Number of university foundations in China reaches 537, with net assets of over 30 billion yuan

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The 19th annual meeting of the Work Research Branch of the China Association of Higher Education (CAHE) was held in Beijing on November 16-18. The meeting was focused mainly on Chinese university foundations. There are currently 537 university foundations in China. By the end of 2016, the net assets of university foundations had passed the 30 billion yuan mark, accounting for more than 50% of all non-public foundations. In 2016 the total charitable donations they received amounted to over 700 million yuan, while their total public welfare expenditures were over 500 million yuan. It can be seen from these figures that university foundations have become an important force for the development of higher education in China.

During the meeting, the president of the Work Research Branch of CAHE, Huang Jianhua, noted that there is a clear need to further study the development trends of university foundations, in order to provide universities with a better environment and funding support in order to progress with reforms. Huang stated that CAHE will promote the work of university foundations to the strategic level and enhance their cooperation with enterprises and other charitable organizations. Furthermore, CAHE plans to establish a charity alliance of university foundations, make full use of the intellectual and human resources of universities and actively participate in social charitable activities.

The “Blue book of philanthropy: annual report on China’s philanthropic development (2017)”, published last June by the Social Policy Research Center of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and the Social Sciences Academic Press, contains much data and analysis on the topic of university foundations. The report reveals an eye-catching growth trend. According to the ranking of net assets in 2015, the Tsinghua University Education Foundation’s net assets ranked first (517.3 million yuan), followed by the Peking University Education Foundation (402.5 million yuan). Compared with other types of foundations, having lots of alumni willing to donate is a natural advantage for this kind of organization.

Colleges and universities have a number of ways to accept donations, such as setting up special funds, subsidizing scientific research, supporting hardware construction and cultivating talents. On the other hand, the foundations have different ways in which they can express gratitude to the donors. For instance, the Tsinghua University Education Foundation accepts all voluntary donations from society and provides certificates to donors. Donors who are passionate about education or have donated significant amounts may be recruited by the Foundation as council members.

Also, the report notes that in the past few years, the number of foundations established by schools has been increasing constantly. By the end of 2016, the number of foundations established by universities reached 466, which was 66% of all school foundations and 2.8 times the number of foundations established by elementary and middle schools. However, the modes of management and operation of university foundations in China still have deficiencies. In European and American countries, many well-known universities manage assets ranging from 100 million to more than 10 billion US dollars, and the operation of foundations is a key factor to assess a university’s comprehensive strength. There are in general two modes of operation: the first one is to set up an investment commission and designate a chief investment officer; the second one is to form an independent investment management company. At present, the flexibility and independence of university foundations in China is quite insufficient.