Oxford college changes name after £155m donation from female billionaire

The announcement was met with mixed feelings among Oxford dons. Dr Maria Kawthar Daouda, a lecturer in French literature at Oxford University, said that College names should not be altered simply because “a major gift has been made”.

She said that the name Linacre “bears a deep history” adding: “Thankfulness for Madam Thao’s money could be expressed in ways that do not erase what the donation is meant to protect.”

Meanwhile, others felt more sympathetic with the decision, saying it was the “American way” for universities to accept large donations and naming an institution after the benefactor in return.

“If this were one of the great historic colleges one would have deep reservations,” one don told The Telegraph. “But as it’s a modern college and has not got a big endowment, one can understand the decision. If someone is going to put in a colossal amount of money, it’s not unreasonable to have something to show for it.”

Patrick Major, a history professor at Reading University, said: “I personally would have some reservations about the commercialisation of this. I’m more familiar with a single building within an institution being named after benefactors but not whole colleges.

“There are some examples in the US, but I think it is fairly alien to the British experience. I think rather than buildings being named after people in the commercial or business sector I would rather see things done for people in public life.”

Madam Thao was born in 1970 in Hanoi, north Vietnam. She became a billionaire at age 21 while studying at Plekhanov Russian University of Economics in Moscow, where she began importing fax machines, plastic and rubber into the then Soviet Union.

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