Oxford University (illustrative)
Oxford University (illustrative) iStock

Jewish student groups in the UK are asking for an explanation from the University of Oxford after a recent revelation that it received millions of pounds in donations from the estate of the son of the late British fascist leader Oswald Mosley.

Mosley was a notorious British fascist who was the leader of the British Union of Fascists in the 1930s.

Earlier in the week, Oxford JSoc and the Union of Jewish Students (UJS) said they were “distressed” that Oxford University and some of its affiliated colleges had accepted funds from the Alexander Mosley Trust.

On Tuesday, UK Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi asked Oxford to offer up more information to concerned students, given that the school has stated it has “rigorous guidelines” for accepting funds, BBC News reported.

Oxford accepted £6 million ($8 million USD) from the Alexander Mosley Charitable Trust, set up by the late motorsport executive and son of Oswald Mosley. Two affiliated colleges also accepted millions more in donations from the family.

"A good first step would be for the university to reach out to the Jewish Society to start a conversation,” Amanda Sefton, UJS head of campaigns, told BBC News.

"The news has been distressing for Jewish students, and the absence of any communication and consultation is inconsiderate and inappropriate."

She added that "initial steps must be taken to build the relationship between the Oxford Jewish students and the university.” She urged Oxford and the two colleges to reflect on the negative impact “the donations will have on its Jewish students and the wider student body."

Sefton said that UJS was coordinating a response with other Jewish student groups "to ensure that Jewish student voices are listened to, and that this doesn't have a long-standing impact on their overall student experience."

Her statement came partly as a response to Zahawi saying that the university has an obligation to "consult and explain the decision-making process that took place for them to have landed on this donation.”

The education minister stressed that universities need to examine the “ethical implications” of outside funding, including its potential impact on students and the community.

He further said that he anticipated Oxford was “quite capable of dealing with these issues in an appropriate and sensitive way."

Zahawi made the comments during a visit to Auschwitz on a trip marking the 83rd anniversary of Kristallnacht.

Calling upon universities to adopt the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism, he said: "Let me be very clear. Anti-Semitism is not simply a historic debate, it is a present danger and a scourge that exists, sadly, on our campuses.”

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