A billionaire businessman has given £100 million to Cambridge University in the largest ever single donation made to a UK university by a British philanthropist.
David Harding, a graduate of Cambridge’s St Catharine’s College, has gifted the university £79 million to provide fully-funded scholarships for the most talented PhD students.
A further £20 million has been put into a fund to benefit undergraduate students, and £1 million has been earmarked to stimulate innovative approaches to attract undergraduates from under-represented groups.
Harding founded his present hedge fund, Winton, in 1997.
His wife Claudia Harding is the managing trustee of the David and Claudia Harding Foundation, which is making the donation to the university.
Prof Stephen J Toope, vice-chancellor of Cambridge University, said: “This extraordinarily generous gift from David and Claudia Harding will be invaluable in sustaining Cambridge’s place among the world’s leading universities and will help to transform our offer to students.
“We want to attract, support and fund the most talented students we can find from all parts of the UK and the world.
“We are determined that Cambridge should nurture the finest academic talent, whatever the background or means of our students, to help us fulfil our mission ‘to contribute to society through the pursuit of education, learning and research at the highest international levels of excellence’.”
David Harding said: “Claudia and I are very happy to make this gift to Cambridge to help to attract future generations of the world’s outstanding students to research and study there.
“Cambridge and other British centres of learning have, down the ages, contributed greatly to improvements in the human condition and can continue in future to address humanity’s great challenges.”
The university said it currently has more outstanding PhD applicants than it can fund.
The Harding Distinguished Postgraduate Scholars Programme, starting in October this year, will ultimately fully fund more than 100 PhD students in residence at any one time.
St Catharine’s College, of which Harding is an alumnus, will receive £25m of the gift to support those postgraduate scholars on the programme at the college.
The university and colleges have already set a target to increase the number of postgraduates in residence by 13% from 6,500 in 2016/17 to around 7,400 by the end of 2021.