This will make it the single biggest donation to an English university in recent history. Harding, himself a physics graduate from Cambridge who became a billionaire and hugely successful hedge fund manager has promised that the funds will go to promote access for students from disadvantaged and minority ethnic backgrounds.
The donations from the David and Claudia Harding Foundation will include $102mn in scholarships and aid to postgraduate PhD students, with a further $26mn as financial support for undergraduates. The final $1.3mn will help fund Cambridge’s access programmes aimed at attracting disadvantaged students.
“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,” stated Stephen Toope, Cambridge’s vice-chancellor.
The fund to support postgraduate students, to be known as the Harding Distinguished Postgraduate Scholars Programme, will begin this year. Cambridge said that the programme will ultimately fully fund, in perpetuity, more than 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,” the university said in a statement.
Harding himself remarked: “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.” He added.
Harding, 57, studied at St Catherine’s College and graduated with a first-class degree in 1982, before working in the City of London as a stockbroker. In 1997 he founded the Winton Group, and he remains its chief executive.
The financier’s most recent high-profile donation was an estimated $4.5mn to help fund the Britain Stronger in Europe campaign before the 2016 referendum.