Thank you very much for your generous philanthropic support of students, research and community engagement programs through the University of Newcastle in 2019. Your kindness is the difference between hoping to attend university and starting classes, and the fuel in the flame of innovation and understanding.

Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Alex Zelinsky AO

Our philanthropic community remains as special to us as it was at the beginning of our University’s history. We are delighted you are both a growing and engaged community. More than 2,000 people and organisations from 19 countries generously donated to support our students and researchers in 2019.

We are very grateful for your contribution to our University community and we want to share with you the amazing impact of your generosity through this, our second philanthropic Review of the Year. I hope it makes you feel proud of the real change you are enabling through your kindness.”

Professor Alex Zelinsky AO
Vice-Chancellor and President

In 2019 you made so much possible with your generous philanthropic and sponsorship support:

  • You funded breakthroughs in research areas such as brain cancer treatment and ovarian cancer detection.
  • You have helped us to expand our research in fields as diverse as lung disease, robotics, factors leading to stillbirth and improving the experiences of school-age children with special learning needs.
  • More students were supported …
    We were able to award a record 256 donor-funded scholarships this year, thanks to your remarkable generosity.
  • … in more ways
    Thanks to partner companies who, in addition to providing financial assistance, offer their scholars mutually-beneficial support in the form of Work Integrated Learning, paid internships, mentoring or potential career opportunities.
  • You’re fuelling diversity in our workforces In addition to providing a record number of scholarships specifically to support Indigenous students, you opened up Higher Education opportunities to students from a broad range of backgrounds.
  • You chose to support critical areas of need by providing gifts towards the Shaping Futures Hardship Fund which was launched in 2019.
  • You helped us expand our community engagement projects, in particular this year, you have helped us to support our communities in rural and remote areas impacted by drought, bushfire and floods, through University programs such as the Rural Adversity Mental Health Program, Upper Hunter Economic Breakfast events, the Science and Engineering Challenge and the SMART program, out(fit)HunterWiSE and the Family Action Centre.
  • You changed lives by generously gifting a record amount of support to students and researchers through our annual appeals.
  • You surpassed our expectations…
    When nearly 1,000 people supported 25 fundraising volunteers to walk 100km on the Ikara-Flinders Ranges Challenge, generously donating over $164,000 for Indigenous student scholarships and community health research.
  • … again and again
    You once again supported the Friends of the University and their biennial Bookfair, enabling their remarkable team of volunteers to raise more than $100,000 for student scholarships.

Philanthropic and sponsorship income

Philanthropic gifts enable the University to achieve more. Our other sources of revenue provide the funds for core infrastructure, operations and deliverables, while philanthropic gifts allow us to deepen our connections and speed the pace of change. As examples, the generosity of our donors helps mature age students, many of whom are parents, change career paths and build a better life; it encourages and rewards excellence in student and graduate achievement; and gives determined students a helping hand when they need it.

Philanthropic support also facilitates innovation and entrepreneurship; enables important research programs in our communities; assists young researchers to establish their careers; and helps keeps the best minds in our regions.

As figure 1 shows, since 2016, your generous donations, philanthropic grants and sponsorships have grown from $4.1 million per year, to a relatively constant and strong level around $12 million to $13 million per year. Gifts to support research have also increased from less than $0.75 million in 2016 to between $6 million and $8 million per year.

Philanthropic income to support research includes gifts into the University’s Research and Discovery Fund. This endowment fund has been building since 2015, supported by individual donations and staff payroll donations, and will provide the University with a substantial resource to catalyse future research discoveries.

The University coordinates two appeals each year, providing existing supporters with a specific opportunity to provide a gift during a set time frame – one leading up to the end of the financial year and one at the end of the calendar year in November/December. Our first appeal was launched in 2011.

As figure 2 shows, philanthropic giving in response to these appeals has been growing steadily over time and has almost doubled since 2016. Your amazing generosity means that more determined students facing hardship are supported through their higher education, and more vital research can take place. Thank you very much.

Funds raised

Funds raised is a standard used by universities around the world to highlight the level of philanthropic commitments generously made in that given year. It is the total value of new funds committed in that year. Funds raised comprises new donations received, new philanthropic grants secured, new bequests received and new multi-year commitments pledged. Funds raised can vary significantly year-on-year because the whole of each new philanthropic commitment is recorded, some of which are large, multi-year commitments.

$8.3 million dollars in newly donated funds was committed to the University in 2019 – a substantial demonstration of generosity from our growing community of donors.

The largest new philanthropic commitment in 2019 was received via a bequest from the late Elizabeth ‘Betty’ Josephine Fyffe, a passionate and dedicated former nurse whose generous gift aims to address shortfalls in rural and remote healthcare by supporting rural health students through scholarships, and by funding a Chair in Rural Health, a key leadership position based in Tamworth at the University’s Department of Rural Health.

$8.3M funds raised in 2019

Philanthropic support, helps us save lives

Associate Professor Pradeep Tanwar and his team are making breakthroughs in ovarian cancer detection thanks to your generosity

Close video

Our supporters

As has been true since our establishment, the majority of our supporters are organisations and individuals from our communities, though the philanthropic support of our staff and alumni1 community is significant and growing. As figure 3 shows, nearly one third of donors who made gifts in 2019 were staff and/or alumni, double the percentage in 2016.

Donor numbers were higher in 2017 and 2019 (more than 2,000 individuals and organisations) compared with the interim years. This is largely due to the peer-to-peer fundraising challenges that have been organised, where volunteer trekkers reach out to their networks to raise funds through the University - in these cases the funds were raised to support Indigenous students and research initiatives to benefit Indigenous communities.

1 Alumni are our graduates, including recipients of honorary degrees; Staff include current and conjoint staff, many of whom are also alumni.

Annual donations per supporter

Our generous philanthropic supporters provide gifts in many ways and each has their own motivations behind their kindness. In 2019, gifts ranged from staff commitments of $2 per fortnight, to multi-year, multi-million dollar gifts. We are grateful for every gift and are honoured to be entrusted with delivering change and impact in the world on your behalf.

As figure 4 shows, in terms of amount donated per supporter across the year, every level of giving grew to record numbers in 2019. The largest growth was in terms of philanthropic supporters providing gifts of $1 - $99 and $100 - $999. This is thanks to the impact of our volunteer fundraisers who connected with their networks to generate philanthropic support, particularly as part of our Ikara-Flinders Ranges peer-to-peer fundraising challenge. Thank you to the 25 Ikara-Flinders Ranges Challenge ‘trekkers’ and the 949 donors who generously supported them.

Exceptional generosity from our supporters is recognised on our Supporter Honour Board which is displayed on our website and in the Great Hall of the University.

Siobhan Davidson

Support is a small word with big consequence. I feel a weight lifted off my shoulders to have financial stability. I feel like a different person knowing I am supported by such wonderful people. This opportunity will completely change the course of my studies and my future. Thank you, so very much. You’ve done an amazing thing for me.”

Mechatronic Engineering / Mathematics student and CSIRO FEBE Industry Placement Scholarship Recipient

Supporting our students through scholarships

Thanks to your generosity, more than $1.6 million was awarded in donor-funded scholarships in 2019, providing much needed support and encouragement to 256 students – the highest number of students to be supported through your combined generosity in any year.

We are very grateful for this significant contribution which enables equitable access to higher education for a diverse cohort of students – something the University remains passionately committed to.

The 256 scholarships awarded includes 58 Shaping Futures Scholarships, our flagship equity scholarships to support students facing hardship, and which are a primary beneficiary of our two appeals annually. Thanks to your kindness, this is the highest number of scholarships we have been able to award annually to date.

Your generosity in supporting our Indigenous students continues to grow. As figure 6 shows, the number of scholarships funded to specifically support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students has increased each year since 2016.

Many other Indigenous students are also supported through scholarships that are open to all students.

2 Gifts made in 2019 support scholarships awarded in 2020

Nathan Towney

Thank you for your generous support of our students and in particular for providing a record number of scholarships for Indigenous students. Education is key to closing the gap and by helping to provide equal opportunities to access Higher Education for all, you are part of the solution. Thank you very much.”

Nathan Towney
Pro Vice-Chancellor – Indigenous Strategy and Leadership

In line with donors’ wishes in 2019, 29% of philanthropically-funded scholarships available were open to students enrolled in any Faculty or multiple Faculties, and 46% of scholarships were available to students from a particular Faculty. The remaining 25% of scholarships were provided to continuing students who had been awarded multi-year scholarships in previous years.

We are grateful to the growing number of organisations supporting students in meaningful ways in addition to their generous financial support, including through Work Integrated Learning opportunities, mentoring and opportunities for employment after graduation.

The scholarships awarded as part of the Ma & Morley Scholarship Program include a program of additional student training, mentoring and immersion experiences to help the scholars broaden their thinking and strengthen their leadership skills. After the first two years, the Program is already suggesting a positive impact on the academic outcomes of students, both when compared with all students, and with comparable cohorts.


Ma & Morley Scholars

All Undergraduate University of Newcastle Students




Grade point average4






3 The proportion of all student courses passed in a given academic year

4 5.0 is a Credit average. 6.0 is a Distinction average.

5 All scholars are still in the program. Retention refers to per unit, per semester.

Gwenda Jones

Giving is a way for us to support and encourage the things we hold dear. For me, that means helping people who share my passion for Ancient History and the Classics and their important role in our understanding of language and culture.”

Gwenda Jones
philanthropic supporter since 2007

Nurturing your gift with respect and integrity

The University of Newcastle applies its ethical framework to the management of its investment portfolio. The University’s investment manager (Mercer) applies an ESG (Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance) framework as advised by the University in order to align the University’s investment processes with its ethical framework to meet its commitment to equity, social justice and sustainability practices. The ESG framework is measured and benchmarked to encourage performance over time, with reporting by Mercer to the University Council’s Finance Committee. Other considerations such as Carbon Footprint intensity of listed equities are also considered by Mercers as part of their framework.

The Philanthropic Governance Committee is an advisory committee to the Vice-Chancellor, comprising senior leaders of the University who ensure the management, use, investment and distribution of philanthropic gifts received by the University are applied respectfully, consistently and transparently, and to maximum strategic effect in delivering on donor intent as well as our legal and financial obligations.

Gifts beyond a lifetime

Each year we are honoured to be advised that more people have decided to leave a gift in their will to benefit our students and researchers beyond their lifetime. At the end of 2019, we had been notified of 90 supporters who have generously included the University of Newcastle in their will, representing a significant level of future support for which we are exceptionally thankful.

We are very grateful to the wonderful donors who make the decision to support students and researchers through a gift in their will (a bequest). These gifts have exceptional potential for impact, often creating a legacy which lasts for generations.

Notably in 2019, we received a gift from the will of esteemed gastroenterologist and former staff member, the late Conjoint Professor John Duggan AM who made the generous decision to support research into equity in healthcare beyond his lifetime. We are very grateful for Professor Duggan’s exceptional kindness which will ensure fairer health outcomes for our communities.

From its inception until the end of 2019, the University has had the honour of receiving 55 bequests from exceptional supporters.

When supporters choose to let the University know of their intention to leave a gift in their will, we are able to work with them to maximise the impact and effectiveness of their generosity during their lifetime. Understanding their motivation means we are able to properly honour their wishes if contexts change over time. It also allows us to keep in touch with these generous donors and their families through our bequest program, including the annual Bequests Morning Tea where the University community takes time to honour all these special supporters.

The University does not apply administrative fees to donations, except where required by law or where specified by the terms of the donation. Fundraising costs are absorbed by the University, allowing 100% of your donation to be applied according to your intent as a supporter.

Investment returns – safeguarding your vision

The prudent investment of your generously donated funds is extremely important to the University, and we are proud of the performance and investment returns for our philanthropic funds over time (see Figure 6).

Donations, bequests and philanthropic grants are pooled with other University investments. We are honoured to have been entrusted to nurture these funds and are most grateful for the additional impact which can be achieved through investment earnings. A short term pool holds forecast cash requirements for the following twelve months, and the long term pool holds the balance and majority of funds, including donations. The long term pool aims to exceed the average percentage rate of inflation by 3.5% to 4.5%, over a full investment cycle exceeding 5 years and is structured to maintain an appropriate risk level for positive long term returns, however is subject to positive and negative movements due to market conditions.

At the end of 2019, just over $2 million in investment earnings was distributed to 195 donor-funded projects and programs in accordance with donor intent.

Donations to research directly support our work addressing the challenges facing our communities. Your philanthropic support for research also enables us to apply for additional Australian Government funding through research block grants.

$2.07M Investment earnings distributed to philanthropic projects and programs in 2019
Jenny May

We are very grateful to our community for all your support, including your very generous philanthropic gifts. Thank you for supporting our researchers in their vital work to build better futures, and for helping our students to become everything they aspire to be.”

Professor Jenny May AM
Betty Fyffe Chair of Rural Health and Director of the University of Newcastle Department of Rural Health


We hope that you have found this review useful and informative. Our intention is to remain transparent and open in all our operations and interactions with you.

We also really value your opinions and feedback, and the chance to understand the motivations behind your amazing gifts and your preferences in working with us. In 2020 we plan to send a short survey to all our donors to learn more about you.

If you would like to give us feedback on this report, or any other aspect of being a philanthropic supporter of the University of Newcastle, you can email or calling 02 4921 8612

The University of Newcastle acknowledges the traditional custodians of the lands within our footprint areas: Awabakal, Darkinjung, Biripai, Worimi, Wonnarua, and Eora Nations. We also pay respect to the wisdom of our Elders past and present.