Preparations underway at Trinity College on Thursday for the gala dinnerJames Sutton

The University of Cambridge is to today launch a new fundraising campaign, with a reported target of two billion pounds.

The plans were first revealed by Vice Chancellor, Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, in an internal staff newsletter seen by the Cambridge News in August.

In that newsletter, Sir Leszek pointed to larger budgets of American universities as the reason for beginning the new funding drive.

“Whilst our achievements on budgets smaller than our American peers speak volumes, this will not in itself be enough to consistently attract transformational philanthropy, nor will it enable us to remain a world-leading university in the long term.”

“The reality is that the financial gap is widening, and quite simply, we need more resources to keep pace with the competition.”

The University currently has an endowment of approximately £2.8 billion. Despite achieving a similar ranking in the worldwide university rankings, the University of Harvard has a far greater endowment of approximately $36 billion. Yale University has an endowment of approximately $23 billion.

The University’s intention is to challenge its American cousins. Speaking to the Financial Times in 2014, the University’s director of finance, Andrew Reid, said: “I think it will be some years before we get anywhere near Harvard or Yale or Stanford or Princeton, but that’s our ambition. American money is coming our way. A lot of Asian money is, I think, there to be allocated to the best universities in the world, and we’re one of them.”

This is not the first time the University has embarked on a fundraising drive. The 800th Anniversary Campaign, which ran from 18th January 2009 to 18th January 2010, raised £1.2 billion and increased the value of the University’s trust fund permanent capital by 35 per cent.

To mark the University’s new campaign, special events are taking place in all Cambridge colleges.

The Cambridge University Development and Alumni department is hosting a launch gala dinner on the Scholar’s Lawn at Trinity on Saturday, with entertainment on the North Paddock and in Nevile’s Court.

Meanwhile, Corpus Christi College will host “On the Brink”, a live ‘war game’ this evening involving Sir Malcolm Rifkind, the former head of MI6 Sir Richard Dearlove, previous NATO Assistant Secretary General Stephen Evans, and Jonathan Haslam, John Major’s former Chief Press Secretary.

The University’s endowment has been a source of controversy in the past. The student pressure group Positive Investment Cambridge, which has previously campaigned for the University’s investment to be used for “positive social, environmental and economic global impact”, has released a statement to mark the beginning of the fundraising campaign.

“Cambridge has historically claimed a disproportionate share of the planet’s resources and wealth, and if it continues to ask for the right to do so, it must first show a willingness and ability to take on a disproportionate share of the solution.”

“Cambridge is asking its donors to invest in the long-term. To justify such largess [sic], it must show that it is willing to do the same.”

Cambridge is not the only place where students are pressuring endowment managers to change investment policy. Students at Harvard are campaigning for the university to withdraw its endowment funds from a series of fossil fuel investments. Students even filed a lawsuit, the dismissal of which they are now appealing, according to the Harvard Crimson newspaper. The university continues to invest in fossil fuels.

Positive Investment Cambridge have had more success in its campaigning. In May, the University agreed to review its investment procedure with particular regard to environmental and social investment.

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