It’s Friday 22nd July and it’s a red letter day for universities. But you probably won’t have heard much about it in the papers. On July 31st, the Government’s Matched Funding Scheme for Universities comes to an end. It’s a scheme designed to encourage university graduates, like me (and perhaps you), to make charitable gifts to our alma maters. The Government will match every gift given by at least one third, including the Gift Aid the university reclaims on it. The total pot available from the Government is £200 million, but it requires universities to raise the donations to unlock it.
So you probably have two questions now – why’s today the red letter day, and why should I, of all people, give a gift to my university?
I’ll answer the easy one first. Today’s the red letter day because to claim the matched funding they’re entitled to – up to £2.75 million in some cases – universities have to show the Government that the donations have reached their bank accounts by July 31st. Given the amount of time it takes for cheques to clear and online gifts to be transferred, today is the last day you can make a donation, online or by post, to your old university and be sure of them receiving their share of the Government match for it.
So that’s the easy one answered. Now for your second question – why should you give a gift to your old university? I’ll try to give you a couple of reasons.
- Your university is a charity. It does work that’s been recognised to have a charitable purpose since the 17th century – the advancement of knowledge and learning. Universities have always relied on charitable donations to fund the very core of their work. And many, many of the UK’s best-known charities rely on the work of universities to carry out their own work.
- You’ll know exactly how your money has been spent. Universities, believe it or not, are some of the best charities in the country at telling you how they’ve used your donations. There’s a myth that it all ‘goes into the Vice-Chancellor’s pocket’ or into admin, and that’s just not true. Depending on how your university uses its donations, your gift could be funding world-changing research, or enabling students from families with no history of university attendance to take their first steps towards a world of knowledge, skills and service to society.
- Since the Second World War, we’ve had a proud tradition in this country of making access to higher education, and all the good that it can achieve, dependent purely on ability to learn and not ability to pay. Making a gift to your University’s ‘Annual Fund’ is one of the very best ways that you can help ensure that tradition is still something we can be proud of years into the future.
- The last one is really simple. Take a look at what you’re doing now in your career, or the way you think about the world around you, or the friends that mean the most to you in your life. How much of that might you have had if you hadn’t been to university and had the life-changing experience it offers you? I’d say it was a pearl beyond all price.
So today, why not recognise this, in however large or small a way you choose, with a donation to your university? Last year 186,000 graduates made gifts to their old institutions. That may sound like a lot, but it’s only 2 people for every 100 of us who’ve ever graduated from these great institutions of ours. Surely we value them more than that?
So I’ve made a list of all the UK universities’ online donation pages. The ones in England will benefit from the Matched Funding – do definitely find yours and give what you can today. And, if you went to a Scottish or Welsh university, and my words have resonated with you – well, why should they miss out?
G K Chesterton said, “Education is simply the soul of a society as it passes from one generation to another.” And in that case I know of no places with more soul than our amazing universities. Let’s honour them and help them today.
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