Together with the EUR, the Erasmus Trust Fund would like to increase the fund’s equity significantly. It is intended that the new capital will finance ground-breaking research into ‘the main themes’ in today’s society.

The fund’s formation was already announced during the opening of the academic year, but until 2018 a private campaign will be implemented. Although a concrete target amount was mentioned among a small circle of people, the initiators still do not wish this to be made known to the general public. The initiators are currently talking with a group of equity parties, including many alumni, which are able to donate substantial amounts.

Trust Fund is independent

The Erasmus Trust Fund – established by several Rotterdam entrepreneurs in 1913 – founded the Dutch business school over a century ago, the precursor of Erasmus University. It is an association governed independently of the university, and aims ‘to promote the growth and prosperity of Erasmus University Rotterdam’. “A unique situation,” explained chair of the Erasmus Trust Fund, entrepreneur and alumnus Michiel Muller, “because in most universities a trust fund is part of the university organisation.”

Muller emphasised the importance of this role as this assures potential donors that their contributions are not spent on the daily running of the university. The Trust Fund and the university have signed a covenant that records their cooperation in the new equity fund.

Setting up a fundraising team

Currently, the Trust Fund is setting up a professional fundraising team, with the help of the British-Dutch consultancy Wonderbird. Only after the first big donations have been obtained will the Trust Fund and the university present the precise objectives of the equity fund to the outside world.

'Contribute to a healthy society'

Muller explained further that in this ‘private phase’ the initiators have spoken with all deans and with dozens of professors regarding the big themes that are topical and that lend themselves to the recruitment campaign. There is also a Strategic Campaign Group in which, in addition to the Trust Fund, all deans and the Executive Board take part.

According to the organisation, the fund’s objective is ‘to contribute to a healthy society and the welfare of future generations’. The money will be used in the form of such things as student grants, but mainly for scientific research on several important themes, on which the Erasmus University already excels globally, said Muller.

'Integrity of research not up for discussion'

He is not concerned about the potential for donors influencing independent scientific research. “A donor has, of course, a decisive vote as to where the funds are spent but the integrity of the research will never come up for discussion. There will be a menu of possibilities from which donors can choose.” It is expected that over half of the donors will be alumni.