Institutional Advancement success: Wits receives R100 million donation

By Khairoonisa Foflonker, Programme Co-ordinator at Inyathelo

Institutional Advancement success: Wits receives R100 million donation

The University of the Witwatersrand announced that it was the recipient of a generous R100 million donation on 28 October 2014. The individual donor, who is a long-time supporter of the University, has chosen to remain anonymous. The sum of R10 million has been earmarked for the Wits Arts Museum and the remaining R90 million is to be utilized for the advancement of research and/or teaching as determined by the university.

This unexpectedly large gift was welcomed by the university, as Vice-chancellor Professor Adam Habib has stated that, “[i]t is not often that universities in South Africa receive funding of this magnitude from sole philanthropists, as the majority of our external funding is sourced from corporates and state funding agencies locally, and international trusts and foundations.”

While the university already has plans for the money, universities across South Africa require more funding if they are to respond to national imperatives and remain globally competitive. According to Habib, “we are always in need of funds to attract and retain talented academics and students, and to support the research and teaching activities.”

From an Advancement perspective, this gift is remarkable, not only because the sum is large, but also because the gift is unrestricted. An unrestricted gift of this size enables the institutional leadership, along with the Institutional Advancement Office, to identify priority areas that need the funds most. These areas could be, for example, the need for scholarships for disadvantaged students, acquiring new technology to assist and improve on teaching and learning, or funds ring-fenced for innovative research in under-funded areas.

“These donations are important for Wits to remain at the cutting edge of teaching, research and service excellence, especially at a time when public funding for higher education is stagnant,” says Habib.

Universities obtain their funding via three income streams: state subsidy, student fees and third stream income. However, given the current economic climate, higher education institutions, and particularly research-intensive universities such as Wits, are increasingly looking towards third stream income in order to offer excellent, globally recognised degrees at universities.

The Kresge Foundation, based in Michigan, funds the Leader Universities Initiative, a multi-million rand programme, in partnership with Inyathelo: South African Institute for Advancement. This initiative constitutes a five year partnership that commenced in 2012, and includes the University of the Witwatersrand, the University of Pretoria, Cape Peninsula University of Technology, and the University of the Western Cape. The aim of the Leader Universities Initiative is to bolster the private fundraising and Advancement efforts of the grantee universities. This is achieved through setting annual Advancement milestones and receiving training as support from Inyathelo, with a focus on fundraising through enhancing alumni relations and establishing annual giving campaigns.

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