Donations from companies and former students should be matched pound for pound by the state, according to Professor Duncan Rice, principal and vice-chancellor of Aberdeen University, who will outline his proposal in a speech to be delivered to a conference of 400 university fund-raisers and external relations specialists.
Professor Rice called for the incentives as he warned that cuts in funding meant universities had "absolutely no choice but to revert to philanthropy". He predicted that up to eight out of ten former students would be giving money to their university by the end of next decade and vice-chancellors would spend up to 40 per cent of their time raising funds.
At Aberdeen, a campaign has been launched to raise pounds 150m in the next decade. Professor Rice said: "In order to create incentives for charitable giving, governments throughout Europe need to consider matching funds for money donated to a university fund raising campaign. I am not calling for new money, but I would like to see the resources available used to lever money from as yet untapped or under-exploited sources."
But the Labour MP Gordon Marsden, a member of the influential Commons Education Select Committee, warned against matching donations. He said: "My worry if that if you just match the funding, that will lead to universities like Oxford and Cambridge simply getting a lot of money."