University donations up but Budget raises worries over future

Universities have once again seen a rise in philanthropic donations, but there are warnings that a cap on tax relief announced in last week’s Budget could stop this progress “dead in its tracks”.

March 27, 2012

The Ross-CASE survey found that in 2010-11, UK universities’ cash income reached £560 million, a rise of 8.3 per cent on the previous year.

The amount of new assets secured – including gifts such as works of art and long-term pledges in addition to immediate cash donations – grew 14 per cent to £693 million.

Members of the Russell Group of large research-intensive universities captured 70 per cent of the cash income during the year, the same proportion as in 2009-10. The universities of Oxford and Cambridge received 44 per cent of the total, less than the 50 per cent they collected in 2008-09.

The survey was conducted when the Russell Group had 20 institutions, before Exeter, Durham University, the University of York and Queen Mary, University of London joined the elite group earlier this month.

The 1994 Group of smaller research-intensive universities saw its share of total cash income grow from 7 per cent in 2008-09 to one-tenth last year.

In total, 204,250 people donated to universities during 2010-11, up from 184,945 the previous year.

The report said it was “cautious” about the outlook for fundraising over the next one to two years because concerns over European sovereign debt problems had “reinforced” donor uncertainty.

Kate Hunter, executive director for the Council for Advancement and Support of Education in Europe, one of the partners that produced the report, said in a statement that the survey “tells a positive story about the culture shift toward philanthropy in our universities”.

But she said she was concerned with plans revealed in last week’s Budget to cap tax relief at £50,000 a year.

“We feel this sends entirely the wrong message to donors about the need for and value of their gifts to the sector,” she said.

Chris Cox, director of development and alumni relations at the University of Manchester and chair of the Ross Group of development directors, said that the government “now needs to move quickly to ensure that the Budget proposals on tax relief don't stop progress dead in its tracks”.

“The only way of sending a clear message would be to exempt charitable contributions from the new cap,” he argued.

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