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Manchester Business School has received a £15m donation from Liberal Democrat peer Lord (David) Alliance of Manchester, one of the largest donations ever to a UK business school. In recognition, the business school will be named after the one-time textile magnate from September 2015, exactly 50 years after the first students were enrolled at the school.

The UK’s top business schools have been particularly successful in attracting donations over the past two years, though largely to name buildings or research centres.

In September 2013, London Business School announced that it had received £10m from businessman Nathan Kirsh towards the school’s endowment. This was swiftly followed by £25m from Idan Ofer, formerly Israel’s richest man, plus a further £34m from a range of investors, towards the refurbishment of the school’s latest building, Old Marylebone Town Hall.

In March 2013 the business school at Imperial College London received £20.1m from Brevan Howard, the hedge fund founded by Alan Howard, an alumnus of Imperial, to set up the Brevan Howard Centre for Financial Analysis. The centre opened last month.

The £15m donated by Lord Alliance is less than that which Saudi businessman Wafic Saïd gave to name the business school at the University of Oxford in 1996 - that was just over £20m.

However, all these sums are all dwarfed by donations to US business schools. Real estate developer Stephen Ross has given a total of $200m to the business school at the University of Michigan, which now bears his name. And at the University of Chicago MBA alumnus David Booth gave $300m to his alma mater in 2008.

Iran-born Lord Alliance, who came to Britain at the age of 17 with only £14 in savings, is one of the Manchester region’s most successful business people. He founded textile group Coats Viyella (now Coats) and is currently non-executive director of Manchester-based N Brown Group, the home shopping company.

Lord Alliance has longstanding relationships with Manchester and its university. “Manchester as a city has done so much for me and this is my opportunity to make a meaningful difference to the next generation of managers and entrepreneurs,” he said.

Lord Alliance’s gift will be used to invest in the new building and in research at Alliance Manchester Business School, as it is to be called. Fiona Devine, head of the business school at Manchester, says that some of the money will be used for scholarships, particularly for the PhD programme, and for recruiting additional academics. In the last year the business school has recruited seven professors and 28 more junior faculty.

But the bulk of the money will go into the school’s infrastructure projects. In particular the school is building a new executive education centre and adjacent 18-storey hotel. There will also be a major renovation of the main business school building.

Prof Devine believes that Lord Alliance’s will be the first of many. “We would expect things to follow on from this,” she says. “There are always opportunities.”

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