Oxford University has announced plans for a world-class international business school funded by its largest single benefaction in 60 years, writes Alan Thomson.
Vice chancellor Peter North said it would not be a "clone" of other business schools, particularly those in the United States that tend to operate in isolation from other disciplines. "The touchstone of the new school will be breadth of learning. We will be drawing on academics from a broad range of relevant disciplines such as economics, engineering, law and politics. The school will be able to offer intellectual depth," he said.
Syrian-born financier Wafic Rida Said is giving the university Pounds 20 million for the establishment of a business school to rival the likes of the London Business School, Harvard and Stanford. The Said Business School should open in 1998/99.
The benefaction will pay for a new Pounds 18 million building, incorporating an on-line computerised library, next to Mansfield College. The remaining Pounds 2 million will start off an endowment fund for posts and research that the university will make up to Pounds 20 million.
The school will provide initially for 150 MBA students, 250 undergraduates and some 100 post graduates. Praise for the project came from Stephen Watson, dean of Lancaster University Management School and former director of the Judge Institute of Management Studies, which opened at Cambridge University in 1990 following a Pounds 17 million fundraising drive.
Professor Watson said: "This move by Oxford will underline the importance of business education. I also think that, while US business schools are immensely rich and varied, the British schools are better in many ways particularly when it comes to imagination."
Now a Saudi Arabian citizen, Mr Said, who normally avoids the limelight, is a friend of Baroness Thatcher and helped clinch a Pounds 20 billion arms contract between British Aerospace and Saudi Arabia. His son Khaled has just graduated from Balliol with a 2:1 in law.
* Oxford's largest previous donation this century of Pounds 3 million from Lord Nuffield to establish medical sciences in the 1930s would be worth nearly Pounds 80 million today.