Universities must seek out alternative sources of finance as they can no longer rely on the certainty of government grants and funding from commercial partners, a vice-chancellor has said.
Dame Glynis Breakwell, head of the University of Bath, made the comments at the launch of the institution’s first comprehensive fundraising campaign.
She told Times Higher Education that the university hopes to raise £66 million in two and a half years as part of its celebrations to mark the 50th anniversary of the awarding of Bath’s Royal Charter.
“Universities need to recognise that they have to differentiate their income streams,” Dame Glynis said. “You can’t depend on certain government grants or certain relationships you might have had with certain commercial companies in the past,” she added.
The timing of the campaign’s launch reflects Bath’s recognition of the need for fundraising and its having the capacity to do so, she said.
The university has seen “astonishing growth” in the number of scholarships funded by philanthropists, from just five awards six years ago to more than 500 today, Dame Glynis said. “It is a litmus test for the fact that we now know what we are doing in this domain.” She added that Bath possessed the structures and staff to ensure that its fundraising campaign works.
Bath, she said, is looking at how it can contribute to solving some of the world’s challenges, an approach that has already found favour with some research-intensive institutions.
“The university has got lots of evidence to show that we can do that really effectively…Now we can lever that evidence and that position to encourage more people to support [the university],” she said.
At the event, held atop 30 St Mary Axe (better known as the Gherkin) in London on 4 June, the university announced its first gift as part of the initiative, a £5 million grant, Bath’s largest ever from an individual.
It was given by the entrepreneur and alumnus Jonathan Milner, who graduated from Bath in biology and biochemistry in 1988 and went on to found Abcam, a leading supplier of antibodies for scientific research.
He has previously sponsored three PhD students at the university. This latest donation, however, will be used to establish the Milner Centre for Evolution at Bath, the UK’s first centre to focus on evolution research.
The gift will support the construction of new research facilities and will fund academic posts and a public engagement officer. Dr Milner, who admitted to a passion for biology and evolution, said that now was the “perfect time” to make the gift.
Dame Glynis said that the donation meant a great deal to the university because it was an “expression of confidence” and provided leadership for others. “[Dr Milner] is a trendmaker in his own area and has been tremendously influential in the business community in Cambridge, where his business is based.”
Because of his donation, she said, people will understand that Bath can do “great things”.