Image credit: Alison Stibbe
Oxford University has received a landmark £80 million 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 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. Initially named Parks College for its location on Parks Road, 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.
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.