Vietnam’s richest woman buys a £155m name change from Oxford University

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Oxford University college to change its name after large sum is given

A University of Oxford college is to change its name after a huge donation from Vietnam’s richest woman. Linacre College is to ask the privy council for permission to change its name to Thao College after Nguyen Thi Phuong Thao, chair of the Sovico Group who gifted the money to the school. Currently, the college is named after Thomas Linacre. Linacre was a Renaissance humanist, medical scientist and classicist. 

The college said: “We have long been one of the least well-endowed colleges at the university, so we are delighted that a significant part of the donation will be for our general endowment fund, to help support the daily running of the college. After receiving the first donation of £50m, we will approach the privy council to ask for permission to change our name from Linacre College to Thao College in recognition of this landmark gift.”  It also stated that the gift will help to pay for a new graduate centre and graduate access scholarships. 

There has been some resistance over the donation in the wider Oxford circles. The institution has styled itself as “one of the greenest colleges in Oxford”, but Sovico’s business interests include offshore gas and oil exploration, fossil fuel financing and Vietnam’s first private airline. According to the college, “Sovico Group has committed to all their subsidiaries reaching net-zero carbon by the end of 2050 with the input leading Oxford academics.”

The Oxford University Climate Justice Campaign said the donation could undermine the standards needed for net zero. “We are disappointed to hear that Linacre College has accepted donations from Sovico group, a company whose fossil fuel extraction threatens our planet’s survival,” the spokesperson said. “Linacre’s own failure to date to become carbon-neutral shows that actions speak far louder than words. We are sad to hear what Linacre’s actions have told us: that Linacre values money more than people and the planet.”

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Written by

Claire Gordon