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5 February, 2019 - 10:33 By Tony Quested

Cambridge handed multimillions to woo best students on the planet

A record £100 million gift has handed Cambridge University a global edge in its bid to attract the best student brains on the planet.

The donation from the David and Claudia Harding Foundation is the biggest single gift made to a university in the UK by a British philanthropist and will help Cambridge woo the most talented postgraduate and undergraduate students from the UK and around the world.

The donation also propels a £500m fundraising drive, announced last autumn, aimed directly at increasing financial and wider support for students at Cambridge.

Professor Stephen Toope, vice-chancellor of the University, said: “This extraordinarily generous gift from David and Claudia Harding will be invaluable in sustaining Cambridge’s place among the world’s leading universities and will help to transform our offer to students. 

“We want to attract, support and fund the most talented students we can find from all parts of the UK and the world.

“We are determined that Cambridge should nurture the finest academic talent, whatever the background or means of our students, to help us fulfil our mission ’to contribute to society through the pursuit of education, learning and research at the highest international levels of excellence’.”

The gift has two main components: The Harding Distinguished Postgraduate Scholars Programme, supported by £79m, will provide fully funded scholarships for the most talented PhD students.

The remaining £21m is earmarked for supporting undergraduate students. In collaboration between the University and its colleges, The Harding Collegiate Cambridge Challenge Fund, worth £20m, aims to encourage further donations from alumni for financial support to undergraduates. 

A further £1m is set aside to stimulate innovative approaches to attracting undergraduate students from under-represented groups.

David Harding said: “Claudia and I are very happy to make this gift to Cambridge to help to attract future generations of the world’s outstanding students to research and study there. 

“Cambridge and other British centres of learning have down the ages contributed greatly to improvements in the human condition and can continue in future to address humanity’s great challenges.”

The Harding Distinguished Postgraduate Scholars Programme, starting in October, will ultimately fully fund, in perpetuity, over 100 PhD students in residence at any one time. 

Scholarships will be available to the most talented students for research in any discipline and the successful candidates will be offered places at applicable Cambridge Colleges. 

Cambridge has many more outstanding PhD applicants than it can currently fund and this gift will help to ensure that more of them have the opportunity to study at the University.

St Catharine’s College, of which David Harding is an alumnus, will receive £25m of the gift to support those postgraduate scholars on the programme at the college. Undergraduates at St. Catharine’s will also benefit from the wider purposes of the donation.

The University and its colleges have already set a target to increase the number of postgraduates in residence by 13 per cent from 6,500 in 2016/17 to around 7,400 by the end of 2021.

In October 2018, Professor Toope announced the Student Support Initiative (SSI), with a £500 million fundraising target for the University and the Colleges. 

The SSI has the following priorities:-

  • Postgraduate studentships to ensure quality and diversity of postgraduates 
  • Undergraduate financial support and widening participation programmes 
  • Student wellbeing, sport and cultural activities, to ensure students thrive and have the best possible experience at Cambridge.

Picture Credit: Claudia and David Harding

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