Academic Assets

Report Overview

This report compares the fundraising activities of universities in the UK and the US, following on from two previous Sutton Trust reports published in 20032 and 2006. It looks both at the extent of fundraising and the size of endowment funds held by individual universities on both sides of the Atlantic.

Key Findings

  • Endowment funds at American universities continue to dwarf those held by UK universities. They have recovered from the economic downturn better than their British counterparts, so that they are now worth a quarter more than they were a decade ago. Meanwhile endowments funds at most UK universities – apart from Oxford and Cambridge – have failed to see any significant growth in a decade.
  • The level of endowments at the top 100 UK universities grew in real terms from £7,980 million in 2002 to £10,900m in 2012, an increase of 37%. However, that increase was almost entirely the result of growth in the size of funds held by Cambridge and Oxford, and their colleges. Cambridge’s funds were worth £4.9 billion in 2012 (up from £2.8 billion) and Oxford’s funds were worth £3.8 billion (up from £2.8 billion).
  • Oxbridge continues to have significantly larger endowments than any other UK universities, and they have also grown proportionately larger. When Oxbridge is excluded, the average UK university saw its funds fall in real terms from £23.8m to £23m between 2002 and 2012.
  • The funds held by the top 500 US universities grew from £192.4 billion in 2002 to £237 billion in 2012. Among the Top 500 US universities, the average endowment is worth £418 million, when Harvard and Yale (the top two) are excluded, an increase of 24% from £337m in 2002.


  1. The Government should launch a modified match-funding scheme, building on the 2008-11 initiative. This will enable UK universities to build on the promising start that has been made over the last ten years.
  2. Any new fund should focus on improving the fundraising capacity of universities other than Oxbridge and include clear targets aimed at improving the overall levels of alumni giving and fundraising by universities.
  3. A simplification of the tax laws that relate to charitable donations would help encourage more giving to universities. Donations should qualify as a straight deduction from gross income. This is not only more straightforward, but means that donors claim all the tax relief themselves, both of which provide significant incentives to give.

June 26, 2014