Oxford steadfast on Murdoch links

University attests to 'full scrutiny' of endowment from News International. John Morgan reports



Credit: Getty
Famed alumnus: Media owner Murdoch has been 'generous' to his alma mater


The University of Oxford has said the scandal engulfing News International will not prompt a rethink of its relationship with the company, which funds five academic posts including a Rupert Murdoch professor of language and communication.

The names of Mr Murdoch - who studied at Worcester College, Oxford - and his company are attached to several university posts and schemes, following a benefaction of undisclosed value described on the university's website as "generous".

An Oxford spokesman said: "In 1990 Oxford received an endowment from News International with three strands: one that funds the Rupert Murdoch professor of language and communication; one that provides for a Times Lectureship endowment that funds three lecturers; and the News International Fund that provides various small grants, an annual News International visiting professor of media and a work experience scheme for current students who are interested in journalism."

Times Higher Education, which has not been owned by News International since 2005, asked whether the university would rethink its relationship with the company in light of recent developments, which include evidence and allegations of illegal activities at News International papers.

Oxford's spokesman said: "Our full processes of scrutiny were carried out at the time of the endowment."

Jean Aitchison, emeritus Rupert Murdoch professor of language and communication, said: "At Oxford, the chair is simply regarded as a generous gift from an ex-student.

"Whatever happens subsequently at News International has nothing whatever to do with me or with the chair's current holder.

"I'm simply grateful for (Mr Murdoch's) generosity to Worcester and Oxford University, and whatever is happening at News International is of course of interest to me, but only as a newspaper reader."

Professor Aitchison said Mr Murdoch's donations to his former college began with a gift for a library extension. "When he wanted to give more to Worcester, it was suggested that he should endow a university professorial chair, with the professor having an office at Worcester."

Valentine Cunningham, professor of English language and literature at Oxford, said there was "only residual unhappiness" among academics over News International links, and "it is thought that we have turned bad money into good".

But he added that "unhappiness...does manifest itself though. Corpus Christi College recently backed out of association with a new post in film studies when the source of the funding/benefaction was learned."

john.morgan@tsleducation.com.

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