As UK schools crumble, a look inside the college Rishi Sunak donated $3 million to

For students at Claremont McKenna College in California, life’s a beach.

Once a year students at the school, nestled between the San Bernardino mountains and the golden sands of the Los Angeles coast, go skiing in the morning before taking a swim in the evening, according to a promotional video.

Described as one of the top liberal arts colleges in the US, CMC, which charges $86,500 (£69,370) per year for fees and board, also attracts students from across the globe and counts Akshata Murty, the heiress, businesswoman and wife of prime minister Rishi Sunak, among its alumni.

Computer lab sits in the Kravis Centre, designed by the world-renowned architect Rafael Viñoly (Getty)
Computer lab sits in the Kravis Centre, designed by the world-renowned architect Rafael Viñoly (Getty)

The couple donated $3m (£2.4m) to CMC in 2018, with the funds used to pay for a high-tech, top-of-the-range computer room that has been named the ‘Murty Sunak Quantitative and Computing Lab’ and avails of chairs costing a reported $811 (£650).

With buildings inspired by the renowned modernist architect Rafael Vinoly, outdoor terraces, fountained courtyards and “natural, light-infused interior spaces”, CMC is a far cry from Willowbrook Mead Primary Academy Leicester, one of a number of schools forced to close this week because it was at risk from collapsing.

Located on a scenic, tree-lined residential campus, CMC sprawls across 69 acres and is equipped with an Aquatics centre, an athletics stadium and several pitches for baseball, football, golf practice and tennis.

CMC, which had an endowment market value of $1.1bn (£900m) in June last year, completed the construction of the Kravis Centre – where the Sunak and Murty Lab is located – in 2011.

The lab, which has Sunak and Murty’s names on a sign outside and on the door, is located underneath the cube of the “treasured” Kravis Centre, a five-level, 162,000-square-foot academic and administrative facility with “sunny terraces and breathtaking views of the Claremont Colleges” and mountains.

Rishi Sunak’s wife Akshata Murty is a former student at the college (PA Wire)
Rishi Sunak’s wife Akshata Murty is a former student at the college (PA Wire)

Sprawling across 69 acres, CMC is part of a seven-college consortium modelled on Oxford University, where students have the “best of both worlds” due to the” intimacy of its residential college with small classes”.

Students there benefit from a student-to-faculty ratio of eight to one and can study courses in everything from economics to government, philosophy and history. Ms Murty studied economics and French as an undergraduate at the college and has been on the college’s board of trustees since 2011.

Mr Sunak came under fire when it emerged in June that he made the donation, three years after becoming the MP for Richmond in North Yorkshire, at a time when schools in the UK struggled to afford basic supplies after having their budgets slashed.

Murty Sunak Quantitative and Computing Lab is located underneath the ‘Cube’ in the Kravis Centre (Alamy)
Murty Sunak Quantitative and Computing Lab is located underneath the ‘Cube’ in the Kravis Centre (Alamy)

The Daily Mirror, which first revealed the donation, reported that Leyburn Primary, a school in Mr Sunak’s own constituency, had to put on a family fun day to raise money for IT equipment.

Labour said it was “absolutely staggering” that private schools in Britain and America had been getting “handouts” from our “out of touch prime minister” while UK schools struggled.

It was previously reported that Ms Murty made a donation of £100,000 to her husband’s old private school, Winchester College, which charged fees of £45,936 per annum for the 2022/23 academic year.

CMC sits at the foot of the San Bernardino mountain range (Getty/iStockphoto)
CMC sits at the foot of the San Bernardino mountain range (Getty/iStockphoto)

Mr Sunak is now facing criticism for his handling of the Raac scandal. More than 100 schools were forced to shut or partially close this week due to safety concerns about the building material, which has a lifespan of 30 years before it starts to deteriorate and collapse.

Labour claimed that the PM was “directly responsible”, accusing him of cutting school rebuilding budgets while he was chancellor. He was accused of approving the rebuilding of 50 schools but rejecting applications for 200 more.

A whistleblower who used to work at the Department for Education when Mr Sunak was chancellor also accused the now-PM of slashing budgets, claiming that Mr Sunak was warned of a critical risk to life from crumbling schools.

Mr Sunak said it was “completely and utterly wrong’’ to suggest that he is to blame for failing to fully fund a programme to rebuild England’s schools when he was chancellor.

A government source said: “The PM and his wife give money to a wide range of philanthropic causes and charities.”