UK giving culture is in Stone Age, says Lampl

February 16, 2007

Universities in the UK are in the Stone Age when it comes to alumni fundraising, according to the multimillionaire education philanthropist Sir Peter Lampl, writes Rebecca Attwood.

Sir Peter, chairman of the Sutton Trust, said this week's pledge by Tony Blair to match-fund donations to universities was a welcome start towards the creation of a culture of alumni giving, but he described the sums involved as "not terribly generous".

Under the scheme, which is announced today, universities will get £1 of public funds for every £2 they receive from private donors, up to a maximum of £2 million per institution. Seventy-five universities in England will be eligible for match-funding. The rest will receive money to establish fundraising centres.

However, a report published by the Sutton Trust in December recommended that the Government match donations pound for pound up to £5 million at each institution.

Sir Peter, who was a member of the Government's task force on voluntary giving, told The Times Higher : "I think it is great that they've picked a match-funding scheme. Research shows that it is very effective."

But he said he would have preferred a pound-for-pound scheme, and he also believes the tax laws need to be changed to encourage giving.

"I view this as a start, not a finish," he said.

Only two English universities, Oxford and Cambridge, currently have endowments worth £100 million or more. The comparable figure in the US is 207.

Sir Peter said: "We really are in the Stone Age in this country at the moment. About 10 per cent of alumni donate to Oxbridge, but the figure for other universities is closer to 1 per cent."

"Twenty or twenty-five years ago, very few state universities in America were fundraising, but they now have giving rates of about 20 per cent - it can be done," he said.

The University and College Union said that although extra money was welcome, "cherry-picking" parts of the American model was not the way forward.

Sally Hunt, the UCU's joint general secretary, said: "If the Government wishes to follow examples from the States, we would suggest it start by looking at government spending on higher education as a proportion of gross domestic product."

Eric Thomas, vice-chancellor of Bristol University and chair of the Voluntary Giving task force, "unequivocally" welcomed the Government's announcement of match-funding.

* Cambridge announced this week that it is half way to achieving its fundraising target of £1 billion by 2012.

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