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A hedge fund billionaire has given Cambridge £100m — one of the biggest UK university donations ever

Oscar Williams-Grut
Senior City Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
Well endowed: Members of the public punt along the river Cam in front of the colleges of Cambridge University on April 19, 2011 in Cambridge, England. Photo: Oli Scarff/Getty Images

The billionaire founder of hedge fund Winton Capital has gifted £100m to the University of Cambridge.

The university announced the donation on Tuesday and said it is the “biggest single gift made to a university in the UK by a British philanthropist.”

The donation has come from the the David and Claudia Harding Foundation, which is the philanthropic foundation founded by hedge fund pioneer David Harding and his wife.

Prof Stephen J Toope, vice-chancellor of the University, said: “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.”

£79m of the donation will go towards creating the Harding Distinguished Postgraduate Scholars Programme, which will be a fully funded scholarships for 100 PhD students. Of this, £25m will be earmarked for St Catherine’s College, Cambridge, where David Harding studied natural sciences in the early 1980s.

£20m will go towards creating the Harding Collegiate Cambridge Challenge Fund, which “aims to encourage further donations from alumni for financial support to undergraduates.” £1m will be put towards encouraging more applications from students from under-represented and disadvantaged backgrounds.

David Harding said in a statement: “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.”

The £100m gift is the latest in a series of donations from the Hardings to Cambridge supporting the sciences. They have already funded the Cavendish Laboratory and the Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence Communication. He has also donated to the Science Museum and the Crick Institute in London.

David Harding was a pioneer of so-called “quant” hedge funds, which use mathematical models to spot market inefficiencies that can be taken advantage of. He helped to cofound what is now Man Group (EMG.L) in 1987 before founding Winton Capital in 1997.

Winton has $28.5bn in assets under management according to its most recent annual report and made a profit of £125m in 1997. David Harding has an estimated net worth of $1.5bn, according to Forbes. He campaigned for Britain to remain in the EU and donated £3.5m to the “Britain Stronger in Europe” campaign.

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Oscar Williams-Grut covers banking, fintech, and finance for Yahoo Finance UK. Follow him on Twitter at @OscarWGrut.

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