The University of Oxford has received a £150 million donation – the largest gift to the institution since the Renaissance – from the philanthropist Stephen Schwarzman to create a new humanities research centre.
The Stephen A. Schwarzman Centre for the Humanities, funded by the co-founder of investment firm Blackstone, will house Oxford’s new Institute for Ethics in AI, studying the social impact of artificial intelligence and other new technologies.
It will also serve as an interdisciplinary research hub for disciplines including English, history, music, philosophy and theology.
The centre will be housed in a new building constructed on the site of the former Radcliffe Infirmary, which will include a library, a 500-seat concert hall, a 250-seat auditorium, and performance and exhibition spaces for music, dance and art.
The benefaction will also create new academic posts and scholarships, including for students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Mr Schwarzman, a graduate of Yale and Harvard universities, remains chairman and chief executive of Blackstone, which manages assets worth more than $500 billion (£400 billion).
He has a record of major gift-giving to higher education, having donated $350 million to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology last year to establish the MIT Schwarzman College of Computing, another centre set up to study the ethics of artificial intelligence.
In 2015, he donated $150 million to Yale to build a new campus centre, and founded the Schwarzman Scholars programme at Tsinghua University to educate future leaders about China.
Louise Richardson, Oxford’s vice-chancellor, described Mr Schwarzman’s donation as “a significant endorsement of the value of the humanities in the 21st century and in Oxford as the world leader in the field”.
“The new Schwarzman Centre will open a vibrant cultural programme to the public and will enable Oxford to remain at the forefront of both research and teaching while demonstrating the critical role the humanities will play in helping human society navigate the technological changes of the 21st century,” Professor Richardson said.
Mr Schwarzman said the Institute for Ethics in AI would “explore crucial questions affecting the workplace and society”.
“For nearly 1,000 years, the study of the humanities at Oxford has been core to Western civilisation and scholarship. We need to ensure that its insights and principles can be adapted to today’s dynamic world,” Mr Schwarzman said.
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