The decision to launch a fundraising campaign in the wake of a recession might appear optimistic.
Those urging universities to find new sources of income to plug the hole left by public spending cuts might, alternatively, conclude that we’ve rushed hastily into a concerted effort on fundraising.
In fact, we haven’t jumped, and weren’t pushed. We have been working hard since 2005 to revive the philanthropic tradition on which the University was built, laying the groundwork for launching a fundraising campaign and a new, long-term, sustainable source of income. They have established good relationships with influential supporters of the University across the globe, from America to Australia, Canada to Hong Kong, and found another 48,000 graduates to add to the 100,000 or so we knew about.
A feasibility study has been carried out involving staff, students and potential donors to identify how we can make a compelling case for philanthropy to support our strategic imperatives and enhance our research, teaching and learning and estate. Four broad research areas have been chosen – human health; arts and culture; climate change and environmental sustainability; and the social sciences – within an over-arching theme of inspiring and engaging our students.
These encompass some incredibly exciting projects, everything from an academy of cultural fellows which will bring outstanding early-career artists to the city, to increased investment in the diagnosis and treatment of viral, cardiovascular and neurological diseases.
Philanthropy cannot replace core funding, whatever politicians claim. From many conversations I’ve had with potential donors, it’s clear they never want to pick up the essential business they believe government, students or industry should fund. They want to invest in us because they can add excellence to our great qualities, to our activities and to our estate. They want to invest because they can help us increase our impact and academic strengths to achieve our strategic ambitions, because they can make a difference.
The refurbishment of our beautiful art gallery, together with a bequest of important 20th century artworks, is one such example, courtesy of the late Audrey Burton. The Ziff family’s generosity extends across the campus and over decades, most notably in the landmark student services building which replaced the grim Victorian police station conditions in which many of our student-facing staff used to work. Sir Jimmy Savile’s support is enabling talented medical students to follow their passion for inquiry and research at undergraduate level, and there are other donors who wish to remain anonymous.
The fundraising working target has been set at £60 million over five years – a relatively modest sum against an annual turnover of some £500 million – but it would more than double the amount we have every year to spend on strategic developments,* so it will have a massive impact. Council gave the go ahead earlier this month and the campaign now begins with a ‘quiet’ phase (where fundraising begins in earnest but there is little external publicity). The external launch follows in 2011/12 by which time we hope to have raised over half the target sum. If we are spectacularly successful, we can revise this upwards.
A fundraising campaign would have been unthinkable five years ago. Its launch is a reflection of the high esteem in which our staff and students are held and the self-confidence generated by a great deal of hard work, strategic focus and success. We have come a long way and, with a little help from our friends, we will continue on this positive trajectory – notwithstanding the many challenges we face.
Months of fairly intensive behind-the-scenes political lobbying by universities, individually
and collectively, about the value of higher education and its critical role in helping the UK out of the recession had secured some vague assurances, followed by cuts totalling £915 million by 2012/13 (for more on this see http://www.leeds.ac.uk/comms/financial/cuts/index.htm).
But as chair of the Russell Group, I decided it was time to put this issue into the public domain to try and secure from government the answer to one simple question – Will you please stop at £915 million? Timing, it seems, is everything; on a slow news day, the story was ‘splashed’ by the Guardian and subsequently picked up on the following days and weeks by TV, radio, newspapers and across the internet. Thousands of words, dozens of news clips, and sound bites, three ministerial articles, numerous speeches and references in the House and even – we’ve been led to believe – a Cabinet discussion poured forth. Sadly, there is still a deafening silence on that one simple question.
So we still don’t know what the extent of the cuts will be, but we remain determined that they will not sweep away the enormous progress we have made. I am passionate about the future of this University and our staff and students, and I will ensure that we do everything in our power to protect us from what is to come. As we went to press, the University and UCU were holding discussions with help from the Arbitration, Conciliation and Advisory Services aimed at resolving the union’s dispute. Both sides I believe are genuinely trying to find a solution; at the end of the day, it is important that a university such as ours proceeds by agreement, guided by our values of openness, transparency, honesty, fairness, collegiality and upholding academic freedom.
* Current spend on the transformation and academic development projects is around £7 million including support for the Wolfson thermodynamics laboratory, the China office, Fulbright scholarships and a host of learning and teaching developments; ‘transformation’ research is supported in the areas of new pharmaceuticals, water, food security, future workplaces and cancer.