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Indian universities are being taught how to generate funds like Harvard & Cambridge

With NEP encouraging universities to look for external sources for funding, Association for Indian Universities is training institutions on how to approach foundations for philanthropic funding.

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New Delhi: Indian universities — both private and public — are being trained on the nitty-gritties of philanthropic funding, a model that is new to Indian institutions but one that universities in the West generously receive funds from. 

With the New Education Policy encouraging universities to look for external sources for funding, philanthropy has come up as a potential option. 

In simple words, philanthropy is charity or wealth given by an individual or a foundation to an institution for a specific cause. Philanthropic funding is mostly result-oriented — for research, to set up a chair at a university or for a project. 

According to the ‘Global Philanthropy Report’ published in 2018 by the Harvard Kennedy School, “Education is the top priority for philanthropic foundations around the world.” 

This is the potential that Indian universities are looking to tap into now. 

The Association for Indian Universities (AIU), which works as a link between government and universities, is training institutions on how to approach foundations for philanthropic funding and whom to approach. 

AIU has already held one online training session with universities in May and plans to hold more in the coming months. 

“Most of the renowned universities of the world are raising funds from several sources seeking philanthropic funds from within and outside the country. Though, over the years an increased expectation from philanthropic funders has been observed in India, a steady decline in the trend has also been noticed,” secretary general, AIU, Pankaj Mittal, had written in a letter to all vice-chancellors in May this year. 

In the same letter dated 11 May, a copy of which is with ThePrint, Mittal urged university heads to attend a webinar to talk about Philanthropic funding for Indian institutions.

Speaking to ThePrint, Mittal said, “The New Education Policy encourages higher education institutions to mobilise funds from external resources and philanthropy is a good option.” 

“Therefore we are training universities on how to write a proposal for funding, whom to approach exactly and what should be the talking points,” she added. “There are a lot of opportunities for education institutions to attract philanthropic funding but they don’t know how to avail them, which is why we are helping them with it.” 

She added that after the webinar, AIU is constantly in touch with the universities and is guiding them with their proposals. “More training sessions are in the offing in coming days,” she added. 

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‘India largest beneficiary of philanthropic funds’

In a paper written for AIU on the role of philanthropy globally, the Cape Partnership London said India was one of the largest beneficiaries of philanthropic funds. The paper was quoting from a 2018 report, ‘The Development Dimension-Private Philanthropy for Development’ by the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Cooperation & Development (OECD).

“It (the report) concluded that philanthropists favour investing in stable, middle-income economies and through large, established partners,” the AIU paper said. “The report identified India as the largest beneficiary of philanthropic funds by far (US$ 1.6 billion), i.e. 7 per cent of the global total.” 

The AIU paper, a copy of which is with ThePrint, added that the funds to India were mainly from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Tata Trusts, IKEA Foundation, and Children’s Investment Fund Foundation among others.

During the training session, universities were advised that they can reach out to such foundations for funding. 

Some heads of institutions ThePrint spoke to, also acknowledged the importance of philanthropy and spoke about the challenges in India. 

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Challenges in getting funds

Speaking to ThePrint, director of Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, V. Ramgopal Rao, said IIT faced challenges in getting philanthropic funds. 

“We have faced difficulties in generating philanthropic funds; most of our external funds have come from our alumni through donations and endowment funds,” he said. “I feel that if philanthropy has to gain ground in India, government policies also need to support it.” 

Citing the example of the US, where universities like Harvard get huge philanthropic funds, he said that the US has an inheritance tax, which is the tax an individual has to pay to the government if the wealth is passed on to the next generation. “Because of concepts like inheritance tax, people donate their wealth… These are the kind of policies that support philanthropy,” he added. 

Prof Tej Pratap, vice-chancellor of Tezpur University, said, “Philanthropic funding is an important alternative and least explored resource of funding in the higher education system of India, and it will surely help the educational institutes bridge the gap of financial crunch.” 

“There is a need to focus on the scope, strategies and art of seeking philanthropic funding. The management of received philanthropic funds is also a prime area of focus for the universities,” he added.

Prof (Dr) C. Raj Kumar, founding vice-chancellor of the O.P Jindal Global University, said such funds will help run and maintain facilities of universities.

“World-class universities do not come cheap. Every aspect of it — recruitment of faculty and staff, funding for research, support for research centres, creation of incubation centres, development of physical infrastructure, use of technology, provision for holistic learning and student experiences on campus and beyond, and international opportunities for students — requires significant funding,” he told ThePrint. “It would be naive to think that world-class universities could be established without a radical re-examination of the funding framework that exists in India and the resources that we make available for our universities.”

“The future of Indian universities (public and private) will significantly depend upon our ability to harness individual, institutional and corporate philanthropy for the purposes of higher education,” he added, saying, “There is a need to develop a culture of philanthropy and giving to promote quality in higher education.”

(Edited by Arun Prashanth)

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