Alumni relations could actually be improved if students paid for their own higher education, according to a survey by university marketing specialists.
Ian O'Neill, author of Alumni Relations In UK Higher Education, says that in the United States students form close associations with their former universities.
The survey, published by the Higher Education Information Services Trust, suggests that loyalty is "easier to foster" partly because "American students have entered higher education at some con-siderable personal financial cost".
Most British universities have founded their alumni operations on US models, says Mr O'Neill. He concludes that "UK students paying for their own education may be endeared towards their institution".
But the HEIST report says it is too early to establish the effect of financial contributions on closer university-alumni ties - "affinity formation", as the jargon has it - and acknowledges that students "may begrudge having to make such a contribution, become politicised and fail to associate with it".
Some "established" universities spend less than Pounds 10,000 on an alumni operation, although the average is Pounds 57,000 and the highest hovers around the Pounds 200,000 mark.
Equally varied is the degree of success in contacting former students. One-fifth of the 74 institutions which responded to the survey reported that they had reached between 80-89 per cent, yet some 7 per cent had reached less than 10 per cent. Almost all (97 per cent) of the surveyed institutions produce an alumni magazine or newsletter.
Alumni Relations in UK Higher Education: the findings of a survey investigating the organisation of alumni relations within UK higher education, Ian O'Neill, HEIST Pounds 25.