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Oxford shakes up British higher education with fundraising drive

It launched the $2.5 billion billion campaign Wednesday to help the school better compete with Ivy Leagues and other world-class institutions.

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Different League: The combined endowment of all UK universities, such as Oxford, shown here, is less than half of Harvard's.

AP

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The University of Oxford launched on Wednesday the biggest fundraising campaign in European academic history to help the august institution keep pace with better-funded US rivals.

The university aims to drum up £1.25 billion ($2.5 billion) to aggressively recruit top academics from around the world and support its unique 1-on-1 tutorial system. It said more than 20,000 donors had pledged £575 million during the campaign's "pre-launch phase."

"We want to stay world class; we want to be the best in the world," said university chancellor Chris Patten. He added that Oxford lagged well behind at least three Ivy League universities – Harvard, Yale, and Princeton – in terms of funding, "and we want to compete in the world economy for the best academics."

The move sends two clear messages: First, Britain's 100-plus universities will increasingly have to rely on their own fundraising efforts. Second, those that are less successful or resourceful will quickly lose status.

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