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Global community, global impact – UCL celebrates the success of It’s All Academic

10 December 2020

The Campaign for UCL has raised a total of £624 million in philanthropic income and 263,000 alumni volunteering hours since 2016.

Campaign graphic showing text against UCL Main Quad

It’s All Academic: the Campaign for UCL has come to a formal close, having surpassed its twin targets of £600 million in philanthropic income and 250,000 volunteering hours by mid-2020 – one year ahead of schedule. Its successful conclusion was marked on 30 November by a virtual celebration event, during which members of the UCL community came together to share stories of the Campaign and its continued impact.

Launched in 2016, It’s All Academic – one of the most ambitious supporter engagement and fundraising campaigns in Europe – was co-ordinated by the Office of the Vice-Provost (Advancement). It supported four pillars of institutional activity: Health, Disruptive Thinking, Students and London, tackling issues ranging from the climate crisis to global health challenges such as COVID-19 and neurodegenerative disease, social inequality and justice, and the powering of a diverse and pioneering academic, student and alumni community.

It has inspired remarkable philanthropic gestures that will leave powerful and lasting legacies both at UCL and in the wider world. 

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The closing event presented an opportunity not only to reflect on the numbers, but to learn more about the people behind the Campaign: the leaders, supporters and beneficiaries at its heart. Hosted by UCL alumna and broadcaster Vivienne Parry OBE (Zoology 1978), the celebration featured contributions by a series of speakers with personal involvement in It’s All Academic, including alumna and philanthropic supporter Cathy Chui Lee (Economics & Business with East Europe 2004), alumni mentor Luna Irshaid (Engineering with Business Finance 2011, Project & Enterprise Management 2012), and scholarship recipient Masamba Senghore (Economics 2020).

In recounting their Campaign connections, they each highlighted the unique UCL ethos which has inspired an expansion in the definition of philanthropy at the university: agile, interdisciplinary research, a recognition of the value of both financial and volunteering support, and a deep and historical commitment to widening access and nurturing a diverse, talented student-alumni community.

“UCL is a university founded on a progressive vision of innovation, inclusion and diversity,” chair of UCL Council Victor Chu CBE told attendees. “I have been involved in this Campaign right from the start and I know that it was designed and developed to support UCL’s dearest and most transformative long-term ambitions.”

“It has never just been about what UCL can do – it is about what UCL wants to be.” Victor Chu CBE, chair of UCL Council

It’s All Academic was also testament to UCL’s global and national convening power, with collaborations between government, academia, industry, the NHS, and the third sector ensuring a holistic, end-to-end approach to creating tangible change. This approach was replicated internally by staff and students representing all 11 faculties and alumni worldwide, as well as between funders, UCLP NHS partner hospitals, and corporate partners.

“One of our favourite sayings when we talk about It’s All Academic is: if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together,” said UCL President & Provost Professor Michael Arthur. “When we launched this Campaign, we knew we were laying the groundwork for a fundamentally different approach to long-term sustainably growing philanthropy and engagement at UCL.”

Pioneering in many respects, the Campaign for UCL was traditional in one: its accomplishments were only made possible by the generosity of the wider community. It’s All Academic has been privileged to benefit from the kindness of 10,000 volunteers and 15,000 donors in 84 countries, each of whom sought to make a difference via UCL and chose to make gifts of funds, time, expertise and advocacy in its name.

Each contribution will have a significant and lasting impact on its beneficiaries, as was emphasised by former Vice-Provost (Advancement) Dr Lori Houlihan:

“The numbers aren’t what’s important. It’s what those numbers do for people that is so incredibly meaningful.”

“I want to thank the UCL community so much. I have always been driven by the certainty that what UCL does is vitality important and that philanthropy and engagement make brilliant things happen that might otherwise not happen. What we achieved together has made a difference.” Dr Lori Houlihan, former UCL Vice-Provost (Advancement)

“I know that UCL will continue to be one of the greatest universities in the world,” she added. “And I know that its commitment to long-term philanthropy and engagement will continue to be a core enabler of the tremendous good it does. I wish our new President and Provost Michael Spence and the team all the very best.”

The world we face today is vastly altered from that in which It’s All Academic was first launched in 2016. Whilst the Campaign is now at an end, UCL’s overarching mission – to turn big challenges into real change – is more relevant, necessary and urgent than ever. Our work is far from done; through interdisciplinary expertise, pioneering partnerships and with the support of our alumni and friends, we will continue to pursue excellence, break boundaries and nurture the generations who follow.

To learn more about supporting UCL, visit our donate or volunteer now pages or further explore the work of the Office of the Vice-Provost (Advancement). You can also find out more about the background, priorities and impact of the Campaign on the It’s All Academic microsite.

If you are a UCL alum and you would like to connect with peers or students, register on the Alumni Online Community (AOC).