Monday, May 22, 2006

Huge endowments ...

Last February, the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) announced the completion of "the most successful fund-raising campaign in the history of higher education, generating more than $3 billion"!

Campaign UCLA secured funding used to support cutting-edge research, provide student scholarships and fellowships, attract and retain top scholars in a wide range of academic disciplines, and enhance classroom, laboratory, health care and other facilities. The campaign benefited all sectors of UCLA — from the College of Letters and Science to the 11 professional schools, from physical and life sciences to social sciences and humanities, from law and medicine to engineering and the arts, and from libraries to UCLA Extension.

Now, Columbia University is getting ready to launch an even bigger campaign, whose goal is to raise $4 billion! Not just that, this NYTimes report starts with two other ambitious fund-raising efforts:

The University of Virginia will announce a $3 billion fund-raising drive in the fall. New York University is in the middle of a $2.5 billion campaign.

Note that at least two of the institutions are public universities. And, of course, the mother of them all, Harvard, has an endowment whose corpus exceeds $25 billion.

In a post back in November of 2005, I wrote:

I am sure there are still many people who would be willing to donate big money to the corpus funds of higher ed institutions -- IIMs and IITs in particular. A corpus of some 1000 crore (10 billion) rupees should be quite easy to build in a short time for an IIT if it makes a concerted effort; such a corpus would help it become financially independent. In principle, the government can either reduce or even stop its funding of those institutions with big corpus funds, and use the money thus saved to create new IITs, IIMs and so on.

This grouse is still valid. I am sure there are tons of people who would be willing to donate to our universities, colleges and institutions. I am also sure that some of the contributions are likely to be quite big. While our private institutions (including those run by charitable trusts) make an effort to raise funds [not much data is available in the public domain, though], our public institutions are prevented from building their corpus funds to beyond a certain limit which, for IITs (for example), is Rs. 100 crores -- about $22 million.

This is a big opportunity that our society is missing out on.


  1. Anonymous said...

    Hi Abi

    Following is an interesting news I heard today. I have heard of Government bodies talking of "matching grant" etc., but this time, its a private person who promises to match donations.


  2. Abi said...

    Hi Phani: Thanks for that link. Deshpande's gesture is amazing.

    Considering how his earlier donation effort was thwarted by the previous government at the centre, his continuing engagement with IIT-M's fund-raising efforts is doubly nice.

  3. Anonymous said...

    Check out this page: This seems like a thought out concerted web effort to attract endowment.Note the request for money being tied to broad , but specific projects. Have we ever prepared such a map for ourselves? What exactly are the constraints that we are suffering from?

  4. Anonymous said...

    Off-topic query:

    An article you linked to mentioned that IIM faculty charge Rs 75,000/hour to companies. What do IISc and IIT faculty charge?


  5. Abi said...

    AS: The IITs are already doing it; they collect money from donors for specific projects (thereby, I presume, circumventing the 100 crore cap).

    Anon: I would guess that the lower limit is at least 5,000 rupees per hour. Upper limit? Again, it would depend on the area. Hot areas probably command several tens of thousands of rupees.

  6. Anonymous said...

    Craig Barrett has pledged $500 million to his alma mater - Caltech. Now interestingly, Caltech in terms of endowment is 3rd tier univ, 1st tier being Harvard and the ~$10 billion univs (includes Yale, Stanford etc); 2nd tier being the ~$5 billion univs - WashU, U Notre dame, Cornell, etc - and then the $1 billion set which is where Caltech is. By the time one comes to $1 billion one is knocking at the doors of the 35th ranked school or so (by research expenditure not that stupid US News ranking). Caltech now looks like wanting to break out of the $1billion slot and ramp up in a big way to hit the topmost notes in research and who knows may be even commercialisation like MIT and CMU. Private enterprise in India has created some wonderful institutions (forget TJ Jayaraman; he doesn't know what he is talking). There is of course BHU and then IISc, BITS, TIFR, TISS, RRI, the Manipal institutions, PSG institutions and a few others. But many others have not managed to maintain their once high standards. One reason could be the decline of the fortunes of the founding families; the otehr could be a lack of imagination and failure to 'professionalise' management.

    How about privatising some of our best schools and demanding that they attain high research standards. That way we wouldn't have mathematicians dabbling in politics and politicians passing themselves off as intellectuals. The government is again making big noises about public investment. This being a Congress government in all but name; any talk about spending money is cause for concern.

    For a start the IISc could be handed back to the Tatas and all babus with their red banded files marked URGENT (and tied with shoelaces) sent back to Delhi. Dismantle all payscales (10,000-500-750-EB-15,000); introduce tenure track appointments; let each department decide what they want to teach, who they hire; and whom they select for graduate training. Tata Sons could help appoint a board of trustees; and lend its expertise in managing non-profits. In the medium term open up the educational sector to the private sector with incentives that make it easier for good money to enter the sector and deterrants that ensure bad money is kept out. In the long term (ie about 8 years) plan to shut down the Union Ministry of HRD; sell off its buildings to the highest bidder; and give Siddharth Varadarajan and Sukumar Muralidharan enough grist to keep whining and ranting for the next ten years. In the meanwhile hardworking folk who really have a job and conduct research can be left to pursue their work in peace. Oh yeah, all this will happen; just as surely as pigs fly.