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UK leads Europe in philanthropy education – but it’s a small field

Howard Lake | 29 October 2014 | News

Very few universities in Europe offer any kind of education about philanthropy, a new report published by the Centre for Charitable Giving and Philanthropy and Cass Business School has concluded.
The study, Philanthropy education in the UK and continental Europe: Current provision, perceptions and opportunities – authored by Charles Keidan with Dr Tobias Jung and professor Cathy Pharaoh – set out to “illuminate” the scale and scope of philanthropy infrastructure in Europe and highlight the key issues affecting the future development of the field.
According to the report, even though the UK has the “most extensive philanthropy education infrastructure in Europe”, just five out of the UK’s more than 160 higher education institutions offer dedicated philanthropy modules or courses at undergraduate or postgraduate level.
These are:

  • City University’s Cass Business School
  • Northumbria University
  • University of Cambridge Judge Business School
  • University of Kent
  • University of St Andrews.

The report does not list Imperial College London, which launched an MSc in Philanthropy this month, although it does acknowledge that the Centre for Sustainable Philanthropy at Plymouth University has a chair in ‘philanthropic psychology’ in professor Jen Shang (both were launched after the data-gathering phase of the research was completed).
Neither does the report list UK Universities that offer education in fundraising, such as Chichester University, although courses that combine fundraising and philanthropy, such as Kent’s ‘Fundraising and Philanthropy’ MA, are included in the report.
In fact, the report says that the “conflation of philanthropy and fundraising” represents a “danger” to the development of philanthropy education. It says this is reflected in the renaming of some university fundraising departments as philanthropy departments.
“On one level, these linguistic choices simply reflect the inter‐relation and coalescence of fundraising and philanthropy, and the fact that philanthropic resources are the primary target of fundraisers,” the report says.
“But on another level the conceptual slippage elides the differences between the two concepts. The focus on philanthropy as a source of funds, while understandable from a fundraising perspective, risks missing some of philanthropy’s most defining features, as the expression of private visions of the public good.”

European philanthropy courses

Throughout the rest of Europe there are 19 institutions offering university-based philanthropy courses, with four each in Germany and France and three in the Netherlands. Nine of the 20 countries surveyed have no such courses at all.


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Five barriers to philanthropy education

The report listed five barriers to developing philanthropy education:

  1. University leaderships have not prioritised philanthropy research or education to date.
  2. Scholarship about philanthropy is not internally embedded or sufficiently valued in the academy. It lacks academic and financial incentives and disciplinary rooting and student demand is unproven.
  3. Philanthropists and foundations have traditionally shown a limited interest in supporting philanthropy research, which some perceive as navel‐gazing or potentially raising awkward questions.
  4. Philanthropic funders are showing a growing interest in philanthropy research reflecting greater professionalisation, introspection and scrutiny, but foundation funding in this area could create conflicts of interest.
  5. Philanthropy education presents multiple opportunities for universities both at the institutional level – in terms of building donor relationships, understanding donor motivations, and developing the skills of fundraisers – as well as at the scholarly level in terms of advancing academic knowledge.

The report calls for a number of new measures to boost the provision of philanthropy education across universities.
These include the creation of curricular guidelines for teaching philanthropy and the launch of a multi-disciplinary academic journal of philanthropy to galvanise scholars in the area. They also outline the need for research councils to increase their investments in deepening understanding of philanthropy.
The report concludes:

“This research suggests that considerable potential exists for the development of an inter-disciplinary field of philanthropy studies in Europe. The creation of new courses, chairs and centres on philanthropy, the increased involvement of philanthropy practitioners in academic settings and the interest of some foundations to create a ‘philanthropy learning infrastructure’ across Europe reflect this potential… All will be necessary if philanthropy education is to thrive and the much‐discussed but still mercurial phenomenon is to be better understood.”