Hundreds of the UK’s poorest bright teenagers are to be given scholarships to attend Oxford after the university was handed a £75m donation by a former student.
The funds came from businessman and former journalist Michael Moritz and his novelist wife Harriet Heyman.
The money is set to be used to kick off a new £300m scholarship programme to support students from the lowest income families through their studies, Oxford has announced.
It comes as tuition fees in England are tripled to a maximum of £9,000 per year, and amid fears that concerns about debt could put some disadvantaged students off going to top universities.
Students receiving the new Moritz-Heyman scholarships will have no upfront study or living costs, receive financial support during the holidays and take part in a tailor-made internship programme, Oxford said.
In total, the package will be worth around £11,000 per year, with fees pegged at £3,500, the current fee level before the rise is introduced this autumn.
Oxford said that the £75m donation was the “biggest philanthropic gift for undergraduate financial support in European history”.
At an event held in central London announcing the programme, Mr Moritz said the aim of the initiative was to ensure that “every headteacher throughout the UK understands that there is no obstacle whatsoever for any of their students, any pupil, who has the academic ability and talent to take a place at Oxford, to be able to gain admission to the university”.
There is now “no financial barrier” between any student and an Oxford education, he added.
Around one in 10 Oxford undergraduates, about 1,000 in total, come from homes with annual incomes below £16,000.
Oxford administrators said that within three years it is anticipated that half of these students could receive one of the new scholarships,
Around 100 students will be given an award this autumn.
Mr Moritz was previously a correspondent for Time magazine and is now chairman of Sequoia Capital.