Alumni supporting students

Students have benefitted from the generosity of alumni and friends for more than 100 years, and we celebrate this each February as part of Student Engagement and Philanthropy month. From thousands of balloons representing donors to the University to a giant bow on clock tower, 'Old Joe', in 2015, the Development and Alumni Relations team share the many ways students are supported – from scholarships and bursaries to mentoring, work placements and guest lectures.

The University was founded by philanthropic giving, and the tradition continues to this day; in 2015 the University completed the Circles of Influence campaign, the largest and most successful charity fundraising campaign outside Oxford, Cambridge and London, raising £193.4 million. During the course of the campaign, more than 11,500 amazing donors helped to transform campus, fund research with global impact and give students life-changing opportunities.

This year, five students had the opportunity to go behind the scenes of this multi-million pound charity for a very special Charity Masterclass with the Development and Alumni Relations team, donors, volunteers and research project leads. As part of the application process students were asked to say why they wanted to take part and how the day’s activities would help them to develop a career in the charity sector or higher education.

Do you work in the charity sector? Could you offer work experience or mentoring to one of our students? Contact us to find out more.

Behind the scenes

The day gave students a glimpse into fundraising work at a higher education institution and what it can achieve for its students and society.

Simon Lerwill and Laura Fairbanks

The students started the day by meeting with the University’s Director of Development and Alumni Relations, Simon Lerwill (BSc Geography/Planning, 2002), and Deputy Head of Development, Laura Fairbanks (BA English and Drama, 2008) to hear about their work in fundraising and the philanthropic history of the University.

As part of a philanthropic tour the students were given access to hidden spaces on campus including a visit to the Whispering Gallery in the main dome of Aston Webb and a tour of the new library building due to open later this year.

A collage of images from students on a campus tour

Dr Frank Mussai, a paediatric oncologist whose team at the University is conducting research to develop new life-saving treatments for children with cancer, informed the students about the difference charitable giving makes to his research.

The students also met with donor and volunteer Judy Dyke (LLB Law, 1975) who explained why she supports the University. Judy said of the day: ‘My degree was the foundation of a career as a solicitor, which I have found interesting and fulfilling. It also gave me the opportunity to give back to the community through charitable endeavours. I was pleased to be part of the Charity Masterclass, to meet five excellent students and to hear the inspiring presentation given by Dr Frank Mussai on his cutting-edge work to combat childhood cancers. I was also pleased to engage with the students and to listen to their passion and commitment to charitable causes. I left knowing that society's future is safe in such capable hands.’

Dr Frank Mussai and Judy Dyke meeting students

The end of the day included a tour of the University’s Shakespeare Institute in Stratford-Upon-Avon, which is the subject of a current fundraising project, to support the digitisation of the library, provide scholarships and engage local and international schoolchildren with the works of Shakespeare.

The group had an amazing day, leaving with an overview of the work of the University’s role as a charity and experiencing the impact of philanthropy on campus. Watch the video to hear from the students, as they outline what they learnt from the Charity Masterclass…

Read Calum's blog to find out more about the day


If you are or know a current student at the University who would like to find out more about the work of the Development and Alumni Relations, please visit the alumni website.

On the website you can also find out more about opportunities to volunteer or donate to support students at the University.