DUNCAN Rice, principal of Aberdeen University, has put his money where his mouth is with a personal donation of Pounds 35,000 towards the university's new student bursary scheme.
The donation, made jointly by Professor Rice and his wife Susan, head of branch banking at the Bank of Scotland, goes towards Pounds 1,000 scholarships for gifted students.
Professor Rice, an Aberdeen graduate, has returned to his native city from New York University, where he was involved in its notably successful fund-raising campaign. He has repeatedly warned that higher education must be more proactive in raising non-government support.
Professor Rice was reluctant to be interviewed on the donation. A university spokeswoman said he had gone public only to encourage other donors.
The principal and his wife had given tangible evidence of their support for Scottish higher education through a "tax-efficient deed of covenant," she said.
"He believes that as the years progress we will be following the pattern in the United States, where private philanthropy is common."
The Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals is unaware of similar gifts. "Vice-chancellors' charitable donations are not an area of concern for the CVCP. It is a matter for individuals and their institutions," a spokesman said.
While many universities are beefing up their fund-raising strategies, they do not aim these at staff, and academic donations are unusual.
Cathy Bell, acting director of Glasgow University's development campaign, said some staff had made donations as Glasgow graduates. "We are talking of a smallish group, with gifts ranging from deeds of covenant at Pounds 20 per month to a couple of gifts at Pounds 10,000."
Cambridge University's director of development, Michael Smithson, said divinity and philosophy staff had supported appeals in their own disciplines, with two of the donations topping Pounds 5,000, while Edinburgh University's list of its top 200 donors includes two professors.
Duncan Allen, Oxford University's deputy director of development, said:
"Donors include academics. But the bulk of our money comes from big corporations and rich individuals."