UK university donations surpass £1 billion for first time

Oxford and Cambridge maintain dominance as total number of donors falls

May 3, 2017
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The value of donations pledged to UK universities has increased by 23 per cent in the space of a year, exceeding £1 billion for the first time, according to the Council for Advancement and Support of Education Europe.

The annual Ross-Case survey found that UK universities secured £1.06 billion in philanthropic income in 2015-16, up from £861 million in 2014-15. The 2015-16 figure is based on responses from 110 UK institutions.

The amount of money that universities actually received increased as well, growing by 10 per cent during this period to £839 million, while there was a 27 per cent rise in the number of donors pledging gifts worth £500,000 or more (from 189 to 240).

Tricia King, Case’s global vice-president, said that the results demonstrated how philanthropy “is now at the heart of UK university culture”.

A review of philanthropy commissioned by the Higher Education Funding Council for England in 2012 set a sector-wide annual donations target of £2 billion by 2022.

The Ross-Case report, Giving to Excellence: Generating Philanthropic Support for UK Higher Education, found that higher education institutions were receiving a smaller proportion of philanthropic funding from organisations: the value of gifts from companies, trusts and foundations accounted for 55 per cent of total funding in 2015-16, a decline from 64 per cent in 2014-15.

However, the total number of donors decreased by 0.5 per cent since 2014-15 to 229,060, suggesting that universities were receiving higher-value gifts from fewer donors. Most individual donors (80 per cent) were alumni.

Case said that this trend could be a result of new regulations that require universities spending more than £100,000 a year on fundraising to pay a levy to finance a new fundraising regulator.

While the report claims that many institutions with less established histories of philanthropy have shown a marked improvement, elite universities still dominate when it comes to donations.

The share of funding received by the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, for example, has increased. The two institutions now account for 46 per cent of new funds secured (up from 44 per cent) and 34 per cent of all donors (up from 32 per cent).

However, more universities have been breaking the £1 million barrier in terms of donations. When comparing figures for three years across 103 institutions, 61 universities surpassed this total in new funds in 2015-16, a 13 per cent increase since 2013-14.

Overall, university investment in fundraising rose by 16 per cent to £109 million between 2014-15 and 2015-16, while expenditure on alumni relations increased by 10 per cent to £43.4 million.

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