Jeff Randall is one of Britain’s best-known business journalists (with a daily prime-time show on Sky and a column in the Telegraph) and he’s no slouch at raising money either. As the historian Andrew Roberts discloses in his Dialogue with Lord Weidenfeld (page 34), Randall is heading a campaign to set up a Chair in Jewish Studies at Nottingham University. “I’ve raised more than £500,000 and I’m well on the way to a million,” he says. “I need to raise £1.5 million because then we get matching funds from government and other institutions. I think I’ll do it.” The plan is to launch the course in autumn 2010.
Randall is himself a Nottingham graduate and feels a deep sense of gratitude to the university. “Like a lot of grammar-school boys born in the 1950s, going to university completely changed the scale of my ambitions. I owe Nottingham a huge debt and I’ve never stopped feeling it.” The university, which awarded him an honorary degree three years ago, approached him for advice about a new course last year and Randall, who is not Jewish, recommended Jewish Studies. “There are only four similar courses on offer at British universities, which is surprising given the enormous impact the Jewish community has had on British life,” he explains. “In a world full of political tension in the Middle East and elsewhere, a better understanding of the Jewish people is hugely important.” Good for him.