Top private school pleads with alumni to pay 'rich' Russian students' £44k-a-year fees

12 April 2022, 12:43 | Updated: 12 April 2022, 12:45

St Clare's college in Oxford asked for money to support all its students
St Clare's college in Oxford asked for money to support all its students. Picture: Google Maps/Alamy

By Daisy Stephens

A top private school has been criticised for pleading for financial contributions towards the fees of Russian students, it has been reported.

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The plea was made by St Clare's College in Oxford, a private, mixed-sex college offering a range of courses including the International Baccalaureate and university prep courses - and with some students paying up to £44,000 a year to attend.

In a letter to alumni, Principal Andy Rattue and chair Jens Tholstrup asked for money for Russian students who "may now find it difficult" and were "deeply embarrassed" by Putin's actions, The Sun reports.

They said "our sympathies lie with the people of Ukraine" but said there were many Russians who were against the invasion "but who are denied a voice".

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"Putin’s aggression is not done in their name and not only are they utterly desolate, they are also deeply embarrassed by these awful events," read the letter.

It asked alumni to support "all of our students affected by the conflict in Ukraine", including "the disenfranchised Russians for whom our collective hearts break".

Around one in 10 students in the school are Russian, according to the paper.

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But a former business manager at the school, Richard Gorst, said the school should "be helping the people of Ukraine, not the rich Russian kids" and branded the letter an "absolute disgrace".

"If they do have money to spare why not send it to the poor people of Ukraine who are being bombarded with bombs and bullets," he is quoted as saying.

"I think it’s horrifying... We all can’t believe that someone has done such a thing.

"It’s one of the most expensive schools in the country, it’s up there with Eton. It has students from all over the world."

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Mr Rattue said the school is not-for-profit and relies "entirely on fee income".

He added that the email made it clear that supporting Ukrainian students was the school's "first priority".

"We are supporting our Ukrainian students in every way we can, including the offer of external counselling, individual supportive conversations and the chance for them to explain what is happening in Ukraine to their fellow students," he said.

"We are making it clear that none of them will be forced to leave the college for financial reasons."

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He also said the college was working with local charities to support Ukrainian refugees coming to Oxford.

"If there are Ukrainian young people at the right age and stage of their education in the UK we would be happy to educate them," he said.

"We are offering free English language tuition for adult refugees (as we have been doing recently for Afghan and Sudanese refugees).

"Moreover, many UK-based families connected with St Clare’s have offered to host refugee families.

"We feel strongly that the best way we can support the people of Ukraine is to continue to uphold the values of truth and justice, as well as offering what practical help we can to individuals as indicated.

"Our hearts go out to our students and former students who are affected by the war.

"The promotion of peace and understanding is woven into the texture of everything we stand for so our community will remain a safe environment for everybody."