Letter from the Chairman 2023

Dear Friends

At the time of writing this open letter, the College is at the end of the 2022/2023 academic year, the first for three years where the dominant presence of Covid has receded from disrupting College life.  The ongoing war in Ukraine and consequential impacts on energy costs have exacerbated the economic pressures from the return to high inflation interest rates and the cost of living.  In that context, the Friends of Peterhouse has had a relatively busy year and continued to support the student body to cope with a range of pressures and stresses.

We continue to be centred on our core purpose to support student health and wellbeing, with a particular emphasis on mental health.  Pressures on the NHS have pushed out waiting times for specialist referrals and our support has therefore been especially valued in recent times.  The full time Mental Health Adviser and part time student counsellor, both funded by the Friends, continue to be in high demand.  Their services are at the top of the list of the Friends’ financial support in the opinion of both JCR and MCR members.

During the year the Investments Committee concluded the triennial review of our approach to managing our assets.  This was informed by discussions with the JCR and MCR Presidents on their views on how the funds which generate the Friends’ financial support to students are invested.  The summary would be that they are ultimately economic pragmatists, but have other forms of environmentally or societally harmful activities.  The Committee reviewed at some length whether to continue managing our investments directly or whether to transfer this role to external professionals.  Increasing regulatory requirements, a rising administrative and time burden on Committee members, the greater size of portfolio, and the need for greater market knowledge to meet the new investment policy persuaded the Committee that on balance investment management should be outsourced under the direction and scrutiny of the Committee.  This recommendation was supported by Council, acknowledging there would be a c.£10,000-£15,000 fee attached.  The Committee undertook a competitive process and Council appointed Evelyn Partners, with the transition of the portfolio completed in May 2023.

The financial information which follows relates to the annual accounts for the financial year ended 30th September 2022.

Grants made during 2021/2022

The total of grants made from the General Fund for the year ended 30th September 2021 was £90,368, an increase on the prior year of £83,532.  The schedule of the main grants is as follows:

  1. £35,000 for the full time mental health adviser.  This was our third year of an original three year commitment which has since been extended by the Council due to its perceived high value.
  2. £10,500 for the part time student counsellor.  This was the fifth year of an original year commitment, which has also since been extended.
  3. £25,000 to the Senior Tutor’s fund in line with previous years.  This fund is for purposes where no other source of financial support is available and covers a very wide range of applications including urgent medical referrals, financial distress and supporting College minority groups.
  4. £4,700 for academic prizes including the de Montmorency Law Prize and the VI form essay prizes.
  5. £1,850 for the graduate year book, funded by a specific three year donation, and building on a very popular innovation originally enabled by the covid grant mentioned above.
  6. £3,700 for yoga classes which were very well attended as a form of stress relief and relaxation by a wide spectrum of College members.
  7. £4,722 to support a Ukrainian student through a period of severe financial hardship.

In addition to the General Fund, the Friends Medical Fund was separately endowed several years ago by a single donor to promote research into mental illness among young adults.  Professor Edward Bullmore leads the academic team at the University’s Department of Psychiatry and the Friends are supporting a multi year research programme under his direction, currently three postgraduate research posts at Peterhouse.  £70,968 was disbursed to support the programme in 2021/2022 and this will increase as a fourth researcher joins the programme.  Professor Bullmore and his team are regular publishers of research papers which are occasionally picked up in the wider media as they are breaking new ground in exploring causal linkages between physical conditions and mental illness.  The Medical Fund should be fully spent by 2025/2026 subject to investment returns.

For the current academic year 2022/2023 the Friends provisional allocation of grants broadly reflects those made in 2021/2022.

The Friends’ Assets

As at 30th September 2022 the General Fund was valued at £2,044,062 down 8% on the past year, including £311,553 held in cash.  The decrease arises primarily from the volatility in the global investment markets caused by the macroeconomic context.  The decision to hold only equity and avoid fixed investment Government bonds benefited performance as these investments were particularly hard hit by rising interest rates.

The Medical Fund reduced by 30% to £189,619 including £89,392 held in cash reflecting the increased expenditure profile.

Overall funds were down 10% at £2,233,681 including £400,945 held in cash.

Income received during 2021/2022

Investment income from the General Fund was up 58% at £43,759 reflecting the higher dividend yields being paid post the pandemic dip.

Income from regular donations, gifts and standing orders rose 25% to £8,637 but we received a very generous donation of £100,000 from a former Council member.

The College Development telephone campaign included a Friends of Peterhouse Wellbeing fund option for the fourth year.  On this occasion it raised just over £4,500 to bring the accrued total to around £15,000.  The distribution of the fund will be subject to a discussion between the College, the JCR and MCR Presidents, and the Council.  We are grateful to the volunteers who undertake the campaign and to the Development Campaign team for their facilitation.

Investment income from the Medical Fund was up 8% at £12,822.

Governance Matters

The AGM was held virtually in September as a pre cursor to an address by the Master, and alongside that of the Peterhouse Society.  The intention is to follow the same approach this year and this will be held on Thursday 28th September when the Annual Report & Accounts and Council appointments will be presented.  The AGM papers and Accounts will be published on our pages on the College website.  Physical copies are available on request from either myself or Ann Munro at the College office in the days before the meeting.

There have been no changes in the membership of the Council since last year.


The Council continues to receive excellent support from Dr Saskia Murk Jansen as Development Director and Dr Stephen Hampton as Senior Tutor.  We also welcomed and valued the constant support and involvement of the Master who continues to take a close interest in the activities of the Friends.  She will be retiring at the end of the academic year and I look forward to working with her successor.  My personal thanks to the Presidents past and present of the JCR and MCR for their engagement, feedback and ideas.

I would also like to thank all members of the Council who give up their time voluntarily and provide wisdom, thoughtful guidance and ideas, notably Edward Neve and David Jeffreys as Secretary and Treasurer respectively.  In the past year I would particularly thank Jenny Quan for her leadership and additional work on the investment strategy review.

I wish all members good health and I look forward to seeing some of you at the virtual AGM.

If you have any observations or questions on the content of this letter or any other matters relating to the Friends, please feel free to contract me at the email address below.


With kindest regards
Ian Peters (Peterhouse 1977)
Chairman 2016 –