A Midland university has made a stand against the practice of appealing to former students to help plug funding shortfalls.

The University of Central England in Birmingham said it valued its students "above and beyond" their ability to make a financial contribution after graduating.

UCE's stance comes as universities across the country are being encouraged by the Government to step up alumni fundraising operations to help plug a #8 billion shortfall in higher education.

The funds are expected to go towards capital investments and bursaries for poor students struggling to cope with increased tuition fees introduced this September. But a board decision passed at UCE has ruled against raising revenue from alumni.

Pro-vice chancellor Sally Westney said: "We have never gone down that route. Our thinking is that we wouldn't want to ask our students for money on top of the fees they already pay."

Ms Westney said the university would not reject any "gifts" by former students but did not feel comfortable asking graduates to donate money.

"We want to keep in touch with them, but we hope they will come back and repay us in other ways."

The Government wants universities to develop their own funding streams similar to what happens in other countries such as the US and Australia. Two years ago a Government-commissioned taskforce visited America and concluded a US-style culture of graduates donating to their former universities should be encouraged in the UK.

In recent years universities have increasingly employing alumni fundraisers to contact former students and ask if they are prepared to donate cash.

Birmingham University was given a #1 million gift by former computer science student Paul Ramsay three years ago who since graduating has become a multi-millionaire computer entrepreneur living in the US. But UCE's alumni association manager Lynn Godsall said it would not be seeking such donations from its graduates.

"UCE Birmingham values its graduates above and beyond their ability to make a monetary contribution," she said. "The Alumni Association does not have a fund-raising function because the value that we place on our graduates is in terms of the time, experience and the knowledge they can share with us after they leave the university."

The university said it was focusing on other ways of raising revenue such as doing consultation work and paid-for research.

The National Union of Teachers called for more money to be put into universities form central Government rather than sending round a begging bowl to students.

Paul Butters, area convenor for the NUS, said: "We believe students shouldn't feel obliged to donate money.

"We believe education is a right not a privilege so funds should be coming from Government.

"The people who benefit most are people from low socio-economic groups and the benefit of having graduates is felt across the economy."

Sally Hunt, joint general secretary of the University and College Union , said: "What our sector needs is stable and sustainable funding.

"Alumni donations are of course welcome but I would hope that no university would seriously consider an income stream as variable as this as a central part of their financial planning. Higher education is worth paying for, and UCU remains committed to campaigning for greater public investment rather than asking current or past students to make up shortfalls."

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