Portico P_black


The power of philanthropy

Your contribution, in whatever form, has a direct impact on UCL’s lifelong community.


The feature on philanthropy in this issue reminds us again of the positive impact that supporters continue to have on UCL. As we have just launched our largest ever fundraising and supporter engagement Campaign, it feels timely to reflect on what forms that impact can take.

Philanthropy is increasingly important for universities. Total new philanthropic funds given to universities in the UK in 2014-15 totalled £860m, continuing an upwards trend over the last decade. This is despite the changes to the government funding of higher education over the same period.

Perhaps the two are related – not a case of philanthropy filling gaps (at UCL it has never done that, and never will; it is about adding excellence to our core), but a case of universities having to work harder for their share of diminishing research council funding. In 2014, for the first time, ‘impact’ was assessed as part of the Research Excellence Framework, linking the amount of funding a university receives with the changes and benefits it achieves outside of academia. UCL performed extremely well in this regard.

An unexpected effect of using impact to justify government funding is that it has forced universities to communicate more effectively about the causes to which they are mobilised and the benefits they bring to wider society. This has instilled in the public a confidence in universities as agents for positive and lasting change – social, cultural, medical, philosophical, technological, scientific, economic and so on – and as worthy and trusted recipients of charitable funding. Last year’s carrier bag levy supporting our dementia research was a perfect example of a university entering into traditional ‘charity’ territory.

At UCL the concept of providing a public utility for the greater good is deeply embedded in our Benthamite values. I am encouraged by the consideration that our undertaking rests, after a period of public funding difficulty, on the voluntary contributions of individuals. In case the syntax didn’t give it away, those words are from our 1826 prospectus; they remain entirely relevant today.

There is a confidence in universities as agents for positive and lasting change

The concept of ‘voluntary contributions’ is a broad one, and goes far beyond the donation of money. The Campaign’s overall goal is to help us deliver the UCL 2034 strategy, a principal aim of which is to foster a lifelong community.

This can, and does, take many forms. Alumni reunions, whether organised by former students themselves or by our dedicated team at UCL, bring together former classmates and society friends to reconnect and reminisce (this year we had the football team of 1965/66 gather in Church Stretton, Shropshire, just one of many UCL reunions locally, nationally and globally).

But alumni activity is not simply about looking back. Increasingly, we engage our alumni in order to inspire our current student body by passing on knowledge, advice and opportunities. In addition, our UCL Connect series goes from strength to strength, with more than 900 registrations for our professional networking events that this year covered topics as diverse as careers in philanthropy, tech entrepreneurship and assertiveness. In 2016, we took UCL Connect overseas for the first time, with events in Hong Kong and the USA, and it is our aim to extend this to new regions in the year ahead.

We are a global university and ours will be a global Campaign. More than 90,000 of our 220,000 alumni live outside the UK. We have more than 230 international alumni volunteers supporting our efforts. They lead local alumni groups, assist with student recruitment, host and speak at events, mentor fellow alumni and raise the profile of UCL in their region, by plugging us in to local corporations, foundations, universities, NGOs, governments and others. These are all essential ‘voluntary contributions’, as important to UCL as the donation of money.

If you have read this far then you are clearly already quite engaged with UCL. So, if you haven’t yet done so, I urge you to register for the new UCL Alumni Online Community, advertised elsewhere in this issue, and get involved. I hope to see you at one of our events over the coming year.

Professor Michael Arthur
UCL President and Provost

  • Contents 2016/17Contents 2016/17
  • DeconstructedDeconstructed
  • InboxInbox
  • Two new grand challengesTwo new grand challenges
  • Free RadicalFree Radical
  • UCL a “global university”UCL a “global university”
  • Jeremy Bentham SpeaksJeremy Bentham Speaks
  • Extra CurricularExtra Curricular
  • The Strong RoomThe Strong Room
  • CloisteredCloistered
  • Follow the CrowdFollow the Crowd
  • A Time to GiveA Time to Give
  • How to Build a BrainHow to Build a Brain
  • Next MachinaNext Machina
  • Social AnimalsSocial Animals
  • What Janani, Sarah and Adam did nextWhat Janani, Sarah and Adam did next
  • The power of philanthropyThe power of philanthropy
  • This idea must dieThis idea must die
  • London  vs  WorldLondon vs World
Portico Issue 3. 2016/17