Blogs > Cliopatria > Fundraising and British Universities

Jun 24, 2004 10:23 am

Fundraising and British Universities

I'm back from a trip to the UK at least PART of which was for the academic business of study abroad (not research, because the man I wanted to talk to at the Museum of London died in the spring of 2004. Frustrating.) I had talks with several professors at Oxford (two from University College* and one from the History Faculty) and with the administrator for international students at Edinburgh University.

They are all busy recruiting American students for one year degrees - a Masters of Studies, at Oxford**. Oxford, you see, has decided to move from its current position of approximately 75% undergraduates to parity between undergrads and grads by 2007 (no one thought they'd make it that soon, but think that by 2010 it's pretty likely). You see, graduate students pay higher fees, and if they're non-citizens they pay full tuition -- which my informants pointed out is STILL less than the Ivy League, even if you add in a single round-trip airfare.

All this is leading up to the factoid that surprised me the most. I was told that the first regular alumni fund-raising scheme at Oxford or Cambridge -- you know, having a Development Office collect lots of little gifts along with the occasional big one -- was set up at University College, Oxford, in the late 1980s.

It struck me that Oxbridge colleges are something like American state universities in this way -- very late comers to the money game. The retired Whatchamacallit Professor of Modern History told me that, indeed, they had been embarassed to ask until it was almost too late. Now they're shifting the entire balance of who and what they teach to try to regain some fiscal independence from their government funders. Very interesting.

Edinburgh has between 600 and 900 American students at any particular time -- about 20% of whom are doing a full-year program for a degree. She, too, is working on recruiting more of our students.

*University College - Bill and Chelsea Clinton's college. The portrait of the former president in the college hall is appallingly bad (really, you'd think it was by an editorial cartoonist if you weren't assured it was painted by RB Kitaj ); luckily, it's in pastels -- they'll have to replace it soon with an oil painting. Pastels don't hold up in light, even with an anti-ultra violet glazing.

**the MStud is an"instructed masters," unlike the traditional Oxbridge M.A. conferred by residence in college after receipt of the B.A.

comments powered by Disqus

More Comments:

Richard Henry Morgan - 6/24/2004

There are a whole batch of "transitional" masters (usually MSc) for students who want to transition from say, a batchelor's in mathematics, to graduate study in, say, economics. There were a lot of charges traded back and forth between the Oxbridges that one or the other were, in fact, employing mercenaries by importing Americans for an MSc degree, who rather majored in crew for the Oxford-Cambridege boat race. The MSutd sounds like it might be something like those MLA programs popping up all over the US -- a degree that goes nowhere.

There has also been something of a battle between Oxford (or Cambridge) and their constituent colleges over fund-raising, as some of the colleges are well-endowed, and others not, and why help the University address that imbalance?