The total amount donated to the University of Cambridge’s 800th Anniversary Campaign reached £940 million in 2008-09, according to a recent report.

The goal of the fundraising initiative, described as “the most ambitious in British educational history”, is to enable the University to secure its future as one of the world’s leading centres for education and research by raising £1 billion for the University by 2012.

£139 million was raised by the campaign in 2008-09, according to the report. Nearly half of this sum was given in the form of gifts to individual colleges, such as the £30 million given to Murray Edwards College by alumna Dr Rosalind Smith and her husband Steven Edwards.

Substantial donations have also been received by the University itself, as well as by individual institutions such as the Fitzwilliam Museum and the University Library.

35% of the money raised will be immediately set aside to add to the University’s endowment, an investment fund whose returns provide a steady stream of income.

Some of the donations, however, are already being used to fund new projects within the University. These include the new Sainsbury Laboratory in the Botanic Garden, whose construction was made possible by an £82 million donation from the Gatsby Charitable Foundation, as well as a new building for the Department of Materials Science and Metallurgy, which will be constructed with support from the Wolfson Foundation.

An endowed professorship in Metallurgy has been established, thanks to a donation from Tata Steel, and a professorship in Sustainable Urban Design has been created with support from the D G Marshall of Cambridge Trust.

Of the funds raised, nearly a third has come from former students of the University, a fact which, according to Professor Martin Daunton, Master of Trinity Hall and Chairman of the Colleges’ Committee, “suggests that a ‘culture of giving’ has taken root among our alumni”, analogous to the alumni-based system of university funding which is already prevalent in the United States of America.

Cambridge’s fundraising campaign is not the only one being carried out by a British university, or even the largest: the University of Oxford is running a campaign with a fundraising target of £1.25 billion, though the overall sum which has been raised since its launch in May 2008, at £784 million, is slightly less than the Cambridge total.