Why do so many of our universities appear reluctant to exploit their alignments with business and alumni when approaching the matter of fundraising? Why is it that corporate sponsorship is given such a bad rap by academic circles and members of the Australian education system?
It is simply not adequate to say that corporate involvement damages the integrity of research or undermines “the noble pursuit of knowledge”. A little knowledge that acts is worth infinitely more than much knowledge that is idle (Kahlil Gibran, 1883-1931). What good is research with no purpose anyway?
And it simply isn’t accurate to associate corporate sponsorship with arguments for or against an American style user-pays education system. Corporate sponsorship offers one way to support postgraduate education while recognising and rewarding merit. It also creates budgets and projects to retain and incentivise Australia’s under-paid and under-appreciated academic community.
But most importantly, corporate sponsorship helps to sustain economic development, by driving funding toward research areas with genuine social needs and identified commercial potential.
So what of Americans and their “industrialist” (no longer a dirty word) approach to university fundraising?
Their global hegemony is obvious. Not so apparent is their successful trinity of Government, commerce and academia, where multiple funding sources produce a massive knowledge base, leading to new job and industry creation. University sector networks, viral and personal, reach into the halls of Congress, corporate boardrooms and, indeed, into the heart of the US economy.
In the US, mutually reinforcing interests, between the university and private sector, are at the heart of its economic dominance. In Australia, we, instead, endure the annual begging-bowl approach adopted by our universities and accepted by our Commonwealth decision makers shortly before budget time.
What our academic institutions need are sharply focused fundraising campaigns and industry specific partnership proposals, based on clearly defined outcomes. Such a simple change in managerial thinking will make a dramatic difference to Australia’s future.
Let’s see our universities, in conjunction with support policies from the Commonwealth, tackle the fundraising issue now, before our students, our private sector and our economy really begin to hurt.
Geoff Dillon, Fundraising Specialist – [email protected]
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