EXETER College has received the biggest gift in its 700-year-history for a major new building in Walton Street.

The Oxford college has been given £9m by Sir Ronald Cohen, a former student who came to Britain as a refugee from Egypt at the age of 11.

The donation will cover the cost of a new building on the corner of Walton Street and Worcester Place, which will provide residential accommodation around a quadrangle for 90 students, along with teaching, study and recreational areas.

It is being built on the site of the former Ruskin College campus, bought by Exeter College in 2011 for £11.4m. The college is retaining the Walton Street facade of the former Ruskin building, dating from 1913.

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The gift comes in addition to more than £3m previously donated by Sir Ronald and his family foundation, with money given for fellowships in philosophy, economics, and modern history and for bursaries for students in need.

The building has been designed by Alison Brooks, 2008 winner of the RIBA Stirling Prize and Architects’ Journal’s 2013 Woman Architect of the Year.

The college announced that it will be named ‘The Cohen Quadrangle’, in honour of Sir Ronald’s parents Michael and Sonia Cohen. It will welcome its first students and academics in October 2016. Exeter’s new Rector Sir Rick Trainor, said: “It secures our major new building and it propels us with confidence toward the 21st century ‘collegiate ideal,’ where, for the duration of their degree, students live and study alongside peers.”

Sir Ronald arrived in Britain in the wake of the Suez Crisis, going on to win an Open Exhibition to Exeter College in 1964 to study Philosophy, Politics and Economics. In 1967, he became president of the Oxford Union.

He went on to become co-founder and chairman of Apax Partners Worldwide LLP, a leading venture capital firm, and was knighted in 2011.

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