Today's announcement of grants totalling £7.5 million to help universities and colleges develop their fundraising activities is welcome as far as it goes... but that is not very far. The scheme may be a pilot, designed for pump-priming rather than full operation, but it is a laughably small amount to share across the whole of English higher education. More than 50 hopefuls got nothing at all, while the majority of institutions did not even bid. Ministers (and their shadows) say that institutions must raise far larger sums in future, but it will take much more than this to get them to first base.
Most UK universities will never be in the same league as the US when it comes to fundraising, but those that have invested seriously in the activity and persevered have produced encouraging results. The culture of giving is changing gradually on this side of the Atlantic, but the Government has to play a much fuller part if higher education is to help itself in the long run. That means tax breaks on the US model and more than token amounts to encourage universities to take up the many good ideas in last year's task force report on the subject.