The University of Oxford has become mired in controversy over a donation from the Mosley family.
The University was reportedly given a £6 million donation from a charitable trust established by Max Mosley, the Formula One tycoon. His fortune originated as an inheritance from his father, Sir Oswald Mosley, who was leader of the antisemitic British Union of Fascists and who wedded his wife in Joseph Goebbels’ house in the presence of Adolf Hitler. Mr Mosley is believed to have supported his father’s cause – and the Union Movement, which succeeded the British Union of Fascists – during the late 1950s and 1960s.
The £6 million donation to the University was to endow the Alexander Mosley Professor of Biophysics Fund.
In addition, St Peter’s College was due to receive a £5 million donation to build a new block of student accommodation named Alexander Mosley House. Mr Mosley, who died earlier this year, set up the trust ten years ago in the name of his son, Alexander, who was an alumnus of St Peter’s College and died of a drug overdose.
Prof. Lawrence Goldman, Emeritus Fellow in History, wrote to St Peter’s College urging it to refuse the donation, saying that it came from the “most infamous fascist dynasty in the English-speaking world.” Since the controversy, the College has reportedly decided to consult over the name of the proposed accommodation building.
It is understood that Lady Margaret Hall has also accepted a donation of around £260,000 from the trust.
The donations are particularly notable because the University and its colleges have become increasingly sensitive to the concerns of other minorities over the University’s past.
Oxford University and both colleges insist that the donations were reviewed and cleared by an independent committee in a “robust” manner, taking “legal, ethical and reputational issues into consideration.”
It has since emerged that Imperial College London received almost £2.5 million and University College London received half a million pounds from the trust, even as both universities have been reviewing the names and legacies of their buildings in sensitivity toward other minorities.
A spokesperson for the University of Oxford said: “We can confirm that donations to the department of physics from the Alexander Mosley Charitable Trust, including endowment of a chair in biophysics named after Alexander Mosley, a graduate of the university, were all considered and approved by the university’s committee to review donations and research funding.”
St Peter’s College said that the trust’s “generous” donation will make a “transformative” difference to students, adding: “Alexander Mosley was a student at the college and is warmly remembered by tutors and fellow students. He died in tragic circumstances and the [trust] was set up to remember him.”
A spokesperson for Lady Margaret Hall said that the donation “enabled a cohort of students from very diverse and low-income backgrounds to attend Oxford and participate in Lady Margaret Hall’s pioneering foundation year,” adding that there was no attempt to “rehabilitate” the Mosley family name and that the trust “did not ask for and were not given any public acknowledgement of the donation”.
A spokesman for Campaign Against Antisemitism said: “The Mosley family has an infamous record in relation to antisemitism. Oxford University should think hard about accepting a donation from the family’s trust, ensuring that a portion of the money funds education about antisemitism or supports Jewish life at the university.”
If any students are concerned about antisemitism on campus or need assistance, they can call us on 0330 822 0321, or e-mail [email protected].