The provision of philanthropy education is "patchy and uneven" across UK and European universities even though governments are increasingly relying on voluntary giving to plug gaps in public funding, a new report has found.
According to the report, Philanthropy Education in the UK and Continental Europe: current provision, perceptions and opportunities, published by the Centre for Charitable Giving and Philanthropy at Cass Business School, part of City University London, and the University of St Andrews, only five of the UK’s more than 160 higher education institutions offer dedicated philanthropy modules or courses at undergraduate or postgraduate level.
The report, which maps the scale and scope of philanthropy education across Europe, has been written to alert European public policy-makers to the 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.
The authors of the report, Charles Keidan, Tobias Jung and Cathy Pharoah, are calling for new measures to boost the provision of philanthropy education at universities. These include the creation of curricular guidelines for teaching philanthropy and the launch of an academic journal of philanthropy to galvanise scholars in the area. They also call for research councils to increase their investments in deepening the understanding of philanthropy.
Despite the lack of university philanthropy teaching in the UK, the report says that it leads the way in Europe where only 11 out of the 20 European countries studied provide specific university-based philanthropy teaching. The UK tops the table and is followed by the Netherlands, France and Germany.
Pharoah, professor of charity funding and co-director of the CGAP, said in a statement: "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."
However, the report warns that improving philanthropy education at universities is difficult because of potential tensions between the interests of faculty and major university donors.
Keidan, a philanthropy practice research fellow at the CGAP, said that as universities became increasingly keen to cultivate donors they might "become more sensitive to their own faculties asking critical questions of philanthropists who support them".
The research was carried out between December 2013 and July 2014 and was funded as part of a legacy grant from The Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund.