University Vice-Chancellor Andrew Hamilton has been touring Australia to urge some 2,700 local alumni to donate to the ongoing Oxford Thinking Campaign and to continue the University’s tradition of attracting Australia’s brightest pupils.
“The links between Oxford and Australia are strong and they are longstanding. Many, many of Oxford’s leading academics are from Australia and we like to think that we have contributed massively to the development of Australia – politicians and leading figures here,” Hamilton told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
The tour comes as the Campaign, arguably the largest and most ambitious of its kind in European history, nears its target of raising a minimum of Â£1.25 billion, having attracted Â£1.144 billion in donations to date.
The trip has included visits to grammar schools in Melbourne and Sydney.
Universities in Australia have recently been affected by funding cuts, and, like England, do not have a history of American-style fundraising. The Vice-Chancellor argued against the cuts, stating, “In the UK debate we have seen considerable over-emphasis on the private benefit of Higher Education and in that we have been losing sight of the immense public benefit that accrues from an educated citizenry, an educated citizenry that can participate in a healthy and cultured democracy.
‘We’ve seen in the economic downturn that government support […] is not a source that can be relied upon, so it’s vital for us that we increase the diversity of our income sources.’
The University of Sydney and the University of Melbourne, Australia’s two oldest universities, have recently launched their own major fundraising projects, partly inspired by Oxford’s. Melbourne University has reportedly hired the head of Oxford Thinking to spearhead its current drive for donations.
According to Hamilton, undergraduate instruction is one of the areas most threatened, hence the need for private donors.
“Oxford has to look for increased private support of its operations because public support, particularly for teaching, really is diminishing.”
Amongst the Australian alumni of Oxford are three Australian Prime Ministers (including Bob Hawke, who made Oxford history by drinking a yard of ale in a record-breaking eleven seconds during his time as an undergraduate),, as well as other leading politicians and the media mogul Rupert Murdoch.