Cambridge Univ. Eyes Fund Drive

British university plans campaign to expand endowment

Cambridge University has announced a new fundraising drive to raise one billion pounds, approximately $1.8 billion, by the year 2012, in part to enable the University to better compete against international rivals like Harvard.

“The campaign is driven by our need to invest to ensure that we remain amongst...the top ten universities world-wide,” Peter Agar, director of development at Cambridge, wrote in an e-mail. “We also want to diversify our sources of income (key to preserving academic freedom) and to engage our alumni far more actively in the future of the University and the Colleges.”

The September 10 issue of the Economist published a 2005 ranking of the top international universities in which Cambridge placed third, behind first-place Harvard. The study took into account factors such as Nobel Prizes and articles published by faculty in prominent journals.

“Since we are in the top ten and at least eight of the others are US universities,” Agar wrote, “we do indeed compete for staff and for graduate students in particular with institutions that have far larger resources than we do.”

In the year ending July 31, 2004, the British university, John Harvard’s alma mater, derived only seven percent of its income from its approximately $4.8 billion endowment. Leading American universities typically rely on their endowments for 30 percent of their yearly income, according to a 2004 Cambridge annual report. Harvard’s $22.6 billion endowment generated 31 percent of its income during 2003-2004.

Cambridge hopes to expand the size of its endowment by tripling the percentage of its 145,000 alumni who give regularly.

With a larger endowment generating more revenue, Cambridge said it will decrease its reliance on government funding. According to Agar, the United Kingdom has cut real expenditures per student by 40 percent during the last 15 years.

Among Cambridge’s priorities for the raised funds is a push to provide better scholarship support for its students, attract prominent scholars, allow its researchers more freedom, maintain historic buildings and museums, and construct new sports facilities.

The news of stepped-up fundraising overseas comes at a time when Harvard itself is in a “quiet phase” early into a new capital campaign. Harvard had originally planned to begin a multi-billion dollar fundraising effort in 2006 or 2007, but it appears increasingly likely that the drive will begin in 2008 or later. The University may now be reshaping its pitch to alumni to emphasize the coming development in Allston instead of the ongoing Harvard College Curricular Review.

“Our fundraising last fiscal year was very strong, we raised $590 million dollars,” Sarah Friedell, Director of Media Relations for Harvard University Alumni Affairs and Development, wrote in an e-mail. “Harvard raises money every year to help fund the priorities of our University, and what other schools around the world are doing does not really factor into our fundraising.”