A HUGE new university building housing a concert hall and theatre is set to be built on an empty site in the centre of Oxford.

US billionaire Stephen A. Schwarzman has gifted Oxford University £150 million – its largest single donation in centuries – to build the humanities centre in the Radcliffe Observatory Quarter off Walton Street.

Some of the biggest names in the arts and technology are backing the project, including the inventor of the World Wide Web Sir Tim Berners-Lee and Oxford author Sir Philip Pullman.

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The university has described the project as 'unique' in bringing together academia and entertainment in one space.

Oxford Mail:

Sir Philip said: "This is one of the most exciting ideas for a long time.

"Oxford, which abounds in talent of all kinds, deserves a proper centre for the study and celebration of the humanities."

The centre will be named after Mr Schwarzman, a friend of US President Donald Trump, and co-founder of Blackstone, an 'alternative investment' firm.

Oxford Mail:

It is seen as the last step in transforming the 10-acre site, previously part of Oxford’s first hospital, after the building of the Blavatnik School of Government and Jericho Health Centre in recent years.

Boasting exhibition spaces bigger than those in the Weston Library, a 500-seat concert hall and 250-seat theatre as well as cafes, restaurants and green spaces, the university is hoping it will be used by the entire city.

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Professor Karen O’Brien, the head of humanities at Oxford, said: “I grew up in this city and I wish we had something like this back then.

“We want it to feel like it is a building anybody can come in, at any time.

Oxford Mail:

“Oxford already has a vibrant cultural scene and we want to work with existing organisations to make sure we fill in the gaps rather than compete with all that’s already happening.

“The concert hall in particular is something the city lacks and we want it to host music including classical, pop and jazz as well as great musicians from all over the world.

“The theatre space will showcase the best student drama but also touring shows and visiting companies."

If everything goes to plan, the building is due to open by the summer of 2024.

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The investment is seen as a boost to humanities subjects at a time when budgets are being squeezed and universities are generally prioritising sciences instead.

For the first time in Oxford’s history, the Schwarzman Centre will bring together students studying English, history, linguistics, philology and phonetics, medieval and modern languages, music, philosophy, and theology and religion.

It will also house the new Institute for Ethics in AI to look at ethical questions surrounding the growing field of Artificial Intelligence.

Tim Berners-Lee said: “If AI is to benefit humanity we must understand its moral and ethical implications. Oxford with its rich history in humanities and philosophy is ideally placed to do this.”