Donations to UK universities surpass £1bn milestone

UK universities record-braking philanthropic giving surpasses £1 billion-a-year for the first time

The latest annual Ross-CASE survey on higher education giving in the UK has reported a record breaking increase in philanthropic income of 23% across the 110 participating universities. 

The funds raised were instrumental in the development and recent roll-out of a genetic test to improve childhood cancer treatment at The Institute of Cancer Research, supporting dementia research at the University of Edinburgh and restoring the iconic McEwan Hall in Edinburgh. Other projects include funding new scholarships to enable Londoners from disadvantaged backgrounds to study at the University of London and supporting talented students from Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda to study a Master’s degree at the University of Manchester in subjects that aren’t available in their home county.

The report was compiled by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) Europe. Tricia King, Global Vice President (CASE) said: “Philanthropic giving is now at the heart of UK university culture. It provides vital funds to enable the nation’s universities to invest in new ground breaking research that pushes back the boundaries of knowledge, improves social mobility by widening access to degree study and builds world class facilities”.  

As University fundraising is dependent upon building long term relationships with donors and their investment over time demonstrates a powerful belief in the capacity of universities to tackle world problems. King adds “It’s particularly pleasing to see that our alumni make such a major contribution. It’s clear that they, more than anyone, have experienced the benefits of university study and its gratifying that they want to give back”.

The increase in funds secured comes despite a decrease (0.5%) in the overall number of donors’ year on year, with a significant proportion of the new funds secured from large gifts and pledges.


As in previous years of the 15-year research project, new funds secured from alumni (£322m) account for significantly more than non-alumni individuals (£149m), while new funds secured from trusts and foundations (£442m) far outweighs companies (£82m).  

Comparing the survey data for 2015-16 to the previous year, findings show that investment in fundraising and alumni relations reported an increase of 16% and 10% respectively. The report also shows a 27% increase in the number of donors pledging gifts worth £500,000 or more up from 189 to 240.

One of the founding members of the survey, TJ Rawlinson, member of the Ross-CASE Editorial Board and Director of Development and Alumni Relations, Cardiff University comments on the origins of the survey, “in the early 2000s a group of development directors met to share experiences and analysis. Their work in collecting data and benchmarking UK fundraising in higher education has grown substantially, and after years of partnering with CASE the survey is now managed by CASE.” Since that meeting the survey has become instrumental in helping the sector to identify good practice in securing philanthropic support, and to grow this important income stream for universities. 

Rawlinson notes, “Today’s announcement that philanthropic commitments to higher education have this year surpassed one billion pounds is a real landmark. This growth from a few million pounds is testament to the hard work of over 2,100 fundraising and alumni relations professionals, and the academic colleagues they strive to support, in inspiring donors to invest in education and research – thereby transforming lives and society.”


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