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Financial information

Disclosure date: 10 March 2014

Reference: FOI2014/015

Request

1.)  Every donation made to the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) between December 31st 2007 and December 31st 2013.
2.)  I request that the information include the name of each donor, the country of each donor, whether the donor is alumni of SOAS, the value of each donation in GBP, the date of each donation, and, if applicable, the reason for each donation. This information would ideally be provided in spreadsheet format that can be used by Excel.
3.)  I also request the percentage of SOAS's annual income that donations made up in the years 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and, if possible, 2013.

Response

1 & 2) Please see the attached Excel workbook.

The School does not feel able to provide the names of individuals. Given the levels of donation made, and donors’ expectations, the School does not think that it would be fair for donors to be listed in this way.

In the first instance, the School takes the view that the names of donors and whether or not they had attended the School would be a breach of the first Data Protection principle, and that therefore section 40(2) of the Freedom of Information Act applies.

Secondly, the School believes that the exemption at section 43(2) of the Act applies to this information, as disclosure of such a list would be likely to prejudice the commercial interests of the School. It is concerned that if private donors in particular were publicly listed in this way, and given their expectations at the time of their donations, it might prevent donors from contributing to SOAS in future.

The exemption at section 43(2) is subject to a public interest test.

Factors in favour of disclosure:

·         There is a general public interest in transparency and accountability of public bodies, of which the School is one;
·         There has been controversy over the sources of funding to the School and other Higher Education institutions; disclosure of funding details would contribute to informed public debate over these issues.

Factors against disclosure (and in support of the exemption):

·       It is not in the public interest for sources of funding to the School to be endangered; funding allows the School to carry out research into nationally and internationally important issues (such as water scarcity in Africa, peace building in the Middle East, etc). The School has a history of advising Governments at home and abroad because of its research interests and the expertise that it attracts as a result of its reputation;
·       Funding from sources outside the public sector allows the School to be less reliant on public funding which is in the public interest;
·       It is in the public interest to ensure that students attending the School have access to the highest standard of facilities; funding by donors supports this;
·       At a time when public sector funding is being restricted, it is not in the public interest to endanger current and potential sources of income from outside the public sector;
·       As Higher Education is becoming a competitive market place, it is not in the public interest for one institution to be placed at a disadvantage to others; this could restrict competition in the long run.

In conclusion, the School concludes that it is reasonable to withhold details of donors under section 43(2) of the Freedom of Information Act. It has considered the public interest and concluded that the public interest in withholding the information is greater than the public interest in disclosing it.

·         Donations under £10k to the Alumni and Friends Fund

This spreadsheet contains summary totals of all smaller gifts (£0.01 to
£9,999.99) made to the Alumni and Friends Fund (AFF) in each of the calendar years in the date range requested, with the caveat that we do
not have final reconciled figures for the current financial year. Therefore the totals apply up to 31 July 2013. The AFF is the primary fundraising approach to alumni and the majority of gifts are provided by alumni and staff.

·         Other donations under £10k

This spreadsheet contains summary totals of all smaller gifts (£0.01 to
£9,999.99) made to other philanthropic projects or to unrestricted general
funds. These summary totals include a significant number of gifts from alumni and staff in support of academic projects, the student hardship fund, student prizes and various other smaller areas of funding.

·         Donations over £10k

This spreadsheet lists all individual philanthropic gifts of £10,000 or more.

It must be noted that this listing does not include payments from UK
statutory bodies, whether or not there is a philanthropic element (such as
HMRC Gift Aid repayments or HEFCE Matched Funding), and it does not include income (i.e. investment returns) from previous endowments, which do represent a meaningful contribution to overall philanthropic funding. It does not include pledges (i.e. funding commitments) but only actual banked income, or loans (such as objects made available for events or exhibitions), or research grants or other payments that cannot reasonably be described as philanthropic.

·         Alumni by year

In order to try and answer one of your questions without compromising the confidentiality of individuals, we are also including this summary report showing the number of gifts made by alumni in each of the calendar years requested.

Note that this report represents the number of payments and not the number of individual donors. We have a number of direct debit and payroll giving contributors to the AFF and other projects, so the majority of alumni gifts in this summary is made up of monthly repeat gifts from these regular
donors.

3) This information is difficult to collate for a number of reasons, including:

·         Income is reported by financial rather than calendar year

·         As mentioned above, a significant amount of overall income includes
revenue from endowments, gift aid and other sources which are philanthropic in origin although they do not show as donations in any given period

·         Reconciling all the transactions and income sources within particular
periods to provide new reports is labour-intensive: there is a statutory limit to the allocation of resources for Freedom of Information requests, and this has been used to collate the data provided.

The Annual Financial Statements produced by the School do, however, include a breakdown of income by various criteria which may go some way to answering the request.

The statements can all  be found at: http://www.soas.ac.uk/annualreview/