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James Thomson is the editor of BRW. Previously he was editor and publisher of SmartCompany and a senior editor at Business Spectator. He writes regularly on Australia's wealthiest entrepreneurs and has deep expertise in small business and the mid market.

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School’s in: Harold Mitchell and Michael Hintze take rich list uni donations past $100m in nine months

Published 06 May 2013 09:36, Updated 09 May 2013 00:46

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School’s in: Harold Mitchell and Michael Hintze take rich list uni donations past $100m in nine months

Rich-lister Harold Mitchell will give $12.5 million to Melbourne’s Victoria University to fund a think tank for health and education policy. Photo: Michele Mossop

Universities have cemented their spot as the current philanthropic hot spot for the rich, with donations by Rich 200 members Harold Mitchell and Michael Hintze taking the total amount given to tertiary education providers to $100 million in just nine months.

Mitchell will give $12.5 million to Melbourne’s Victoria University to fund an apolitical think tank for health and education policy.

The new Mitchell Institute for Health and Education Policy, which will have former Labor finance minister Lindsay Tanner as its chairman, will focus on linking research to social policy to address health and education disadvantage.

“Health and education are big ticket items for the future of Australia. I am backing the Mitchell Institute to make a significant impact on public policy that will directly affect people’s lives for the better,” Mitchell said in a statement.

“Good health and education is fundamental to the economic and social success of Australia and both need investment, policies and solutions that go beyond the three-year election cycle,” he said.

The University of Sydney is also celebrating a big weekend, with three donations from wealthy benefactors boosting its coffers.

Former Rich 200 member Sean Howard, best known as the co-founder of OzEmail, has pledged $10 million to the university for eye research. Last year Howard suffered an eye problem and his sight was saved by the university’s medical school.

Sydney University also received a $1 million gift from London-based hedge fund manager and philanthropist Michael Hintze. The money will go to the uni’s Charles Perkins Centre, which aims to turn medical research into viable treatments.

Another donation of $5 million was given to the university from an anonymous donor, and will fund a new teacher enrichment academy focused on improving maths and science teaching.

The big donations are the latest in a string of pledges from the wealthy.

Former WorleyParsons chief John Grill started the trend in October 2012, when he donated $20 million to set up a new project management centre at the University of Sydney.

Graham Tuckwell grabbed headlines in February when he gave a staggering $50 million to the Australian National University to help fund scholarships for undergraduate students.

This was pegged as the biggest single donation to an Australian university in history.

Chris Abbott, best known as a one of the founders of Maple-Brown Abbott, gave $7 million to the University of Wollongong late last year in the biggest donation to that institution.