Oxford University is launching a campaign to raise £1.25 billion to enable it to compete with US Ivy League colleges.The 800-year-old institution has recruited a line-up of influential patrons to back the drive which it hopes will protect its unique one-on-one tutorial system, pay for hundreds of new fellowships and expand accommodation, library facilities.
It has recruited a line-up of famous graduates including former Monty Python member Michael Palin, scientist Richard Dawkins and Sir Roger Bannister, who was still a student at Oxford when he achieved the four-minute mile.
The drive is being billed as "the most important campaign ever organised by a European university" to allow it to compete on an equal footing with major global rivals such as Harvard and Yale.
The university believes the cash will "provide security in a world of uncertain state funding".
Oxford and Cambridge were recently ranked the equal second best university in the world, with Harvard in first place.
But leading US universities receive much larger funding than Oxbridge, thanks to support from generous rich graduates.
British academics also fear growing competition from expanding higher education institutions in countries such as China and India.
Oxford is expected to unveil a string of eye-catching donations at a high-profile campaign launch in London.
The fundraising campaign is expected to pave the way for a major recruitment drive for new academic talent from around the world.
The oldest university in the English-speaking world, Oxford can trace its history back to the 11th Century.
A total of 25 British Prime Ministers studied there, including William Gladstone, Margaret Thatcher, and Tony Blair. Conservative leader David Cameron also studied at Oxford.