Announcing Exeter College’s New Cohen Quadrangle

Exeter College is delighted to announce that Sir Ronald Cohen (1964, PPE) and his family foundation have pledged a further gift towards the Walton Street Quadrangle, bringing his gift to £9m ($14m). The total alumni philanthropic support for this project now stands at £16.5m.

In recognition of Sir Ronald and his family’s generosity, Exeter College is pleased to name the new building “Cohen Quadrangle”, in honour of Sir Ronald’s parents, Michael and Sonia Cohen.

Cohen Quadrangle will be able to house a whole year group of Exeter students and will provide 21st century teaching and study facilities for all members of the College. The building has been designed by Alison Brooks, 2008 winner of the RIBA Stirling Prize and Architects’ Journal’s 2013 Woman Architect of the Year.

The creation of this additional accommodation will enable Exeter to move towards meeting one of its core strategic aims – to offer up to three years of College accommodation for those who want to “live in”. This means students will benefit from top quality accommodation in a collegiate environment in the heart of Oxford, living and working alongside peers and academics.

Cohen Quadrangle will welcome its first students and Fellows in Michaelmas Term 2016. The College plans to house all third-year students on the Quadrangle, so this year’s intake of Freshers will be the first Cohen Quadrangle residents in a little less than two years’ time. The Quadrangle’s teaching, learning, and social spaces will be available to all students, including the 26 Williams-Exeter students who will continue to live at Ephraim Williams House on the Banbury Road.

This is an exciting time for Exeter as the 700th anniversary year comes to a close and the College enters its eighth century. It is the culmination of many years of great and determined effort under the leadership of Frances Cairncross who stepped down as Rector earlier this year. With funding for Cohen Quadrangle almost complete and generous support for students and teaching secured as part of the Exeter Excelling campaign, Exeter has boldly entered its eighth century.

On the announcement of the gift Rector Sir Rick Trainor said: “What Exeter has achieved – with Frances Cairncross and Sir Ronald’s leadership and the help of so many other members of Exeter’s community – is thrilling for Exeter’s future, for Exonians, and for generations of students to come.

“This is the largest gift in Exeter College’s 700-year history. It secures our major new building and it propels us with confidence toward the 21st century ‘collegiate ideal,’ where, for the duration of their degree, students live and study alongside peers and leading academics in top facilities. Funding is always important, but the vision behind this gift is what makes it so transformative.”

Asked about his motivation for the gift, Sir Ronald said: “It is at Exeter College that I really learned to think. Education is the one possession that cannot be taken away and I am lucky that I can help future generations of Exeter College students to live in a collegiate environment where their minds are best nurtured and inspired.  The stunning design by Alison Brooks will greatly enhance our College’s life.”

Rector Cairncross and Sir Ronald Cohen at the start of demolition work at the new quadrangle, April 2014
Rector Cairncross and Sir Ronald Cohen at the start of demolition work at the new quadrangle, April 2014

Wiktoria Slomkowska arrived at Exeter College last month to study Jurisprudence. In 2016 her year group will move into Cohen Quadrangle. She said: “I am in no doubt that this most generous gift from Sir Ronald Cohen will help to secure the Exeter College family a new home and will be an asset to all Exonians. The new facilities will most certainly promote a feeling of community within our college, helping all of us to create bonds of friendship which will last for a life time.

“As a student of Jurisprudence and a history enthusiast, I am particularly excited about the new archive facilities which will preserve Exeter’s 700-year-old history. My friends and I all look forward to moving to the Walton Street campus in our final year and entering the new Cohen Quadrangle for the first time will indeed be memorable.”

Laura Cheftel, who began reading Philosophy and Modern Languages in October 2014, said: “I am absolutely thrilled at the idea of living on the Walton Street campus. The anticipation in College has been contagious. Receiving news about the development and being able to visualise the space has made me very excited. It is so modern, so unlike anything I’ve seen in Oxford and yet such a compliment to the stunning historical architecture of Exeter’s main front quad on Turl Street. The Learning Commons sounds fantastic because it is so versatile and dynamic. Finally study space meets food and drink! Cohen Quadrangle is clearly pioneering modern study. It is going to be an incredible space to live in.”

Exeter is indebted to alumni, parents, and friends for their extraordinary support. Such support ensures Exeter achieves its aim of being as eminent a college as possible, in the world’s greatest university. We look forward to welcoming you to the formal opening of Cohen Quadrangle in Autumn 2016.

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