Reuben Foundation donates £80 million for first new Oxford college in 30 years

11 June 2020

  • Landmark £80 million gift from the Reuben Foundation to support Oxford University’s newest graduate college, set to be named Reuben College in perpetuity
  •  New college in central Oxford in the heart of the University’s science area will focus on interdisciplinary research addressing future global challenges including cellular research (and vaccine development), environmental change and AI
  • Gift will also fund major new graduate scholarship programme and expand the Reuben Foundation’s existing support for undergraduates
  • Transformational gift for Oxford – one of the largest in its history – and milestone grant for the Reuben Foundation’s key commitments to the advancement of education and healthcare worldwide

Oxford University today announces a landmark £80m donation from the Reuben Foundation that will transform Oxford’s newest college and establish a major new scholarship programme for graduate and undergraduate students.

The college is now set to become ‘Reuben College’, in recognition of the historic gift that secures its vision of a diverse, dynamic research community working on some of the key issues of our time.

The University last year established its 39th college – the first for 30 years – as a new base for graduate students who are eager to embrace opportunities for interdisciplinary exchange and apply their research to address key future challenges. 

Due to welcome its first students in the autumn of 2021, Reuben College has already attracted an outstanding line-up of academic Fellows. The college aims to generate new insights into the biggest questions of our time by bringing academics from traditionally different disciplines together to work on challenging themes and share their knowledge with the college’s graduate students. A culture of innovation and enterprise and a strong commitment to diversity, sustainability and public engagement will cut across all interdisciplinary activities. The college’s initial research themes are: Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning; Environmental Change; and Cellular Life, which includes ongoing work in understanding COVID-19 and the current pandemic. 

Professor Louise Richardson, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford, said: “Thanks to the extraordinary generosity of the Reuben family, Reuben College will join the storied ranks of Oxford Colleges. For generations to come, the lives of young people will be transformed as they learn to engage in research that pushes at the frontiers of knowledge. Now, more than ever, our society needs a new generation of highly educated researchers to address the global challenges that transcend national borders. This gift represents a vote of confidence in Oxford, a vote of confidence in the power of research to solve societal problems, and above all, a vote of confidence in the future.”

The donation is also a landmark one for the Reuben Foundation, which has recently made significant donations of healthcare equipment for Oxford University Hospitals (as well as other hospitals in the UK and elsewhere) treating patients with COVID-19. As well as providing a substantial endowment for the college, the gift expands the existing Reuben Scholarship Programme, which was established in 2012 for disadvantaged undergraduate students. The Programme will now also include Oxford-Reuben graduate scholarships for students at Reuben College. The Oxford-Reuben Scholarships will help attract the world’s most talented graduate students, who will be at the heart of the college’s knowledge exchange activities, with many of them going on to form the next generation of outstanding academics.

The Reuben family said: “The current pandemic has shown us just how vital it is to have access to the very best medical research and academic thinking. Fortunately, in the UK we have some of the finest minds in the world working in some of the most pre-eminent academic institutions. We hope that this endowment for the Reuben College will help keep Oxford University at the global forefront of research in the vital areas of Environmental Change, AI and Machine Learning and Cellular Life, thereby helping to improve the lives of millions of people long into the future.” 

Lisa Reuben, Trustee of the Reuben Foundation, said: “The Reuben Foundation has been supporting Oxford University for many years with its scholarship programme to support those from disadvantaged backgrounds. We are delighted to further our ties with the university through this endowment, creating the new Reuben College which will become part of Oxford life in perpetuity along with a further enhanced scholarship endowment. 

Professor Lionel Tarassenko, President of the college, said: ‘This gift is a massive endorsement of our mission to provide a genuinely collaborative home for academics and foster new, interdisciplinary approaches to problems of global significance which will inspire our graduate students. We launched last year with a focus on the three themes of artificial intelligence, environmental change and cellular life. Now we can envisage a future that includes more cross-cutting research themes and offers richer engagement opportunities for our academics, graduate students and the community at large.’

Located in a suite of buildings on the historic Radcliffe Science Library site, Reuben College is in the heart of the University’s Science Area. The buildings are currently undergoing refurbishment to create a central site for the college’s graduate students. Some of the space will be shared with the Radcliffe Science Library and the University museums. On completion in 2021, Reuben College will offer accessible and modern facilities, with flexible spaces for quiet study, group meetings, seminars and workshops, public events and social occasions. The college’s students will have access not only to world-leading academics (the College Fellows) but also to the specialist knowledge and expertise of library and museum staff located in the buildings. Reuben College will also include a Digital Innovation Studio equipped with cutting-edge technologies and digital resources to support learning, knowledge exchange and public engagement.

Reuben College is preparing to start recruiting its first cohort of graduate students this September, ready for admission in the autumn of 2021.

For further information please contact: Stephen Rouse, [email protected] or 01865 280528

Notes to Editors:

About Reuben College
In 2019, the University of Oxford formally established a new graduate society, known as Parks College for its location near the University Parks. Pending approval by the University’s legislative body, Congregation, the college will be renamed Reuben College, in recognition of the historic founding gift by the Reuben Foundation. Information about the college can be found at: 

Reuben College aims to generate new insights into the biggest questions of our time by bringing academics together from traditionally different disciplines to work on challenging themes and share their knowledge with the college’s graduate students. A culture of innovation and enterprise and strong commitment to diversity, sustainability and public engagement will cut across all inter-disciplinary activities. The college’s initial research themes are:

Artificial Intelligence and machine learning: Oxford is established as one of the world’s leading centres for Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning research, addressing problems of global significance. In particular, there is pioneering work taking place in robotics, driverless cars, healthcare, finance, privacy and ethical issues. Reuben College will create a cluster of computer scientists and engineers, working on fundamental principles and applications in every area from finance to healthcare to robotics, working alongside neuroscientists interested in characterising human intelligence and philosophers working on the philosophy of the mind.

Cellular Life: Reuben College researchers will bring together researchers seeking to understand the underlying mechanisms of living organisms, with an emphasis on the cell. From the nerve cells that wire our brain to the specialised cells of the pancreas and liver that control how our body processes food, understanding how cells work will transform our knowledge of ourselves, as well as our ability to cure disease. Research on cellular life will involve social scientists as much as medical researchers; for example, ageing, which is caused by the accumulation of cellular defects, is of as much interest to social scientists helping to shape public policy as to gerontologists. 

Environmental Change: This theme spans the causes of biodiversity loss and climate change and how we respond to those changes. A dynamic cluster of researchers, covering the humanities, physical sciences and social sciences, will develop solutions including international policy processes, and behavioural and technological innovations. The college intends to work with partners in communities who will both be most affected by, and most able to make a difference to, environmental change. The theme’s work will be in collaboration with indigenous groups, NGOs, government and business working to find solutions on the ground.

College Fellows in the AI & Machine Learning and Cellular Life themes include researchers working on improving our understanding and treatment of COVID-19, including vaccine development, patient monitoring and disease forecasting.

The Reuben Foundation
Formed in 2002 with a very substantial endowment and a number of subsequent additional endowments, the Reuben Foundation is committed to the betterment of society in the UK and around the globe through focused charitable giving in the areas of education, health and the community. A select group of Trustees oversee the operation of the Reuben Foundation and are closely involved in all funding initiatives and charitable donations. For further information on the Reuben Foundation please visit