The philanthropic legacy of Sir Run Run Shaw (Part One)

Sir Run Run Shaw, the Hong Kong media mogul died on 7th Jan 2013 at the age of 106. In the  48 hours after the news about his death, there were more than 500 pieces of news in English on the subject, and 3,500 in Chinese. Most western media associated the legacy of Sir Shaw with his success in the entertainment industry, especially his work in introducing Kung Fu movies to the west. But instead of adopting this approach, most of the Chinese media featured detailed discussion of his philanthropic activities in the education sector.


According to the official statement from the Ministry of Education of the People’s Republic of China, Shaw has donated more than $ 4.75 billion HK dollars (370 million GBP) since 1985 to create more than 6013 education projects covering 31 provinces and cities throughout mainland China. This endowment, benefited tens of millions of students from primary school to university. If we also include the figure of his donation to the healthcare in mainland China, it is a staggering total of more than $ 10 billion HK Dollars (785 million GBP)


On 7th January 2013, a picture demonstrated the distribution of Sir Run Run Shaw Buildings around China become a media sensation in mainland China, it is said that a search for his name in Baidu map, the Chinese google, there are more than 30,000 education, hospital and research buildings in mainland China that are named after him. This picture was named by the Chinese netizens as the picture that “Touched the heart of China”. On day after his death, there are more than 2.5 million results of weibo discussion on “The Sir Run Run Shaw Buildings” in Sina Weibo, the Chinese twitter. A current trend is for people to take photos of the lecture halls, and libraries donated by and named after Shaw, where they have spent years studying. The idea is to show their respect to this philanthropist, who is widely considered as PRC’s greatest private contributor to the education sector ever.


What could the rest of the world learn from the role of Sir Run Run Shaw in his philanthropic activities in the education sector?


Figure 1:

A search for “Yifu”, the Chinese name of Sir Run Run Shaw in Baidu, there are more than 30,000 results. A picture that is considered “Touched the Heart of China”.

Sir Run Run Shaw Map

Public-private Collaboration

The Sir Run Run Shaw Foundation will only consider fundraising proposal recommended by a selected pool of experts employed by the Ministry of Education in the PRC. Also higher education institutions which submit proposal for endowment are required to commit to fundraise three times the funds donated by the foundation. So once a university submits a proposal to the foundation, it will already have official backup from the municipal or provincial governments who will be committing to finance the rest of the project to make the submission eligible, or alternatively, the institutions themselves will need to finance the rest.


For example, in 1986, Sir Shaw donated HK$110 million to 11 Chinese universities. Each of those 11 Chinese universities either gets another HK$30 million from its municipal or provincial government, or manages to finance the rest itself.



Possible Actions for national policy makers:

  1. A model, varying in detail from country to country,  could be developed between the public and the private sector to establish a joint partnership to finance the country’s education sector;
  2. Governments, and national organisations for the education sector, might consider a more open-minded and flexible approach to encourage private sector involvement in education endowment.



Life-Long-LearningLifelong, Comprehensive, Unbiased Endowment:

Universities are widely considered to be the phase of education with the biggest potential returns for individual venture capitalists, investors or entrepreneurs. The majority of fund receiving by the education sector goes to higher education, rather than to schools or further education.


However, further education has played a crucial role in the upgrading of some of society’s most deprived communities. For example, it is a central part of the European Commission’s life-long learning agenda.


In the case of Shaw, 80 per cent of his endowment went to schools, special schools and technical institutions, and only 20 per cent to universities.



Possible Actions for national policies makers:

  1. HEFCE published a report entitled Philanthropy to UK Universities (the Pearce Report) in 2012. It sets the target of £2 billion a year in charitable gifts to UK universities by 2022.  The relevant national bodies could undertake a similar review process to boost schools and further education. . The recommendations of these reviews could be amalgamated to form a coherent UK national strategy for philanthropic endowment in education. Other nations could adopt the same approach.


Please click here to read Part 2 of this article.




Course correction for higher education in India

Matters in higher education seem to moving rapidly in India at the moment. The new minister is Kapil Sibal, who assumed office in May last year, and he seems to making waves. This is a revealing 2010 media timeline discussing problems and proposed reforms.

24 January 2010 – Education Reform Bills cleared

2 February 2010 – A qualitative expansion of higher education is urgently needed

9 February 2010 – Course correction – stemming the rot

23 February 2010 – A super UGC? Strong reaction to proposed reforms

11 March 2010 – Cabinet to discuss five education reform bills today

15 March 2010 – Timeline: Foreign Educational Institution Bill

17 March 2010 – Foreign Universities Bill and its impact

7 Apr 2010 – State must have greater role in edu reform

Discussions of this depth and nature reflect a higher education system that has become deeply chaotic. Against that backdrop, it is perhaps not surprising that the institutions in India that maintain the strongest reputations beyond their shores are those who embrace focus – such as the IITs and IIMs rather than the comprehensive universities that in some cases, due to demand, have grown so large as to become very difficult to manage.

If reforms are successful, a competitive, collaborative, open and compatible higher education system in India ought to be a daunting prospect and may have a direct influence on many universities reliant on inbound students from India to prop up their increasingly fragile budgets.

HE News Brief 6.4.10

by Abby Chau


A few higher educational news articles of interest this week include:

  • Two Cuban medical students spoke at U.S universities recently, marking the first time in years such an exchange took place. They will discuss Cuba’s initiative to bring medical care to places around the world who need it most. Cuba sent 300 medical professionals to Haiti recently.
    Full Story: Washington Post
  • Israel is set for new educational reforms that will hopefully augment the availability and quality of higher education. Students will play a pivotal role in the proposed reforms.
    Full Story: Lariat Online
    Read more

HE News Brief 30.3.10

by Abby Chau


Cash cows, tuition hikes, and the dramatic increase of research produced by Chinese universities are a few topics we discussed today at our staff meeting. Have a read and tell us what you think.

  • International students are not ‘cash cows,’ says British Council Chief Executive Martin Davidson. Warning against treating international students like an export industry to buffer against the university funding squeeze, Davidson says that doing so may harm UK universities in the long run.
    Full Story: BBC News
    More: Telegraph
  • A different take on students protesting tuition hikes in the University of California systems. The real costs of additional fees viewed as inconsequential.
    Full Story: New York Times
    More: Associated Press, Wall Street Journal
    Read more

Will the higher education budget cuts in the UK fuel international competition for students?

by Deena Al Hilli


Last week the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) announced the funding of £7.3 billion for universities and colleges in England, which is a reduction of £449 million from previously announced plans for the 2010/11 financial year.

These university budget cuts have sparked varied reactions nationwide. Many issues such as job losses, larger class sizes, denied access to thousands of students and closure of courses have been raised in the aftermath of the announcement. Amid the fears is that international institutions will now gain a competitive edge, as the quality of UK institutions become at risk.

A major concern that has risen is that the higher education sector in places like Asia, Europe and some parts of the USA is receiving increased funding to get out of the current economical crisis, whilst the UK is working in the reverse order. Wendy Piatt, Director General of the Russell Group, said “Our competitors in Europe, Asia and the US are pouring more resources into higher education as a strategy for coming out of recession.” The group also said, ”If government targets these huge cuts on university budgets they will have a devastating effect not only on students and staff, but also on our international competitiveness, national economy and ability to recover from recession.” In an article for the Guardian, the Russell Group also says, “Nicolas Sarkozy has just announced an investment of 11bn Euros in higher education in France, stating he wants ‘the best universities in the world.’ Germany pumped a total of 18bn Euros into promoting world-class research alongside university education, while Barack Obama ploughed an additional US$21bn into ­federal science spending.”

Britain is a very popular destination for international students, particularly with Indian students. However the Indian government recently announced plans to allow foreign universities to offer degrees and set up campuses in India, which may reduce the number of Indian students studying in the UK.   However, it appears that UK institutions need to limit the number of spaces per course in any case, as government enforced fines will take place with over recruitment of students. Six thousands fewer students will gain places at university this year. With Europe, Australia and New Zealand welcoming an increased number of British applicants, could this lead to international institutions gaining those six thousand places and more? Or will leading UK institutions be able to sustain their competitive advantage?

Sir Alan Langlands, Chief Executive of HEFCE said, “This is a challenging financial settlement, but we are doing all that we can to support excellence in teaching and research by keeping across-the-board reductions in core funding to universities and colleges to a minimum. Our approach will also give institutions maximum flexibility to pursue their priorities.” Read more