Yale provost moves to Oxford, brings fundraising reputation

British university seeks to build up a multi-billion dollar endowment, just like the Yanks

In an attempt to better compete with deeper-pocketed American universities, venerable Oxford University last month announced that it has hired an American as its new vice-chancellor. Andrew Hamilton, a 55-year old chemist, is currently the provost at Yale University. As provost (the second highest administrative position at the university), he oversaw Yale’s recent, and largest-ever, fundraising campaign. Andrew Hamilton will become Oxford’s vice-chancellor in October 2009. According to The Guardian, he is only the second outsider in the university’s 800 year history recruited to its highest post. (As at Canadian universities, the position of chancellor is largely ceremonial; the university is run by the vice-chancellor. The tradition explains why Canadian university presidents generally carry the title of both president and vice-chancellor.)

Oxford recently embarked on the largest fundraising campaign in European higher education, aiming to raise £1.25 (approximately $2.5-billion). Oxford’s chief fundraiser is pro-vice-chancellor Jon Dellandrea — a Canadian who last led the University of Toronto’s $1-billion fundraising campaign, the largest in Canada’s history. The U of T campaign was completed in 2004; Dellandrea moved to Oxford in 2005. Hamilton also has a Canadian connection: he completed his Master’s degree at the University of British Columbia in 1976.

Chemistry World recently ran an interview with Hamilton on its website in anticipation of his arrival at Oxford. The administrator, who did his doctoral studies at Oxford’s rival the University of Cambridge in the 1980s, reflected on the successful fundraising campaigns at American schools.

Hamilton said that because Yale alumni opened their wallets and administrators did a “magnificent” job handling the fundraising portfolio, the school has benefitted from an enormous increase in its endowment. Yale currently has an endowment of just under $23 billion US, second only to Harvard University in absolute terms.

Hamilton pointed to a 20-per-cent increase in Yale’s endowment every year since 2004 — and 28 per cent last year.

“One can say that the engagement of alumni in American universities is extremely well done, extremely effective,” Hamilton told the U.K.-based publication. ‘The percentage of students who make donations to the university later in life is very high.”

Yale’s endowment has also grown to record levels because of a highly successful asset management team. The Yale recent endowment’s growth has largely been the result of steady growth in the value of its existing investments, rather than new fundraising. “Yale has one of the best investment leadership teams in the world for large endowments,” Hamilton told Chemistry World. “It’s effectively stewarded and has brought back very significant annual increases as a result of that wise and careful stewardship.”

Oxford carries an endowment of approximately $6.7 billion. Hamilton wouldn’t speculate about Oxford’s ability to raise money though he did say that, “I think the loyalty of Oxford alumni is as deep as that of Yale alumni.”