Overall value of big donations to universities falls

But higher education still biggest recipient of major gifts

November 3, 2014

The total value of donations worth £1 million or more to British universities fell last year, but higher education remains the UK’s biggest recipient of major gifts.

The annual Million Pound Donors Report from the bank Coutts puts the total value of seven- and eight-figure donations to the sector during 2013 at £552.1 million, compared with £570 million during the previous year.

The drop followed the end of the government’s three-year match-funding scheme for university donations. However, Maya Prabu, a managing director of Coutts’ philanthropy institute, suggested the reduction was more likely to be attributable to the fact that the £75 million gift to the University of Oxford from the Geneva-based McCall MacBain Foundation was the year’s only really significant “outlier”. The average size of donations was smaller, she said.

The report says that higher education institutions received 41 per cent of the total value of gifts worth £1 million or more during year, through 65 separate donations.

The previous year’s total had come from a smaller number of gifts, 47. The 2013 total remains significantly higher than the £405 million figure recorded in 2011.

The report adds that universities received seven out of the 10 largest donations during 2013, all worth at least £30 million. A total of 33 institutions received seven-figure donations and 11 received more than one of this size.

The University of Oxford received 12 such gifts and the University of Cambridge accepted seven, although nine non-Oxford institutions were the beneficiaries of at least one eight-figure gift during the year.

Ms Prabu told Times Higher Education that universities remained an attractive option for donors, with the drift towards increasing numbers of smaller gifts reflecting the UK-wide trend.

“There’s a whole range of things [in higher education] that donors can support which is one very strong attraction,” she said. “For many donors, they have a real sense of confidence that these institutions can absorb very large gifts, know how to manage them, and are going to be around in 10 years’ time.”

The UK figures were presented alongside results for six other key regions, with higher education proving to be the most popular destination for gifts of $1 million (£624,982) or more in the US, Hong Kong and Singapore during 2013.

In the US, a total of $7.25 billion was gifted to universities in 529 separate seven-figure gifts. This was equivalent to 43 per cent of all major benefactions nationwide.

In Hong Kong the sum of all the seven-figure donations to universities was $280 million, or 30 per cent of all major gifts, while Singapore universities’ total of $306 million was equivalent to 43 per cent.

Chinese universities received $265 million in seven-figure donations, but this represented only 13 per cent of major gifts.


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