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Historic Oxford college to be renamed after ‘bikini airline tycoon’ donates £155m

African tutor at Oriel College Oxford says the university is 'tolerant and inclusive'

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The graduate Oxford institution Linacre College has announced it will be renamed after a Vietnamese billionaire handed over a multi-million-pound donation. Linacre, which was founded in 1962, will soon become Thao College.

The college, which once educated the ex-coronavirus adviser Professor Neil Ferguson, is currently named after the mid-fifteenth century physician Thomas Linacre.

However, Linacre said it would change its name after it received a “landmark gift” of £155 million from Ms Thao’s SOVICO Group.

According to the Telegraph, Nguyen Thi Phuong Thao is Vietnam’s first ever self-made female billionaire.

Ms Thao, who was born in Hanoi in 1970, started her business career as a student at Plekhanov Russian University of Economics in Moscow.

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During her days as a student in the Russian capital, Thao is said to have imported fax machines, plastic and even rubber.

However, in 2007, she went on to launch VietJet Air.

The privately-run low-cost airline, which has since become known as the “bikini airline”, was the first of its kind in Vietnam.

Speaking about the move, Thao said: “I believe that Oxford is the right place to make my long-time desire to contribute to humanity through education, training and research come true.

“By donating to Linacre College, we hope to make significant contributions to enrich Oxford’s traditions and reputation.”

Responding to the name change, Linacre’s principal, Dr Nick Brown, said: “We are determined that Linacre should continue to nurture the finest academic talent, whatever their background or country of birth.

“I am immensely grateful to SOVICO chairwoman Madam Thao for her deep commitment to furthering academic excellence in perpetuity. This will help sustain our student support and research at the highest international level.”

But this is not the first time an Oxbridge college has opted to change its name.

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Oxford’s Harris Manchester college, founded in 1786, was renamed as Harris Manchester in the 1990s after a donation was made by the British businessman and Conservative baron Philip Harris.

Similarly, Cambridge University’s Murray Edwards College had been known as New Hall when it was founded in 1954.

However, and again following a donation in 2008, the college altered its name to thank former student Dame Rosemary Murray for her gift.

The donation made by Dame Murray, who passed away in 2004 aged 91, was reported to have totalled £30 million.

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