Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

From Where I Sit - Take and Give

Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

From Where I Sit - Take and Give

Article excerpt

I have been back in Sydney this past month for the first time in seven years. One of the few non-family things I did was to visit the University of Sydney and call into its development office. It was an informative hour. I found out that this year I will be one of about 10,000 individual donors to the university. Combined, we will give approximately A$80 million (Pounds 51.2 million) for the second year straight. Half will be alumni, the rest will be "friends".

My modest contribution will go to support fundraising from US-based alumni through a small foundation that ensures gifts are tax-deductible and takes care of the paperwork. The body raises about $300,000 (Pounds 185,000) a year.

These sums seem modest, especially compared with the $4 billion the University of Pennsylvania has raised in a capital campaign over the past five years or the billions mustered by Oxbridge recently.

However, they compare favourably with the Pounds 50 million targets for 2015 set by the UK universities of Warwick and Sussex, and the hundreds of US colleges and universities that raised less in 2011 than Sydney. And the institution is well ahead of local competitors such as the University of Melbourne, which will raise half as much this year.

Raising money for Australian universities is a hard task. The nation lacks the US' philanthropic tradition and until recently had an unhelpful tax code. For 40 years the federal government has been the major university funder. Tuition was free for decades and today's income-contingent loan scheme gives students a sense that they have paid for their education and owe nothing to their almae matres.

In reality, the federal government funds only 53 per cent of university operating costs and this includes student loan payments (11 per cent of the total). But there is still a popular belief that universities are well resourced and don't need help. …

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