Billionaire philanthropist donates £150m for Humanities at Oxford University

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Oxford University has secured its largest single donation ‘since the Renaissance’, bringing the university’s Humanities disciplines together for the first time in a new centre which will house a full suite of state-of-the-art academic, exhibition, and performance spaces.

Steven A. Schwarzman, philanthropist and Chairman, CEO and Co-founder of Blackstone, the world’s largest alternative investment firm, has made a foundational gift of £150m which will fund the new Stephen A. Schwarzman Centre for the Humanities.

According to the university, Oxford’s programmes in English, history, linguistics, philology and phonetics, medieval and modern languages, music, philosophy, and theology and religion will be housed together for the first time, in a space designed to encourage experiential learning and bold experimentation through cross-disciplinary and collaborative study.

The Schwarzman Centre will also be home to Oxford’s new Institute for Ethics in AI, which will build upon the University’s world-class capabilities in the Humanities to lead the study of the ethical implications of artificial intelligence and other new computing technologies.

The building will include performing arts and exhibition venues designed to engage the Oxford community and the public at large, and attract new audiences.

Modern amenities and digital capabilities will finally allow for the full breadth of Oxford’s collections and research in the Humanities to be shared externally.

Investing in the Humanities

Oxford has led the world in the study of Humanities and Ethics for nearly 1,000 years, The university’s Humanities Division draws students, researchers, and faculty from around the globe, with 25% of all Oxford students pursuing studies in the Humanities.

The new investment will allow Oxford to grow its academic posts and scholarships, helping to attract the next generation of students to the Humanities, including those from under-represented backgrounds.

Author Sir Philip Pullman said:

‘This is one of the most exciting ideas for a long time. Oxford, which abounds in talent of all kinds, deserves a proper centre for the study and celebration of the humanities. This is a time when technology is making new media, new forms of communication, new ways of thinking available to a much wider range of students and citizens than ever before, but also when the roots of humane study need nourishing and strengthening – and indeed protecting – in a world that sometimes seems to have lost touch with the best elements of its past.’

500-seat concert hall

Beyond academia, the Schwarzman Centre will offer a range of new public spaces and amenities allowing individuals to engage more deeply with Oxford’s collections and groundbreaking research.

School and other groups across the UK, as well as global audiences, will have access to a wide variety of learning and cultural experiences, amplifying the social impact of Oxford Humanities.

New facilities will include a 500-seat concert hall and a 250-seat auditorium, as well as flexible performance and exhibition spaces for music, dance, and art. These venues will feature programming from Oxford students and faculty, local community-based organisations, and leading international artists. They also will provide much-needed space for the public to gather at Oxford for festivals and other cultural celebrations.

New broadcasting and sound studios in the Schwarzman Centre will allow Oxford to share its insights with global audiences and better lend its voice to the most pressing conversations of the day.

Valuing the Humanities

Professor Louise Richardson, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford, said:

‘This generous donation from Stephen A. Schwarzman marks a significant endorsement of the value of the Humanities in the 21st century and in Oxford University 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.’

Stephen A. Schwarzman said:

‘I’m proud to partner with Oxford to establish the Schwarzman Centre for the Humanities which will unite Oxford’s Humanities faculties for the first time, include a new Institute for Ethics in AI to explore crucial questions affecting the workplace and society, and in addition offer modern performing arts facilities that will deepen Oxford’s engagement with the public.

‘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. Oxford’s longstanding global leadership in the Humanities uniquely positions it to achieve this important objective.’

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