AN UNPRECEDENTED investment in humanities and the arts in Oxford has been hailed as transformational for the university and the wider city.

Figures from the worlds of politics, business, academia and the arts have expressed their delight at the news that a new £150m centre for humanities is set to be built in Jericho.

The centre - funded by what could be the university’s largest ever donation - will include a new concert hall, theatre and library and bring together the teaching of ten different subjects including English and History.

It will also be home to the new Institute for Ethics in AI to lead the study of the ethical implications of artificial intelligence and other new computing technologies.

Oxford Mail:

US billionaire Stephen A Schwarzman, a friend of President Donald Trump and the man who gifted the money, said: “For nearly 1,000 years, the study of the Humanities at Oxford has been core to western civilisation and scholarship.

“We need to ensure that its insights and principles can be adapted to today’s dynamic world. Oxford’s longstanding global leadership in the humanities uniquely positions it to achieve this important objective.”

The huge new building will be built on vacant land in the Radcliffe Observatory Quarter, off Walton Street.

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.

Oxford Mail:

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.

Professor Karen O’Brien, 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 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 all goes to plan, the building will open by summer 2024.

Oxford Mail:

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.

The new AI institute hopes to prove the essential role of humanities in helping to answer the fundamental questions of the 21st century.

It will look at the implications of technological advancements on the way people live, work and interact.

The investment will also fund more academic posts and scholarships and help to attract the next generation of students to the humanities, including those from under-represented backgrounds.

Councillor for Jericho Susanna Pressel said that, once open, the new building would shift the cultural centre of Oxford to Jericho.

She added: “This is wonderful news – and well done to the Vice-Chancellor for securing such a generous donation, especially in these difficult times.

“I’m particularly pleased that the university is proposing to make at least part of the new development much more open and welcoming to local people and local schools – and we certainly need a new concert hall in Oxford.

“There will be plenty of public consultation, so we will all be able to have a say in the form it takes and some of the details, but it looks as though we will all benefit from this development.”