How we’ve come together to ‘Make the Exceptional Happen’

Alumni and supporters of the University of Exeter got behind our 'Making the Exceptional Happen' campaign to raise a record amount in support of the institution’s work and helping to hit the target one full year in advance.

It is the largest campaign in the University’s history, raising more than £70 million and in excess of 100,000 volunteering hours since 2012.

Donations have funded vital research into diseases such as dementia, diabetes and cancer; into environmental problems like climate change, plastic pollution and food security; and into understanding important economic, social and political dynamics across the world.

The money raised has also supported students to both attend Exeter and to have the best possible experience during their time here. It has funded bursaries and scholarships so talented students can come irrespective of their financial background, and it has paid for sports facilities and student events.

Gerry Brown, alumnus and Chair of the Campaign Board said: “When we set the goal of raising £60 million by the end of 2020 it was the most ambitious fundraising campaign Exeter ever embarked on, with a target almost three times the amount raised previously.

“Despite this we actually hit the target 12 months ahead of schedule and the volunteering goal two years in advance. This is thanks to the generosity of Exeter’s community of alumni and friends and we are incredibly grateful to every single person who has supported us.”

In 2020 much of the Campaign activity was supporting research into COVID-19 and the consequences of the disease, as well as helping students deal with the impact of the pandemic.

In the spring, 1,300 alumni and friends donated £120,000 to Exeter’s Emergency Appeal in support of trials to improve the speed and accuracy of blood tests.

Since then philanthropy has also funded research into understanding levels of COVID-19 infectiousness and has enabled trials to commence that will investigate whether the BCG vaccine offers some level of protection against COVID-19.

Philanthropy is also helping us to understand the societal impact of the pandemic. Private funding enabled the University to commence research into how COVID-19 will impact the life chances of the poorest in society, and what can be done about it.

Another gift enabled Exeter researchers to implement technologies to support the mental health of dementia sufferers in care homes during the pandemic.

Plus donations to the Student Hardship Fund have supported hundreds of Exeter students facing hardship in the pandemic due to things like job losses, isolation requirements or the impact of illness on themselves or family members.

Alumni honour former Vice-Chancellor with permanent scholarship fund

A new scholarship scheme set-up in honour of former Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir Steve Smith, targeting applicants from disadvantaged backgrounds, will support six students to attend the University of Exeter each year.

The Sir Steve Smith Scholarships have been funded by University of Exeter alumni and friends. More than £1 million has been raised which will support one scholar in each of the University’s six Colleges at any one time, each receiving an award of £6,000 per year for the duration of their studies.

The donations have funded a permanent endowment, which means the scholarships will be available in perpetuity for maximum impact.

The scholarships were established in honour of Sir Steve, a leader who steered Exeter for 18 years to become one of the UK’s fastest growing and rapidly rising research universities before retiring in August 2020.

Sir Steve was the first member of his family to attend university, and the scholarships will target talented students from backgrounds similar to his own to achieve their potential at Exeter and far into the future.

He said: “I have always believed that education has the power to transform lives and throughout my time at Exeter, was passionate about supporting widening participation schemes and programmes.

"I was delighted to make a founding donation to this fund myself and am so grateful to everyone who has joined me in making a difference to all these future students. I cannot thank you enough.”

Santander Universities UK’s total giving surpasses £1.9 million

At the beginning of 2020 Exeter and Santander Universities celebrated 10 years of collaboration, which has seen more than £1.9 million in support for student initiatives.

Santander has funded scholarships, travel grants and entrepreneurial activities and Exeter also receives funding for part-funded internship opportunities with local SMEs, along with bespoke summer school scholarships for students.

Matt Hutnell, Director at Santander Universities, visited the University of Exeter at the start of the year to attend a celebration event of our partnership and formally sign a new three year funding agreement.

Former recipient of a Santander SME internship, Entrepreneurship grant, and 2017 winner of the Santander Universities Entrepreneurship Awards, Kalkidan Legesse (BA Politics, Philosophy & Economics with Industry, 2014) has spoken about the impact of her support from Santander Universities and how that led to her successfully opening an ethically sourced clothing store in Exeter. She said: “The support has been the difference between finding success, being competitive in the market, accessing networks that have amazing experience or trying to figure things out in our bedrooms by ourselves! The support from Santander is valuable for all sorts of things including social mobility.”

In addition to this new agreement, Santander Universities awarded the University of Exeter additional funding to support students affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The funding was split between the Emergency Student Support Fund created to support a number of student entrepreneur start-up awards, and students facing unanticipated financial challenges as a result of the pandemic. Students received awards to cover essential supplies including, food, rent, household bills and IT equipment to aid study remotely.

Alumni fund series of BAME scholarships

Four additional scholarships will be awarded to Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) students attending the University of Exeter this year, thanks to the support of Exeter alumni.

Each of the new scholarships is supporting a high achieving student to come to Exeter to study at any of the Colleges across all campuses. Last year the first two BAME scholarships supported by alumni were launched so there are now a total of six opportunities funded thanks to Exeter’s alumni community.

William Graydon (Biosciences & Sustainable Development, 2013), better known as musician and producer 220 Kid, is funding one of the scholarships for the next three years. He was inspired in part by former Chancellor, Baroness Floella Benjamin, as well as the recent Black Lives Matter protests.

William said: “Exeter gave me a lot of opportunities, it gave me self-confidence, and it gave me skills to succeed. I always wanted to give something back in return, and this is the way I think I can have most impact.

“When I graduated, Floella Benjamin told us to ‘go out and change the world’ and that stuck with me. I think it’s really important for those of us with privilege to recognise it, and to do something with it. I have a platform and the ability to make a difference, so I need to use it.”

Student Hardship Fund

Many alumni donated to support students facing hardship in the pandemic. Here is an idea of what it meant to them.

More than 1000 payments have been made through the scheme, totalling £1 million.

  • 82% said the help received was very important in enabling them to continue their studies
  • 46% believed that receiving an award helped them avoid becoming homeless
  • 94% agreed they avoided serious financial hardship
  • 98% felt less anxious about money
  • 90% felt it helped maintain their mental and physical health

2020 Volunteers of the Year named!

After a tough decision making process, the Alumni Volunteers of the Year for 2020 have been announced.

Staff, students and fellow alumni all came forward to nominate alumni volunteers involved in an array of projects both in the UK and internationally. The judging panel, made up of representatives of all the above groups, are delighted to announce this year’s winners.

The awards are named in honour of two long-standing alumni volunteers, formally recognising the commitment and support that they have given the University over many years. For more information visit the website.

Debbie Hill Award for the Exceptional Support of Students

The 2020 winner is Bridget Garrood (Sociology, 1984) for being instrumental in helping set up the LGBTQ+ and Law Exeter student action project. She provided guidance, support and helped connect the group with a network of fantastic LGBTQ+ lawyers. It was Bridget’s passion and commitment, invaluable advice and support with which she helped make the LGBTQ+ and Law Exeter student action project a resounding success, which led the panel to choose her as the overall winner.

Nicholas Bull Award for the Exceptional Support of the Alumni Community

2020’s winner is Barbara Schudel-Simpson (French and German, 1968) thanks to her many years service as an outstanding Country Contact for the South of France. Her passion, enthusiasm and commitment to Exeter’s flourishing alumni community in France, Germany and the UK stands out as she has tirelessly organised events and mentoring as well as developing the online alumni network.