Cambridge has the largest endowment of any British university, at £4.9 billion ($7.4 billion). It sounds impressive until you look at Cambridge, Massachusetts, where Harvard and MIT manage endowments worth $36 billion and $12 billion respectively. A recent survey of 851 post-secondary institutions in North America finds that their coffers hold more than $500 billion, but some are much better endowed than others (see chart 1). The richest 10% of universities control around 70% of the wealth in the survey. The eight Ivy League universities have amassed more than $110 billion, or 21% of the total. This means their investment income often exceeds what they make from tuition fees.
Investment styles differ. The richest universities are far more aggressive, punting large sums on risky ventures such as private equity and hedge funds (see chart 2). Poorer colleges play it safe with a traditional mix of stocks and bonds. A school and its money are seldom parted.