The college's finances may see further improvement, with new management and a larger endowment, moving into 2018CMGLEE

Murray Edwards received a multi-million mystery donation, larger than that received by any other college in 2017, heralding an unparalleled turnaround in the colleges’ financial position.

Recently released documents show that the college, which lost more money than any other colleges in 2016 due to poor investment strategy, rebounded in 2017 with the third-highest percentage increase in asset value.

The value of Murray Edwards’ total net assets decreased from £89.75 million to £86.22 million in 2016 – a loss of £3.53 million – primarily due to a £2.48 million loss on investments. In the same period, every college except Girton saw a gain in total net assets. The college has since recouped these losses with a £5.41 million gain on investments, and new endowments worth £5.59 million, increasing its total net assets by 12.94% to £97.38 million.

The largest contributor to the sharp reversal of Murray Edwards fortunes was the injection of new endowments worth £5.59 million. Robert Gardiner, Murray Edwards’ Bursar, explained to Varsity that these new endowments “refer principally to receipt of a confidential donation”. Considering the college raised £565,000 in donations in 2016 and £818,253 in 2015, such a large donation is unusual, both in Murray Edwards’ history and compared to other colleges.


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The mystery donation was one of the two largest single donations last year, the other given to St John's, which received three donations totalling £4.2 million.

While it pales in comparison to the £30 million donation that enabled the college to change its name from New Hall to Murray Edwards in 2008, the new endowments received last year are significant; they exceeded the value of gains on investment and currently constitute almost 14% of the college’s endowment.

Besides the mystery donation, the college’s financial position was strengthened by a decision to dismiss the firms responsible for managing the college’s investment portfolio. According to Murray Edwards’ financial report, the college’s investments were managed by two external firms, SandAire Limited and Ruffer LLP, until their contracts were terminated in September 2016.

“Following a review of the investment managers, CCLA Investment Management and the Cambridge University Endowment Fund were appointed to manage quoted investments,” Robert Gardiner, Murray Edwards’ bursar, told Varsity. He added that there were “a variety of qualitative and quantitative criteria for the choice to terminate existing investment managers and appoint new ones, including the return generated by the previous advisers.”

Both of the former managers posted negative returns in 2016: the fund managed by Ruffer saw a return of -3.1%, and the fund managed by SandAire returned -5.4%. While the overall stock market performed relatively poorly in the same period, these losses were unique among the university’s colleges.

The financial report for 2017 released recently shows that the decision to replace the investment managers appears to have paid off: return on investments into the college’s two investment funds increased to 14.8% and 16.3% in 2017.

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