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By Matthew Hackett Oxford is to launch the biggest fundraising campaign in its history with a predicted target of £1bn, Vice Chancellor John Hood told dons last week.Funds will be used to improve teaching provision across the University by providing resources for academic positions, centres, scholarships and bursaries.In his annual Oration Speech at Convocation House, Vice Chancellor John Hood said that in the past the University’s potential had been “too often frustrated” because of “inadequate funding”. In a speech designed to appease rebellious dons, Hood emphasised the importance of Oxford as a university, rather than a business. “We cannot allow funding to dictate the terms of what we do, or how we do it,” he said. “An academic agenda shaped by dollar, pound or euro signs would be an appalling betrayal of all we hold so precious.“It will be firmly and securely founded on the academic properties of the collegiate University: its history, its values and its academic priorities as determined by its members and their various constituencies,” he added.With the University now under government pressure to widen access to state school applicants, a large proportion of the money is to help assist prospective students from non-wealthy backgrounds.A report by the Sutton Trust charity, published in September, found that a third of places to Oxford and Cambridge are dominated by 100 elite schools.“This is a campaign of campaigns that will work as an umbrella for individual fundraising efforts,” said one college’s development officer. “This is an attempt to show that all the colleges are one big, happy family, although there are no set fundraising targets at this point.”She added that it was significantly more likely that donations would come from select wealthy individuals rather than multiple smaller bequests.The campaign will be officially launched in May 2008 by Lord Patten, the University Chancellor, and aims to generate more than the £225m raised for the ‘Campaign for Oxford’ in the late 1980s.Individual campaigns from wealthier colleges such as Christ Church, Magdalen and Merton could raise over £2bn, although there will no redistribution of funds to poorer colleges.OUSU President Martin McCluskey said that he welcomes “any campaign that will directly benefit our members” but also spoke of the need to monitor the involvement of businesses in higher education. “This is one area where there is a need for real debate,” he said. “We think it’s important to discuss how much business investment there will be. Oxford is now taking significant amounts of money from corporations that sponsor chairs and professorships.”In 2005, Cambridge University launched its own fundraising campaign, also designed to raise £1bn. Cambridge announced this week that they are already over half way to reaching this total. “This is crucial to Cambridge’s future as one of the world’s greatest centres of education,” a spokesman said. “We’re well on the way to safeguarding its future.”The National Association of College and University and Business Officers (NACUBO), a group representing leading US universities, estimated that Cambridge would now rank third or fourth in terms of wealth when listed alongside the eight Ivy League universities.University College London also launched an appeal in 2004, with a total target of £300m, claiming that it was “important to compete with top universities in the US”.Students at top American universities like Harvard and Yale can expect to pay around £22,400 in tuition fees and living costs. Donations from rich ex-students help to provide grants and scholarships for students from poorer backgrounds.Oxford has previously accepted donations from controversial benefactors, including in May 2007 when the University accepted £2.5m from Hong Kong gambling mogul Stanley Ho, found by a 1992 US Senate Committee to have connections to organised crime.In February, Tony Blair announced plans to boost the funding of higher education. He pledged that the government would give £1 for every £2 that universities raise from alumni and philanthropists.