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Donations to UK universities rise above £1bn for first time

Donations to UK universities rise above £1bn for first time

Philanthropic income to UK universities rose a record-breaking 23%, reaching over £1bn for the first time last year.

The annual Ross-CASE Survey of Charitable Giving to Universities reported the increase across 110 participating UK universities.

While the value of donations rose, a slight decrease of 0.5 percent was seen in the overall number of donors year on year, with a significant proportion of the new funds secured from large gifts and pledges. The total amount gifted from legacies was £104.7 million from 1,179 legacy donors.

Alumni donors (177,798) accounted for 80 percent of individual donors (223,256). 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 outweigh 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 percent and 10 percent, respectively. The report also shows a 27 percent increase in the number of donors pledging gifts worth £500,000 or more, up from 189 to 240.

The report was compiled by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education and also reveals where funds were spent. This included supporting the development and recent rollout 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 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 for a master’s degree at the University of Manchester in subjects that aren’t available in their home country.

Sue Cunningham, CASE president and CEO said:

“Surpassing 1 billion pounds is a testament to the hard work of more than 2,100 fundraising and alumni relations professionals, the academic institutions they support and the philanthropic donors who believe in investing in the important work of universities. These dedicated professionals are advancing education in profound ways and transforming lives and society in the process.”

Tricia King, vice president, global engagement at CASE, said:

“Philanthropic giving is now at the heart of UK university culture. 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. 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 it’s gratifying that they want to give back.”


Melanie May is a journalist and copywriter specialising in writing both for and about the charity and marketing services sectors since 2001. She can be reached via

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