University Colleges Oxford and Cambridge Own Property Worth £ 3.5 Billion | University funding

The colleges of Oxford and Cambridge collectively own more land than the Church of England and have a portfolio of properties across the UK worth £ 3.5 billion, an investigation by the Guardian.

From a Scottish castle conquered by Robert the Bruce and the O2 arena in Greenwich to a betting shop in Brent, north-west London, the land and buildings belonging to the university colleges encompass both ancient and modern possessions. growing to 51,000 hectares (126,000 acres) – an area more than four times the size of Manchester.

Oxbridge’s holdings eclipse the 42,000 hectares held in 41 dioceses by the Church of England, which is often considered the UK’s largest private landowner.

The figures follow Monday’s revelation that estates, endowments, investments and other assets held by Oxford and Cambridge are collectively worth nearly £ 21 billion. The details of the property come from the most extensive investigation of Oxbridge’s land holdings since 1873, through a combination of Freedom of Information requests, archival searches and land registers.

Oxbridge Colleges have real estate holdings of £ 3.5bn, while universities collectively hold real estate investments worth £ 863m. These figures do not take into account the value of many historic university sites, which are held at amortized cost.

Land held by All Souls College, Oxford and Trinity College, Cambridge

The total size does not include unmeasured land held by several colleges “under old possession”, nor properties of universities, which could not fully account for their land ownership but own at least 1,800 hectares, according to available information. in line.

Cambridge’s two main landowners are St John’s and Trinity, which own 10,500 hectares worth £ 1.1 billion and make up more than half of the 17,000 hectares owned by Cambridge colleges.

Trinity values ​​its property investments at £ 850million and in early January the college sold a block of commercial and residential space in Kensington High Street in central London to Unitum Ltd, a Malta-based holding company, for £ 28million.

All Souls, Christ Church and Merton are the largest Oxbridge landowners in the UK, owning 14,000 of the 34,000 hectares owned by Oxford Colleges valued at around £ 460million.

The oldest college-owned property is Buittle Castle in Dumfries and Galloway, built in the 12th century and donated to the Scottish nobleman John de Balliol, who, along with his wife, Lady Dervorguilla, founded Balliol College, Oxford, in 1263.

Although the castle was captured by Robert the Bruce in the 14th century, it later returned to the crown and is now back in the hands of Balliol College.

One of the more lucrative holdings is the O2 Arena, originally known as Millennium Dome, which Trinity College owns with a 999 year lease after buying it for £ 24million in 2009.

Trinity collects rent from Anschutz Entertainment Group, which operates the concert arena, and over the past two years the college has made nearly £ 22million in profit on the site.

Other well-known properties include the site of the Top Gear Test Track, also owned by Trinity, and the Rose Bowl, home of the Hampshire Cricket Club, owned by Queen’s College, Oxford.

One of the most unlikely holdings belongs to St John’s College, the alma mater of former Prime Minister Tony Blair, and the wealthiest college in Oxford. He is the owner of the Millwall training ground.

Less glamorous are swathes of rural farmland and forests, which include an Isle of Wight farmhouse purchased by Queen’s College from Henry VIII, several industrial estates in Leeds, several gourmet pubs across England and freehold estates more than 100 points of sale and stores, including branches of Caffè Nero and HSBC.

The most concentrated commercial land ownership is in Brent, where All Souls College, one of Oxford’s wealthiest, owns more than 300 properties. The vast majority are residential houses, but they also include full ownership of a Ladbrokes betting shop.

The Borough of London had the highest proportion of applications for housing allowances by private tenants in the country, according to a Financial Times study in 2015.

Several colleges have received farm grants amounting to hundreds of thousands of pounds, according to data from the Ministry of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

These include £ 117,000 in Common Agricultural Policy grants paid in 2016 to Waterside Farm in Berkshire, owned by St John’s College, Oxford, which has a wealth of £ 582million.

The farm has received taxpayer-funded grants intended to preserve the environment by protecting wildlife and maintaining rural landscapes, despite the fact that West Berkshire Council proposed in 2016 to extract 200,000 tonnes of gravel on an 11 year farm, located at the North Wessex Downs – an area of ​​outstanding natural beauty.

The plans were met with widespread anger at the time by locals, including one who wrote a letter to the college promising to “highlight the damage St John’s College intends to inflict upon the environment, ecosystem, neighborhood, city and not least, residents ”.

Meanwhile, Cambridge, which has net assets of £ 4.8 billion, also received £ 180,000 in CAP grants in 2016 for its university farm. And this despite the university’s research in 2015 describing this funding as “perverse” subsidies “promoting negative actions both long and short term by being bad for the environment and costly for the economy”.

An Oxford spokesperson said: “The strong track record of the central university allows us to fund new initiatives for our students, staff and exceptional teaching and research.”

The Oxford Endowment includes 600 trusts with funds earmarked for specific purposes such as teaching posts, buildings and research. About £ 270million of the endowment supports the scholarships.

Cambridge declined to respond to requests for a response.


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