Reported on: July 16, 2012 10:41 AM
Reported in: Education
LONDON, July 16 (UNB) — “I wouldn’t be here today if not for the generosity of strangers,” said Michael Moritz, while announcing major donation to Oxford University.
A former Time magazine reporter, Mr. Moritz left journalism to become one of the most successful venture capitalists in Silicon Valley.
Through Sequoia Capital, the firm he joined in 1986 and has led for many years, Mr. Moritz was an early investor in Google, Yahoo, PayPal and LinkedIn. His personal fortune is estimated at well over $1 billion.
Oxford University announced last Wednesday that he and his wife, the novelist Harriet Heyman, donated £75 million, or $115 million, to fund a new scholarship program aimed at providing financial aid to students from low-income backgrounds. Behind the headlines about the size of the gift was a family story of immigration, education and a sense of obligation that transcended generations.
At the news conference announcing the donation, a reporter pointed out that most eight-figure donors to universities end up with their names on a building.
“I grew up in Cardiff, went to an ordinary comprehensive school, and was the only pupil in my year to go to Oxbridge,” Mr. Moritz explained. “My father was plucked as a teenager from Nazi Germany and was able to attend a very good school in London on a scholarship.”
In an interview afterward, Mr. Moritz said that his father, Alfred, had grown up in Munich, where his father was a judge who lost his post when the Nazis came to power. Mr. Moritz’s mother, Doris, was part of the Kindertransport, a rescue effort that took about 9,300 unaccompanied, mostly Jewish children from Germany, Austria, Poland and Czechoslovakia to Britain shortly before the outbreak of World War II. The family ended up near Cardiff in Wales, where Mr. Moritz’s father taught classics at the university.
“My father’s cousin, Fritz Ursell, was also rescued from terrible circumstances. When he came to Britain, he also benefited from scholarships, and grew up to become a member of the Royal Society,” said Mr. Moritz, whose announcement was made at the Royal Society’s headquarters just off Pall Mall in London.
“It is all too easy not to remember,” said Mr. Moritz, who was a history major and the editor of Isis, Oxford’s student literary magazine, as an undergraduate before completing an M.B.A. at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
In May, Mr. Mortiz announced that he was stepping back from some of his responsibilities at Sequoia. “I have been diagnosed with a rare medical condition which can be managed but is incurable,” he said in a statement at the time.
He added that “in the next five to 10 years the quality of my life is quite likely to decline” and that “for me life has assumed a different meaning, and I am making some adjustments.”
Mr. Moritz, who appeared fit and well last week, said he realized that he would encourage speculation by not naming the disease. “I felt I wanted to be open with my partners and with the public. But I didn’t want every ghoul on the Internet following me,” he said.
Charlotte Anderson, a second-year student studying German at Oxford and the first person in her family to go to a university, said that anxiety about taking on debt had nearly kept her from accepting the offer from the school. “It’s great to think that future students who follow me can do so without the fear that I went through,” she said while attending the news conference.
Asked whether the university’s campaign to finance student scholarships through private donations rather than government funding meant that Oxford was giving up efforts to secure more public support, the university’s chancellor, Chris Patten, a former Conservative minister to Prime Ministers Margaret Thatcher and John Major, joked that he was “no longer allowed to have any political views.”
Mr. Patten, who presided over the announcement Wednesday, added that “no political party with any prospect of forming a government” has committed itself to undoing the tuition rise.
Both he and Andrew Hamilton, the university’s vice chancellor, stressed that Oxford would continue to rely considerably on public funding. Pointing out that the university had recently concluded a successful campaign to raise £1.25 billion in endowment funds, Mr. Hamilton said the university was “strengthening the role of philanthropy.”
Fewer apply to universities
The number of applicants to British universities fell for the academic year starting this September, the first semester that higher tuition fees go into effect, according to the British admissions service, Christopher F. Schuetze reported.
There were 618,247 British applicants for universities in 2012, or 51,709 fewer than in 2011, according to the figures announced by the Universities and Colleges Admission Service on July 9.
In England there were 47,835 fewer applicants this year, a drop of 10 percent compared with last year. However, the decrease in 18-year-old applicants, who traditionally come directly from secondary schools, was only 4.5 percent.
According to Universities UK, an association that represents British university administrators, the drop was not as drastic as feared.
“It is reassuring that applicants are still applying in numbers and that, despite the higher fees, people still see higher education as a valuable investment,” Nicola Dandridge, head of Universities UK, said in a statement.
Applicant numbers include all applications made by students up until June 30, the general deadline for submission.
If the sharp rise in tuition fees dissuaded some students to apply, it did not appear to influence where they applied, as most applications still went to the schools that will charge the highest tuition fee allowed under the new guidelines.
“There is still an excess of applications over places available in 2012, although this is less exaggerated than in the previous two cycles,” said Mary Curnock Cook, the admission service’s chief, said in a statement.
Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, where the new fee increase is not in effect, fared better. In Scotland, where Scottish students do not pay tuition, the number of applicants grew slightly, by 0.3 percent.
Source: The New Work Times