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In Bentham’s footsteps

Your philanthropy plays a vital role in UCL’s research, teaching and development.


From my office in the southern end of the Wilkins Building’s South Cloisters, my nearest and most constant neighbour is Jeremy Bentham, sitting in his auto-icon. I admit I don’t always remember to wish him good morning or good evening, but I do often find myself wondering what he would make of the daily UCL life playing out before him (for a Jeremy’s-eye view of UCL, have a look at the PanoptiCam on our website).

Whether it was the meetings of our Internal Campaign Steering Group, my meetings with donors or our annual Scholarships and Bursaries reception, Jeremy has witnessed a lot of goings-on this year concerning philanthropy, as we move ever closer to launching our next fundraising campaign for UCL.

He was a prolific neologiser – an inventor of new words. Many of those he coined or popularised are relevant to our scholarships fundraising: alleviating (1789) hardship, minimising (1802) financial pressure, and ensuring that study is not unaffordable (1825). I wonder what new words he might have coined to describe the successes of this last year, one in which collective giving achieved a huge amount.

For example, in late January we accepted an offer from the Higher Education Funding Council for England – to provide 50 per cent of funding for scholarships for disadvantaged Master’s students. All universities were invited to take part and find the other 50 per cent, but not all accepted; we did.

So did you, our alumni. Together you have contributed more than £500,000 to the scheme. Gifts came from all over the world, from alumni of all faculties, from all age groups. The total includes gifts from more than 750 donors who gave in response to an appeal this summer, more than 200 of whom were giving to UCL for the first time. Many donors supported a postgraduate initiative despite perhaps only having had an undergraduate experience themselves. To all those who gave and encouraged others to give, thank you. The students who benefited from this funding have now started their Master’s degrees at UCL and we’ll keep you updated on their progress.

Philanthropy has a transformative effect on UCL by giving us the freedom to think and do differently. It supports people that make UCL what it is

And Jeremy, who among his many idiosyncrasies had a “sacred teapot”, would surely have loved our annual afternoon tea for alumni and friends who will be leaving a gift to UCL in their will. Many of those gifts are what we term “unrestricted”. This is a humbling statement of trust, and one that gives us flexibility to invest where the needs are greatest. Last year’s unrestricted support was spent on our new Institute of Advanced Studies, on student union activities, improving teaching and learning spaces across campus, and an event for Astrea, the network for women in professional service roles at UCL.

Thinking about big institutions like UCL, it may be hard to appreciate the difference made by a recent graduate giving a small gift each month. Research council and industry funding is hugely important and sustains our academic excellence, but there is no research council for widening participation for year 10/11 BME students – another beneficiary of collective alumni support – or for providing a fellowship to a refugee academic. This is where you help us achieve remarkable things.

Philanthropy has a transformative effect on UCL by giving us the freedom to think and do differently. It supports the people and activities that make UCL what it is, exemplified by our cross-disciplinary Grand Challenges and allied developments in global prosperity – activities at the intersections and overlaps of disciplinary expertise and, as a consequence, often lying outside the agenda of research council funders. And where research funding does exist, philanthropy helps to dramatically accelerate progress, as seen in our life sciences, our translational medical research or our engineering and the social sciences.

The coming year is an exciting one for all of us, as we will be launching UCL’s most ambitious ever fundraising and supporter engagement campaign. I can’t wait to share the good news stories in next year’s issue, and I’m sure Jeremy would be proud of the collective efforts of UCL’s lifelong community.

Professor Michael Arthur
UCL President and Provost

  • Contents 2015/16Contents 2015/16
  • DeconstructedDeconstructed
  • InboxInbox
  • A UCL beginner’s guide to…A UCL beginner’s guide to…
  • Free RadicalFree Radical
  • Alumni Network launchAlumni Network launch
  • Jeremy Bentham SpeaksJeremy Bentham Speaks
  • The Strong RoomThe Strong Room
  • Extra CurricularExtra Curricular
  • CloisteredCloistered
  • Life, the Universe and EverythingLife, the Universe and Everything
  • This Radical LifeThis Radical Life
  • Paper ChasePaper Chase
  • Beautiful BacteriaBeautiful Bacteria
  • CitiesCities
  • Hello London!Hello London!
  • Lessons for lifeLessons for life
  • In Bentham’s footstepsIn Bentham’s footsteps
  • This idea must dieThis idea must die
  • London  vs  WorldLondon vs World
Portico Issue 2. 2015/16