Would you leave your house to your employer, even if it was a university? For many readers, the mere suggestion will be laughable.
Charitable donations (on a considerably smaller scale) tend to be focused on alleviating poverty or supporting causes that do not enjoy state support. Yet academics and other university employees make such donations in surprising numbers in the US, where the draw lies not simply in a different culture of giving, but in the more mercenary territory of tax legislation.
If the Chancellor can be persuaded to offer tax breaks that allow donors to continue living in the home that they have willed to their university, the proposition could be particularly attractive to those who have no children.
Donations to universities may never match US levels - and will certainly never replace state funding - but there is much that can be done through the tax system to encourage growth. Universities have begun to take the process seriously. A little help in the Budget would provide a timely shot in the arm.