The University of Cambridge is to launch a new £2 billion fundraising campaign this weekend and is already more than £525 million towards the target.
The university says that the campaign will focus on its “impact on the world” and address major global problems in collaboration with philanthropists.
Investment has already been secured for a programme of research into the causes of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease led by Chris Dobson, master of St John’s College and John Humphrey Plummer professor of chemical and structural biology. And inventor James Dyson has pledged money to the campaign to support the next generation of engineers.
Other recent gifts to the university have included one from Bill and Weslie Janeway, who gave a £16.2 million donation to establish a professorship of financial economics.
Overall, 5,000 donors have already given to the new campaign. The university said that many are Cambridge alumni, “motivated to give back to their college in recognition of the education they received as students”.
Co-chairs of the campaign are Mohamed A. El-Erian, chief economic adviser at financial services firm Allianz, and Harvey McGrath, chairman of Big Society Capital, a social investment bank. Both are Cambridge graduates.
Dr El-Erian said: “My experience at Cambridge has shaped my entire life since – it has been the main driver of my professional development – and for good reason. Cambridge taught me not just what, but how, to think – as it has done so for countless others for over 800 years.”
Mr McGrath said: “Private capital has a crucial role to play in addressing societal issues. It can enable risk taking and original thought. It can support new approaches to old problems.”
Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, Cambridge vice-chancellor, said: “Philanthropy is vital to the future of Cambridge: it underpins our ambition by allowing us the space to innovate, free from the constraints of political and economic change.
“In addition, I want to see Cambridge rise to the world’s many challenges in energy, food, healthcare, education, and inequality. Philanthropy is uniquely placed to enable the new ways of working and partnerships with NGOs and industry that can see us make a powerful contribution in these critical areas.”
Cambridge hit a £1 billion fundraising target in 2010 after five years of campaigning.
The universities of Oxford and Cambridge secured 41 per cent of all new philanthropic donations to UK higher education institutions in 2013-14, down from 51 per cent the previous year, according to the Council for Advancement and Support of Education Europe.
Total new donations to UK higher education amounted to £807 million in 2013-14.