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Philanthropists donating record amounts to HE

Donations to UK universities and colleges are greater than ever, but more could be done to encourage philanthropists, according to a report commissioned by the Higher Education Funding Council for England.

Shirley Pearce, chairwoman of the group overseeing the ‘Review of philanthropy in UK higher education’, said that if the trend of the past decade continues HEIs could receive up to £2 billion per year from 630,000 donors by 2022.

The report, produced by funding consultants More Partnership and published on 12 September, was based on a literature review, interviews with vice-chancellors and donors, and an open consultation. It found that HEIs with a clear identity and a compelling case for charitable support were most successful.

As well as analysing the state of donations, it sets out a series of recommendations to maintain investment. These include the establishment of a HEFCE pump-priming fund to help universities attract donors and a cost-effective follow-up to its previous, matched funding scheme. Until then, the report recommends working with donors to establish funding opportunities.

HEFCE chief executive Alan Langlands explained in a statement that philanthropic giving to HEIs is “an important source of discretionary income, supporting activities beyond those met from core funding streams”.

Pearce said successful institutions were those with “strong leadership and [who] have aligned their philanthropic goals to their academic strategy”.

The review recommends universities build up relationships with major donors, and develop “institutional advancement plans”, such as more public communication and alumni relations.

However, while the report found that most donations, by number, come from alumni, most campaigns in UK higher education received at least half of their income, by value, from other sources.

The report found that an understanding of why donors give is key for the HEIs’ success. Most donors’ motivation is to see their money make a difference. One donor is reported as saying: “If you believe in young people and you want a good planet and community in 20 years, then you give to universities.”