This is a letter that I today wrote to the Universoty of Durham, i think it's self explanatory.
Letter from The Chancellor
I write further to the letter I recently received dated 28 November signed by Bill Bryson that was encouraging me to donate to Durham University. I wish to make it clear that I will not be making any such donation, for a number of reasons, which I set out in detail below.
Firstly some weeks ago I was contacted by phone asking me if I would make a donation. At that time I made it quite clear that if I was to make such a donation that I wanted to ensure that my money would be well spent and that the university was financially well managed. To this end I asked that a copy of the most recent accounts was forwarded to me for my review. I am financially literate so would have been able to use these to make a judgement. I received a letter some days later that did not contain the accounts and instead was just a further request for money with details of how I could do so.
I was not impressed by that and feel that if the university is in need of money to the extent that has been made out then it should be able to supply me with something simple like some accounts. If you were to send me them then I would still be happy to consider making a donation once I have reviewed them.
I would now like to turn to the letter of 28 November. I don’t know who actually wrote it. I suspect it was not actually Mr Bryson and if it was then he had clearly been poorly supplied with information as it can be described, at best, as misleading.
Once passed the introductory stuff we get to the 4th paragraph where the letter suggests that I might be surprised that government grants do not make up 100% of turnover. Is that some kind of joke? While at Durham I was invited to pay college fees every term that I lived in and had to take most of my belongings home over the holidays as my room would be used for conferences which no doubt earned the university a fortune. I am also perfectly well aware of the fact that most science research at universities is funded by outside industry and that since I graduated most students now pay tuition fees. Indeed while I was there foreign students already did so. So to suggest that I be surprised that the level of government is not 100% is quite insulting.
If we may turn next to the issue of why fewer Durham students donate compared to Cambridge and Oxford I would suggest that perhaps this has something to do with the astonishing proportion of privately educated, ie very rich, students that they take.
Next your comments regarding the libraries at Oxford and Cambridge are somewhat inaccurate and misleading. Firstly they are copyright libraries so are entitled to everything published in the UK. However they do not take all of it, I know this because I am personal friends with a fellow of Trinity College Cambridge. Secondly, and this is where I feel you have sought to mislead me, I know that first and second year students are not allowed to borrow from the university library at Cambridge. They make use of departmental and college libraries. By omitting this information you have made out that the comparative library provision is much greater than it actually is.
I would like to return as well to the recent telephone campaign. My partner also received a phone call that was one of the rudest phone calls she has ever dealt with where an individual with no knowledge of our financial position informed her “you must be able to afford £20”. This was a disgraceful piece of pressure and makes me even less inclined to donate if these are examples of the tactics used.
I am not completely averse to making a donation however I would suggest that the tactics used show me and other alumna more respect and do not contain insulting and misleading information. I would once again ask that a copy of the latest university accounts are supplied to me and then I can make an informed decision as to whether my donation is firstly required and secondly will be made good use of.