£300m scheme transforms undergraduate financial support

£300m programme kicked off with £75m commitment from Michael Moritz & Harriet Heyman

Lowest-income undergraduates to benefit from:

  • Zero living costs throughout course

  • Fees limited to £3,500 a year (repayable only after graduation)

  • Internship opportunities

Watch the video here.

The biggest philanthropic gift for undergraduate financial support in European history will underpin a major new scholarship programme at the University of Oxford – making it possible, starting this autumn, for students from low-income backgrounds to complete their studies with zero upfront study and living costs.

The transformative programme is founded on a £75million commitment from alumnus Michael Moritz and his wife Harriet Heyman which, with a 'matched funding challenge' to the collegiate University, will generate an unprecedented total of £300million to support UK undergraduates from lower-income backgrounds.

At present, just under a thousand Oxford undergraduates (about one in ten) are in the lowest family income bracket (families with incomes of below £16,000). Within three years of its launch this autumn, more than half of these students could benefit from a Moritz-Heyman Scholarship. It is envisaged that eventually all such students would be covered by the scheme or equivalent similar scholarships.

Under the programme, Oxford students from the lowest-income families will receive financial support totalling £11,000 per year, eliminating all living costs. Those students will have their borrowing pegged to the level prior to the new higher fees regime coming into force this autumn. They will need government loans of just £3,500 a year – repayable only in line with future earnings. 

In addition, Moritz-Heyman scholars will receive financial support during vacations (so that economic hardship does not unnecessarily divert or distract low-income students), and will participate in a tailor-made internship programme to foster career opportunities.

Oxford’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Andrew Hamilton, said: 'Oxford is already offering the most generous undergraduate support package in the country. But this remarkable and hugely generous gift and initiative from Michael and Harriet allows us to go an important stage further towards our goal of ensuring that all barriers – real or perceived – are removed from students' choices. It provides extraordinary support – financial and personal – for outstanding students.'

Michael Moritz, who is an alumnus of Christ Church, said: 'Real talent is housed everywhere. Our new scholarship programme means that a gifted student – irrespective of financial circumstances – will always be 100% confident they can study at Oxford. This is a fresh approach to student funding in the UK – fuelled by philanthropy; catering to the dreams and aspirations of individuals determined to excel; while also safeguarding the academic excellence on which Oxford’s global reputation stands.'

The Prime Minister, The Rt Hon David Cameron, said: 'I welcome this generous donation which will mean that many talented students, from some of the most disadvantaged backgrounds, will get help and support to study at a world leading university, and have a chance to realise their full potential.' 

The total gift of £75m to Oxford will be made in three tranches of £25m. Each £25m will be matched by the equivalent of investment returns from £25m of the University's own endowment, making £50m in total. Then there will be a challenge to the collegiate University and its supporters to match that £50m through further philanthropy. Only when the £25m stimulus has led to a full £100m for student support will the next £25m be given. This process will happen three times over, until Moritz and Heyman have donated £75m in all and Oxford has a total of £300m dedicated to undergraduate support.

Those who have already won a 2012 Oxford place with family incomes of below £16,000 will be eligible for a Moritz-Heyman scholarship. For 2012-13, 100 scholarships will be available, and priority will be given to students of science subjects and those who meet Oxford’s access priorities.

Students with family incomes below £16,000 who do not get one of the 100 Moritz-Heyman scholarships will still automatically receive Oxford University’s new standard 2012 support package, which provides both fee waivers and bursaries and is the most generous in the country.

In 2008, Michael Moritz and Harriet Heyman donated $50m (over £25m) to Christ Church, where he studied as an undergraduate, the biggest single gift in the college’s recent history.

Further quotes from a selection of Oxford college heads

Tim Gardam, Principal of St Anne’s College, Oxford:
'This donation will transform undergraduate bursary provision at Oxford. This must surely be the single biggest advance towards needs blind admission that has been made. It will strike a powerful chord with all donors, big and small, who donate to college bursary funds. I am sure the challenge funding will generate an immediate response.'

'It is important that the fund is linked to an internship scheme and to student ambassador work in schools. This will get an enthusiastic response from the students, who are always our best advertisement when recruiting in schools in disadvantaged areas. The overall proposition is extremely generous but also expects the students to contribute themselves. That is absolutely right. Our challenge in the collegiate university will now be to meet the targets of the challenge funding. This could not come at a better time.'

Andrew Dilnot, Principal of St Hugh’s College:

‘These new scholarships will be a central part of the way in which Oxford can ensure that disparities in income will not affect the opportunity for British students to study at Oxford. The generosity of Michael Moritz and Harriet Heyman’s gift, alongside the way in which it is structured, offers a powerful way forward for the whole university in ensuring that access continues to be needs blind.’

Sheila Forbes, Principal of St Hilda’s College:

'We know that an Oxford education transforms our students' lives and opens their eyes to a new world of opportunities. We must continue to give that opportunity to the most talented students regardless of their financial circumstances. This generous and imaginative gift is vitally important in helping us to do so as the national system changes. It also means these students can consider graduate work without a burden of debt.  On behalf of all those who will benefit, we are deeply grateful to Michael Moritz and Harriet Heyman for stepping forward and setting such a wonderful example.'

The Very Revd Christopher Lewis, Dean of Christ Church:
'Michael Moritz, a Christ Church alumnus, made the largest gift in the college’s recent history back in 2008, together with his wife Harriet Heyman. Now they are further supporting Oxford and the next generation of top students with even greater generosity. This initiative gives generous support to those most at risk of being put off from applying to Oxford, preventing finance becoming a barrier. What is more, the students involved will act as emissaries, showing others that Oxford is open to all who are academically able enough to gain a place.'

Giles Henderson, Master of Pembroke College:
'This is a wonderful initiative, which really shows bright young people from low-income families that we want them at Oxford and that they can come to Oxford. The incredible generosity of Michael Moritz and Harriet Heyman's offer, and the significance of the scheme’s objectives, are such that every possible effort must now be made to get in the "challenge funding" that is a key part of the programme.'

Sir Michael Scholar, President of St John’s College:
'This is of very great significance for Oxford, both for the University and its Colleges. We are all of us wholly committed to widening access, and we at St John's were very concerned about the possibility that debt aversion might deter applicants from lower-income backgrounds. The new standard Oxford financial support package seems, on one year's evidence, to be working well, but it will be much better to have this even more generous scheme in place, and therefore to drive home the message that everyone can be fully confident about their finances if they come here. Colleges are very keen to fund-raise in support of undergraduate scholarships and bursaries, and it is marvellous to have the stimulus and incentive of this extraordinary donation.'