Mosley trust row: Universities ‘should consider reputational risks’ of donations

St Peter's College, Oxford
St Peter's College, Oxford

The comments are the latest in a dispute over multi-million pound donations given to universities by The Alexander Mosley Charitable Trust


The universities minister has said institutions should “consider ethical and reputational risks” of accepting donations amid controversy over gifts from the Mosley fortune.

Michelle Donelan said universities should also consider the views of “relevant” student and staff groups, but suggested this should not stop institutions working with “legitimate charitable organisations”.

The comments are the latest in a dispute over multi-million pound donations given to universities by The Alexander Mosley Charitable Trust (AMCT), a charitable trust set up by motor racing tycoon Max Mosley for the inheritance he received from his father, Sir Oswald Mosley.

Sir Oswald was the leader of the British Union of Fascists and The Daily Telegraph reported two Oxford colleges, St Peter’s College and Lady Margaret Hall, previously accepted more than £6.3 million from the trust.

The Sunday Telegraph added Imperial College was given almost £2.5 million from the trust, and University College London £500,000.

Ms Donelan told the Telegraph: “When accepting donations, universities should consider ethical and reputational risks, and the views of any relevant student and staff communities.

“This should not be a barrier to working with legitimate charitable organisations that are able to provide funds to support academic research and a high-quality student experience.”

Both Oxford colleges said the donations were subject to a “robust” review process, while Imperial college said all gifts were subject to “thorough due diligence processes”, according to the papers.

Professor Lawrence Goldman, emeritus fellow in history at St Peter’s, said the money was “essentially tainted and dirty”.

Speaking to Sky News on Sunday, he said: “Oxford has lots of money and can continue to get money from other sources, it does all the time, and I don’t really buy the argument that because you can do some good in Oxford, you should just continue to hold on to what is essentially tainted and dirty money.”

The AMCT was named after Max Mosley’s son, an alumnus of St Peter’s College who died of a heroin overdose in 2009.

Some £6 million received by Oxford University will go towards the creation of the Alexander Mosley Professor of Biophysics Fund while a £5 million donation will go to St Peter’s College to build a new block of student accommodation, the Telegraph reported.

Initially, the block was to be called Alexander Mosley House but the college has confirmed a name will now be chosen through an internal consultation involving students.

Meanwhile, an Imperial College London spokeswoman said: “These charitable donations support medical research into new therapies for treatment-resistant depression and other serious mental health conditions.

“Like all gifts, they are subject to Imperial’s thorough due diligence processes.”