The founder of the private equity group Blackstone, owner of The NEC in the UK and exhibition organiser Clarion Events, is to give £150m (US$188.73m) to Oxford University, the biggest philanthropic gift in British history.
The money, donated by billionaire Stephen Schwarzman will fund a new humanities faculty and institute that will study the ethics of artificial intelligence.
The UK government welcomed the move as a “globally significant” investment in Britain and Oxford Vice-Chancellor Louise Richardson described the gift as “transformative” and said the culture of educational philanthropy needed to be developed for the UK to compete successfully globally. “The Harvards, the Yales, the Stanfords have much bigger endowments….we have a long way to go,” she said.
Professor Richardson said she first approached Schwarzman in 2017.
The Stephen A Schwarzman Centre for the Humanities is expected to cost £230m and will incorporate a library, a 500-seat concert hall, a 250-seat auditorium and a broadcasting centre, plus the institute for Ethics in A.I.
Schwarzman told the BBC that universities needed to help construct an ethical framework for changes that were happening rapidly.
Schwarzman donated $350m to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to establish a centre for computing and artificial intelligence.
Last October, Schwarzman pulled out of a conference in Saudi Arabia amid allegations that the Saudi government was complicit in the suspected murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
The private equity group had paid a reported £800m for The NEC last year, following its acquisition of Clarion Events in 2017 for £600m. Blackstone went on to merged the company with Global Sources, a B2B exhibition specialist.