American academia and hard currency


in Oxford

I saw the following astonishing statement on founder Philip Greenspun’s blog:

Harvard’s endowment… earned 16.7 percent on an approximately $30 billion stash. In other words, Harvard earned around $4.5 billion, tax-free. After deducting for inflation, in other words, Harvard earned enough last year to purchase a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, complete with a fleet of fighter jets.

While Oxford is certainly not short on money, I seriously doubt they earned such an amount this year from their investments. This also goes some way towards explaining why Harvard was at the top of so many of the grad school ranking tables that Peter Dauvergne printed for me. Money isn’t everything, but when you have pretty much everything else already, it cannot hurt.

Such figures make one hopeful that the promise of a fully funded doctorate in the States is a plausible possibility. 16.7% is also a pretty amazing annual rate of return.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Ben September 28, 2006 at 11:24 pm

I don’t know how much money there is in Oxford, but part of the problem is colleges own most of it, rather than ‘Oxford’ itself…

Anonymous September 28, 2006 at 11:41 pm

US$4.5 billion is only about 5% of the Canadian Gross Domestic Product: somewhere between the contribution of Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland.

Milan September 28, 2006 at 11:45 pm


“The Oxford colleges have combined capital assets of more than £1.6bn in land, property, shares and cash deposits.”

That is 8.7% of the Harvard endowment, at market exchange rates, though I don’t know if the Harvard figure includes land.

“The wealthiest, Tony Blair’s old college, St John’s, sits on a £202m fortune.”

That is 1.1% of the Harvard endowment, though Harvard in total has about as many students as Oxford.

Milan September 29, 2006 at 12:15 am

somewhere between the contribution of Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland

At least 21 Harvard grads went on to write for The Simpsons. That probably exceeds the number from Newfoundland.

Here is a partial list.

R.K. September 29, 2006 at 12:01 am

‘purchase a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, complete with a fleet of fighter jets.’

One year’s investment and they could deal with Yale once and for all…

tim l-g September 29, 2006 at 5:59 am

Harvard’s investment manager once made $10M in compensation in a year. He’s worth it.

Ben September 29, 2006 at 8:25 am

Oh, I know they have plenty more than us, I was just pointing to one problem with what we have anyway. Also Harvard have to fund student scholarships, which Oxford does little of.

Anomymous September 29, 2006 at 12:26 pm

$10M in pay for managing $30B? If returns are much more than $10M above the rise you would expect from the growth of the market, that certainly seems entirely justified.

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