Cambridge University has married academic know-how with business nous in its bid to raise £1 billion by 2012.
William Brown, master of Darwin College, Cambridge University, is among the people who will lead the institution's fundraising campaign, which was launched last week.
Professor Brown, chairman of the university colleges committee, will work alongside Sir David Walker, chairman of Morgan Stanley International, and William Janeway, vice-chairman of Warburg Pincus. Sir David and Dr Janeway, both Cambridge alumni, will chair the university's campaign board.
Professor Brown's specific role will be to co-ordinate the colleges'
efforts, aimed at trebling the number of alumni donors.
He said: "The best bit of the campaign is probably meeting people who went through the university and talking to them about what they are doing now.
"Some are doing jobs that make them rich, others are doing jobs that make them happy - and the two don't necessarily go hand in hand."
Professor Brown, who has been Cambridge's Montague Burton professor of industrial relations since 1985, believes that finding funding sources other than the state to support the university is a matter of urgency.
He said: "Cambridge's current dependence on government funding makes it vulnerable to shifts in political priorities, regulatory intrusion and uncertainties that hamper effective long-term planning. In this environment, building Cambridge's endowments is a critical element in the broad effort to secure its future."
He denies that the funding drive is intended to pave the way to privatising Cambridge.
"This is not at all about becoming private," he said. "The students come with an entitlement from the state. All we are saying is that benefactors help provide Cambridge with a better quality of teaching."
Together with Professor Brown Sir David and Dr Janeway will be meeting former students and encouraging them to donate generously.
Dr Janeway said: "Some 40 years ago, I found in Cambridge the values that have guided me ever since." Sir David said: "The campaign will enhance Cambridge's extraordinary creative capability, transforming so much of what we think and do."
At present, 10 per cent of Cambridge alumni donate, while at US Ivy League universities the figure is nearer to 30 per cent.