.

Around the world, UHNW individuals have made big-ticket donations to universities. Late last year, former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, founder of his eponymous Bloomberg media empire, donated $1.8 billion to John Hopkins University. Amounts involved in modern philanthropy, even allowing for inflation compared with the era of the Rockefellers, Mellons and Guggenheims, are large. In May last year 14 billionaires said they had signed the Giving Pledge, formally joining the 154 other billionaires who have pledged to transfer at least half of their vast wealth to philanthropic causes. The Giving Pledge was started in 2010 by Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett (source: CNBC, 31 May, 2017). At that time, the Gateses were worth a collective $88.5 billion, and Buffett worth $74.2 billion.

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