UK universities attract more donors despite reduced income in 2009-10

Charitable income to higher education has dropped as the full effects of the economic downturn on university fundraising become clear.

March 21, 2011

Figures published in the Ross-CASE Survey today reveal that UK universities received £506 million in philanthropic income in 2009-10, down from £526 million the previous year.

However, there were also some positive trends. In 2009-10, UK universities secured £600 million in new gifts, which include pledges for the future. This represents an increase of almost 10 per cent from the 2008-09 figure of £548 million.

In addition, the number of donors choosing to give to higher education is on the rise. A total of 185,603 people gave to universities in 2009-10, up by a quarter in the two years since 2007-08.

The universities of Oxford and Cambridge accounted for 50 per cent of new charitable funds secured by universities last year, which was a small increase on their share in the 2008-09 academic year (46 per cent).

In terms of cash already received, the distribution also remained highly skewed, with 48 per cent going to Oxford and Cambridge and a further 23 per cent to the remaining members of the Russell Group of large research-intensive universities.

The donation figures are the first to reflect the impact of the worldwide economic downturn, which hit the UK in late 2008.

They also account for income generated in the second year of the government’s matched funding scheme, administered by the Higher Education Funding Council for England, which offered £200 million in matched gifts. The scheme will end later this year.

“We believe that rising absolute numbers of alumni donors in the UK represents one of the most significant positive effects of the matched funding scheme,” the report states.

Chris Cox, director of development and alumni relations at the University of Manchester and chair of the Ross Group of development directors, also welcomed the increase in the overall number of donors.

“At a time of economic turmoil, alumni and other donors have responded generously, responding to requests that resonate with their own values and priorities, and extending the widespread benefits that higher and further education institutions deliver for society,” he said.

The survey also reveals that members of the 1994 Group of small research-intensive universities saw their charitable income grow by 50 per cent over the past two years.

Over the three years from 2007-08, 1994 Group institutions increased their share of overall gifts to UK universities from 5.7 per cent to 7.2 per cent.

Members of the Million+ and University Alliance groups, which are made up mostly of new universities, also saw a “very marked growth” in charitable income, the report says.

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