Re the figures on university earnings in 1993/94 (THES, November 3). The commentary contains a serious error. It states that universities' income "has been supplemented by the increasing amount of money from endowments and donations, apparently the result of a growing American-style practice of educational philanthropy. In 1993/94, the old universities received Pounds 237 million, a real-terms increase of 457 per cent."
This statement is undoubtedly based on information in table three of University Statistics 1993/94, volume three: "Income from endowments, donations and subventions". The total of Pounds 237 million has three components. The first is income from endowments: Pounds 70 million. The second is income from hospitals and health authorities to fund clinical posts: Pounds 90 million.
The third is "income from other sources": Pounds 77 million. Investigations we have made on behalf of the Charities Aid Foundation have shown that this a "catch all" category. It is impossible to know how much of it represents donations. For example, one university with several million pounds in this category told us that it did not represent "a pot of gold", but was money it had reclaimed for various services or which did not fit elsewhere.
Therefore only the first sum given in the University Statistics - Pounds 70 million - can accurately be said to be philanthropic income. Furthermore, this was only Pounds 3 million more than in 1991/92.
The truth is that there is no national data about the amount of money universities are raising through their fundraising efforts. Nor is the Higher Education Statistics Agency, the new data collection agency, at present collecting any. Since independent income is likely to be increasingly important to universities and since many universities are already investing in fundraising offices, we believe that this is a serious gap.
H. M. Drucker