Manuscripts and Special Collections

History of philanthropy and University College

There is a long history of philanthropy associated with the University of Nottingham. From large donations to fund capital building projects through to small gifts to purchase library books, the University and its predecessor, the University College, has benefitted in many different ways from the generosity of individuals and companies.

These pages give an overview of the role of philanthropy in the history of the University College Nottingham and give information about some of the College’s most important benefactors.

Philanthropy and the development of the University College

The original University College was founded in 1877 following a gift of £10, 000 from an anonymous donor. Classes were established in fields such as baking, lace making and textiles as well as in traditional academic subjects. From the beginning the College was keen to establish close ties with the local business community and companies were encouraged to sponsor classes in their field. This resulted in such gifts as £300 from the Drapers Company in 1882 to fund classes in lace making and hosiery. The association between the College and local industry was again demonstrated in 1893 with the opening of a technical school attached to the College, achieved with the support of trade organisations and local businessmen. The College’s own internal community also played an important role in fundraising with students both past and present encouraged to donate to their College. A donation form was included in the back of every College calendar.

Donation form from the University College Calendar for the 1882-1883 session 

One area in which philanthropy was crucial was in achieving the conversion of the University College into a full University. To acquire full university status was an acknowledged aim of the college for many years prior to its eventual realisation in 1948. In order to be awarded a university charter the college needed to demonstrate that it had local support in the form of an endowment fund. To this end an endowment fund appeal was launched in April 1928.  

1928 was chosen as the year to launch the endowment appeal because it was a hugely important year for University College. Jesse Boot, the College’s most important benefactor, had donated land for use as a new campus and had personally funded the cost of the new college buildings. (More information about Jesse Boot’s contributions to the College can be found here.) On 10 July 1928 the new College buildings at Highfields, now the University Park campus, were officially opened by King George V and Queen Mary. The launch of the endowment appeal was timed to take advantage of the public’s enthusiasm for their imposing new college.

The endowment appeal aimed to raise £250,000 to support the college’s bid for full university status. The appeal was officially launched by the Duke of Portland in his capacity as President of the University College. At the launch event people were invited to hear speakers discuss the importance of the college acquiring university status.

Donations both large and small flooded in with eight hundred contributions from businesses, societies and individuals raising £130,000 in the first three months of the appeal. Although the target of £250, 000 was not reached, the endowment appeal helped to lay the foundation for the College's transition to the University of Nottingham. 


 UR 52/46



Two letters which demonstrate the different size of donations to the College endowment fund. 


Throughout its seventy-one year existence donations were crucial in supporting the work of University College Nottingham. People chose to donate in many different ways, from bequests in wills to funding scholarships. The following page provides further information about some of the College’s most influential donors. 

Next page: Benefactors of University College 

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