Match funding sparks furore

November 16, 2007

Universities are at loggerheads over how £200 million promised to the sector to encourage private philanthropic giving should be carved up by the Government, writes Zoe Corbyn . The Government announced in February that it would provide about £67 million a year over three years to match private donations to universities. It put forward initial ideas for the design of the scheme in June.

But Campaigning for Mainstream Universities - which rebranded itself this week as "Million+" - has described the proposals as "regressive". In a submission to the Government, it says the biggest beneficiaries will be top fundraising universities.

"(The proposed system) will not lead to a distribution that incentivises and benefits the maximum number of institutions or incentivises additional and new voluntary giving," said Pam Tatlow, the chief executive of Million+.

Million+'s submission says the main problem is the proposed "tier system" for matched funds.

Under the system, universities that raise the least in private income would be eligible to receive a higher rate of matched funding from the Government - but to a lower total amount.

In the first tier, donations received will be matched pound for pound by the Government, up to a total proposed cap of £100,000. Two other brackets - where the Government will provide 50p for every pound donated, and a further 33p per pound in the highest bracket - are capped at higher amounts, giving those better at fundraising the potential to earn more.

"The caps would result in regressive distribution of funding, bearing in mind current funding activity," Million+'s submission says.

Universities UK said it understood the need for a tier system but said the cap on the lowest tier should be increased to £200,000.

Meanwhile, the Ross Group, an informal group of top fundraising institutions that includes Oxford and Cambridge universities, claims the proposed financial benchmarks in the system will penalise them.

Mary Blair, group member and director of development at the London School of Economics, said: "If the Government says year on year that all universities have to raise as much as in the previous year and then go beyond it to attract matched funding, they will have to show a very large percentage increase in income."

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