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“Patchy” philanthropy education threatens push towards Big Society

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According to UniversitiesNews.com team philanthropy education is struggling to gain a foothold in UK and other European universities despite governments increasingly relying on voluntary giving to plug gaps in public funding, a new report shows.

Universities are failing to prioritise philanthropy research or education, leading to a “patchy and uneven” provision at a time of growing government and public interest in the potential of philanthropy and voluntary activities to meet social needs.

The findings come from a new report published by the Centre for Charitable Giving and Philanthropy (CGAP) at Cass Business School, part of City University London, and the University of St Andrews.

The report, authored by Charles Keidan, Dr Tobias Jung and Professor Cathy Pharoah, is the first of its kind to map the scale and scope of philanthropy education across Europe.

The findings will alert European public policymakers to a crucial skills and knowledge gap, particularly in the UK where philanthropy and voluntary effort are a central pillar of the Government’s drive towards local regeneration and growth.

According to the report, just five out of the UK’s more than 160 higher education institutions offer dedicated philanthropy modules or courses at undergraduate or postgraduate level.

These institutions are: City University London’s Cass Business School, Northumbria University, University of Cambridge Judge Business School, University of Kent and University of St Andrews.

Despite this, the report finds the UK leads the way in Europe where only 11 out of the 20 European countries in the research provided specific university-based philanthropy teaching.

The UK topped the top table followed by the Netherlands, France and Germany.  Of those countries that provided training Spain, Austria and Portugal were at the bottom.

Cathy Pharoah, Professor of Charity Funding and Co-director of CGAP, said: “With government expectations that philanthropy can fill gaps in public funding, it is becoming increasingly important to understand philanthropy and how it can be effective, nowhere more so than in universities, which in the UK have been successfully developing their fundraising capacity in recent years.”

The report warns, however, that the growth of philanthropy education at universities is challenging, because of potential tensions between the interests of faculty and major university donors.

Author Charles Keidan said:  “Universities may find themselves conflicted between, on the one hand, welcoming philanthropists and seeking philanthropic funds…and, on the other, supporting robust academic scholarship about philanthropy including that of their own donors, which might ask critical questions’. “As universities become increasingly keen to cultivate donors…they may become more sensitive to their own faculties asking critical questions of philanthropists who support them.”

The authors call for a number of new measures to boost the provision of philanthropy education across universities.

These include the creation of curricular guidelines for teaching philanthropy and the launch of a multi-disciplinary academic journal of philanthropy to galvanise scholars in the area.  They also outline the need for research councils to increase their investments in deepening understanding of philanthropy.

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