It’s almost impossible to overestimate the vital importance of higher education:

  • For individuals, a university degree can lead to greater financial security and a rewarding career, as well as providing personal development opportunities and a sense of accomplishment.
  • Research from universities addresses the world’s major social, environmental and medical challenges.
  • Higher education drives technology and innovation.

Just as importantly, higher education institutions (HEIs) contribute to the economic health of the nation. In 2014-15 UK universities employed 404,000 people (1.3% of all UK employment) and generated £95 billion of gross output.

Governments understand the significant economic impact of HEIs and have continued a post-war tradition of providing public money to support higher education. In recent years, however, cuts in public spending and an increased dependency on tuition fees have forced HEIs to find other forms of income to ensure their long-term financial sustainability. These include commercial activities, partnerships with the private sector and research contracts. Philanthropy is another increasingly important source of income for HEIs.

This paper looks at the development of philanthropy in higher education and highlights the benefits it can offer to HEIs, students and the philanthropists themselves. In addition, the paper describes some of the barriers preventing HEIs from attracting philanthropic donations, looks at ways in which these can be overcome and includes examples of good practice.

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