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Ethical guidelines on the acceptance of benefactions: Notice

15 October 2001

The Council are publishing this Notice in response to the recommendations made for the acceptance of benefactions by their Working Party on ethical guidelines for financial arrangements with external bodies.

1. Under Regulation 6 of the regulations for the Vice-Chancellor (Statutes and Ordinances, p. 655) the Regent House has delegated the acceptance of benefactions to the Vice-Chancellor. In exercising this responsibility, the Vice-Chancellor will seek the advice of the Executive Committee of the Council for all benefactions over £1m, or that are likely to give rise to significant public interest.

2. Charity law places certain constraints on charities, and in recommending acceptance of any benefaction the Executive Committee shall make available to the Vice-Chancellor information under the following headings:

(a) Are the purposes of the benefaction compatible with the purpose of the University as defined in its Statutes?
(b) Do the purposes of the benefaction fall within the University's mission and strategic plan?
(c) What additional costs or burdens, if any, would acceptance of the benefaction create for the University?
(d) Is there published evidence that the proposed benefaction arises in whole or in part from activity that
  - evaded taxation?
  - violated international conventions that bear on human rights?
  - limited freedom of inquiry?
  - suppressed or falsified academic research?
  In the case of unproven allegations of criminality against a potential donor, no account shall be taken of mere rumour, but care will be exercised in accepting any benefaction, or continuing negotiations towards a possible benefaction, where there is a risk of significant damage to the University's reputation.
(e) Is there evidence that the proposed benefaction, or any of its terms, will    
  - require action that is illegal?
  - limit freedom of inquiry?
  - suppress or falsify academic research?
  - create unacceptable conflicts of interest for the University?
(f) Is there evidence that acceptance of the proposed benefaction or compliance with any of its terms will damage the University's reputation, including deterring other benefactors?

Although benefactions which are uncontroversial and which are worth less than £1m may not be subject to detailed scrutiny by the Executive Committee, acceptance will nevertheless be considered explicitly against these ethical guidelines.

3. All members of the University involved in fundraising are encouraged to consult the Development Office at an early stage in their discussions with a potential benefactor. The Development Office can advise on the use of these guidelines, and consultation will also reduce the risk of unco-ordinated approaches to a single potential donor; spread familiarity with the process for accepting benefactions; and may allow an early warning of anyone unknowingly approaching a potential benefactor whose donation is not likely to be acceptable.

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Cambridge University Reporter, 17 October 2001
Copyright © 2001 The Chancellor, Masters and Scholars of the University of Cambridge.