Record Donations to UK Universities

May 19, 2017 at 12:00am ET By Alyssa Walker

For the first time, philanthropic income to British universities surpassed £1bn, or about $1.3bn. 

The Ross-Case survey of higher education, completed by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) Europe, reflected a 23 percent increase in one year.

Why?  Brexit.

The higher education sector needs stability.  In an article in The Guardian, Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union said, “Higher education is worth paying for, and UCU remains committed to campaigning for greater public investment rather than asking others to make up shortfalls.”

She added, “As we try to deal with the Brexit fallout, the sector needs stability at the moment and that comes via secure funding, not variable streams. The universities benefitting from the larger donations are the wealthier ones, so the system entrenches inequality.”

Who’s benefitting, exactly?  So far, the major research universities, like Oxford and Cambridge account for 46 percent of the new funds secured, and 34 percent of total donors.

Where has the funding gone?  Donations have been used to help treat childhood cancer at the Institute of Cancer Research, dementia at the University of Edinburgh, and scholarships for disadvantaged London youth.

Dame Julia Goodfellow, president of Universities UK, and vice chancellor of the University of Kent said, “This extra money is making a real difference, helping to fund ground-breaking research, improving facilities and supporting thousands of students through university.”

What does this mean for UK universities?  They’re beginning to diversify their funding streams—which is good news as they prepare to face the implications of Brexit.


Alyssa Walker is a freelance writer, educator, and nonprofit consultant. She lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire with her family.

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