Peterhouse Chapel

Letter from the Chairman


Dear Friends

It is my privilege to write to you as Chair of the Friends, an organisation in good order, financially growing, operating in a spirit of collaboration with the College, and widening how we support Peterhouse students, both undergraduate and postgraduate.

Formed in 1979 “to advance the educational and charitable work of the College” we are governed by a Council of Petreans and the Senior Tutor, supported by the College Development Director.  We are independent of the College governing body, although work collaboratively with it.

The Friends now concentrate our support on student welfare in the broadest sense.  This includes financial hardship, seeking to diminish any barriers to people from all backgrounds having the benefit of a Peterhouse education, but covering student health and wellbeing generally.  This approach was an evolution away from the early phase which helped finance the likes of the Music Room and the Theatre.

In the last year, we have continued our very constructive dialogue direct with the presidents of the JCR and MCR.  This has helped us adapt our purpose, and diversify the range of our support to areas most highly valued by the students, and endorsed by the College.  We now have a balance in our support across alleviating financial hardship, helping meet an increasing need for support with mental health and stress, and a range of other activities.  I will expand on this later.

Grants made during 2017/2018

The total of grants made from the General Fund for the year ended 30th September 2018 was £65,243.  This is up 23% from £53,228 in the prior year.  The Friends have committed £10,000 for last two years to enable the appointment of a part time student counsellor.  We attach particular importance to this as the post was identified in our consultation with the JCR as something which students would significantly value.  The counsellor is available one day per week on a confidential basis to help with any personal relationship or other problems students might be experiencing.  The service is fully utilised and highly valued by the students in the context of increasing awareness and incidence of mental health issues.  In the current year, and in the same theme, we are supporting professionally tutored yoga classes designed to alleviate stress.

Our general expenditure retained three of our traditional areas.  The first, and largest, is the alleviation of financial hardship by paying £20,000 of the contributions of the College towards the Cambridge bursaries provided to Peterhouse students.  The Cambridge bursary scheme assesses the financial needs of students most in need of support.  It is a sign of our times that several years ago the Friends financed the whole of the College component, but the requirement has grown so substantially in the last decade that our finite resources now enable us to pay only a proportion. 

In addition, following receipt of a substantial legacy last year from Mrs Fiddess, the late wife of a Petrean medic, Council have committed up to £15,000 in the current and future years to fund a medical bursary for a candidate from a lower income background.  Should no suitable candidate be identified in any year, the funds will be redeployed for other purposes.

Secondly, the Friends gave £20,000, up £3,000 from the prior year, for the Senior Tutor to distribute on our behalf to individual students and groups.  The Senior Tutor is given wide discretion within the spirit of the Friends core purpose and a diverse range of awards has been made including responding to financial difficulties, hardship caused by changes to domestic circumstances; supporting minority groups to enhance inclusivity within the College; to pay costs incurred where students have been encouraged by their tutors to stay up during the Easter vacation to prepare for Tripos exams; to pay for medical treatment; to support transition of students into low paid not for profit or charitable employment; or to assist with costs involved in representing university sports teams.  These are all areas where no alternative source of financial assistance existed.

The third area of our support was the encouragement of academic excellence through the award of prizes.  We donated £4,675, down from £4,887 to fund a range of prizes including the de Montmorency Law Prize and the VI form English essay prize.  In response to feedback from the JCR and MCR presidents, we restructured our support into a smaller number of higher value prizes, including for the first time to postgraduates, to ensure the incentive and recognition remains meaningful.  In the current academic year we have evolved the postgraduate award into supporting an Innovation Event whereby individuals or teams of postgraduates pitch their ideas to a panel of successful Petrean entrepreneurs.

Partly as a mechanism to broaden their accessibility to lower income students, and partly as a means of building awareness of the Friends, in response to requests from the two Presidents we subsidised three “Superhalls” at an aggregate cost of £2,000.  These are special occasion events, two for undergraduates and one for postgraduates. 

In addition to the General Fund, the Friends has a Medical Fund which was endowed some years ago by a single donor for the specific purpose of promoting research into the causes of bipolar disorder among young adults.  The academic team is now led by Professor Edward Bullmore of the University’s Department of Psychiatry and several papers from the team have been published in respected medical journals.  Following two excellent presentations from Professor Bullmore, and a thorough review of the terms of the original donation, the Council has agreed that scientific research into this topic has changed considerably, in part due to our own investment.  We have therefore agreed to evolve the nature of our support while remaining consistent with the original spirit of the donation, into new leading edge research.  This review created a temporary pause in our financial donations in 2017/18 but we expect to resume in 2019/20.

The Friends’ Assets

The bulk of the Friends’ assets are invested in broad based funds specifically designed for charities, which to a large extent track the global equities markets.

As at 30th September 2018 the General Fund was valued at £1,761,992 – up 1% on the prior year.  The Medical Fund was up 1% at £331,913 reflecting the pause in expenditure explained above.  Overall funds up 1% at £2,093,905.  Within this figure £543,069 was held in cash following the maturing of a bond and receipt of the first tranche of the legacy.  The Investment Committee which includes several individuals with successful City careers have conducted a full review of our investment strategy for the first time in many years.  Their recommendations have been accepted by Council and the portfolio will be structured during 2019 to better reflect the growth prospects of the global economy, without fundamentally changing its risk profile.

Income received during 2017/2018

Investment income was £56,998, broadly the same as the prior year. 

Income from gifts, donations and legacies to the General Fund was substantially lower at £34, 701 due to the one off legacy donation, but was up from £10,729 in prior year due to a second receipt from the Fiddess legacy.  In the long term, there is a continuation in the decline of individual donations as a source of income.  This latter point speaks to the need to refresh our membership offer and our purpose to stimulate new sources of income.  The Council has started this discussion and hopes to conclude at its October meeting following engagement with the College.

We hope that you will endorse our policy of broadening the nature of our financial support to undergraduates, postgraduates and the Medical Fund.  We welcome donations for any purpose and enclose a form with this letter which enables you to make a one off or regular donation for general or specific purposes.  If you feel able to make a donation, please complete the form and either send to the College Office or bring it with you to the AGM.


The Council continues to receive warm support, from Dr Saskia Murk Jansen as  Development Director and Dr Stephen Hampton as Senior Tutor.  We also welcome the support of the Master, who takes a keen interest in and endorses the Friends and our broadening purpose.  My thanks also to members of staff in the College Office and Development Campaign team.

I would like to also thank all members of the Council who devote their time voluntarily and conduct their business with considerable thought, diligence and insight.  In this context I would especially like to thank William Knighton who retired from Council this year after 17 years of outstanding service.

I look forward to seeing some of you at the AGM and will happily respond to any questions or general feedback to my email address below.

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