Naim Dangoor, the nonagenarian Iraqi-born philanthropist, has offered a donation of £4 million to British universities — in the hope that the government matches the gift.
Dr Dangoor, who gave £1million four years ago to fund a thousand £1,000 scholarships at UK universities, put his idea in a letter to Prime Minister Gordon Brown last week.
He explained that he had heard on radio and television that young people were being told that “because of the credit crunch, they can’t obtain new jobs and they can’t go to university. I want to make life easier for them”.
A reply had come from Downing Street to say his letter was under consideration, he said. “I did telephone the Universities Department and they were interested, but I thought it better to start with the Prime Minister.”
Although he believed his offer would tempt the government also to “put their hand into their pocket”, he added: “If the government doesn’t want to pay, I won’t say no.” The universities would be able to decide how to use the money. A Downing Street spokesman said they were unable to comment on private correspondence.
Mr Dangoor’s charity, the Exilarch’s Foundation, had assets of more than £50 million, according to its 2007 accounts, with £10 million set aside for rebuilding Jewish life in Iraq; £6 million for promoting monotheism in the world; £4 million for university scholarships in the UK or Israel; and £2 million for Jewish community projects.
In 2007, the foundation’s grants included £600,000 to Westminster Academy and £150,000 to the British Library, while the previous year more than £600,000 went to the British Friends of Israel’s Bar-Ilan University.