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.

As you possibly recall, the Friends of Peterhouse is a charity formed in 1979 “to advance the educational and charitable work of the College”.  Governed by a Council of Petreans, elected by its members, it is independent of the governing body of the College, although it works collaboratively with it.  The Council now has members who matriculated in every in every decade from the 1950’s to the present day, and the Senior Tutor also sits on the Council.

Since the establishment of the College Development Fund, the Friends has concentrated its efforts 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 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 2016/2017

The total of grants made from the General Fund for the year ended 30th September 2017 was £53,228.  This is up 20% from £44,148 in the prior year.  The Friends have committed £10,000 for last year and this to enable the recruitment 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 already more than fully utilised, which demonstrates the need for, and value of our support, which we are open to consider extending in time and/or availability.

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. 

Secondly, the Friends gave £17,000, as in the prior year, for the Senior Tutor to distribute on our behalf to individual students.  These purposes included responding to financial difficulties caused by a sudden adverse change in domestic circumstances; 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 fund urgent medical treatment; 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 £4,887, down from £5,228, 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.

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.  They do not appear in the audited accounts as they were after the financial year end, but I attended two of them and subsequent feedback indicates they achieved their objectives. 

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 Friends continues to disburse this donation to fund Peterhouse research positions and related activity to progress this important work.  At different times we have funded a College research studentship, “The Friends of Peterhouse Graduate Studentship in Medical Research”, and a post doctoral researcher.  The academic team is now led by Professor Ed Bullmore of the University’s Department of Psychiatry and several papers from the team have been published in respected medical journals.  Its work and our funding is considered to have made a valuable contribution to this research field.  The Friends gave £76,175 last year, up 106% from £36,991.

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 2017 the General Fund was valued at £1,642,514 – up 32% on the prior year £1,242,957 reflecting in large part a legacy received from the estate of the late Mrs Elizabeth Fiddess, the widow of a Petrean medic who attended College just after the last war.  It is likely this legacy will be used to in part to endow a prize for Medical Students.  The Medical Fund was down 11% at £321,768 from £361,682 reflecting the drawdown of capital to fund the research posts, offset by investment gains.

Overall funds were up 22% at £1,964,282 (£1,604,639).  The Council has an Investments and Finance Committee comprised of several individuals with successful careers in the City.

Income received during 2016/2017

Investment income was £56,789, down 21% from £82,354.  In large part, this was due to the prior year having an a-typical profile, and we have now reverted to normal levels. 

Income from gifts, donations and legacies to the General Fund was substantially higher at £309,183, up from £10,729 in the prior year due to the legacy donation.  This offset a continuation of the slow decline in member donations.  The latter point speaks to the need to, and opportunity from, refreshing our membership and our purpose to stimulate new sources of income. 

The Council, with the support of the College, is resolved to grow the Friends membership as one element of building long term income.  Our direct interaction with the JCR and MCR is one element of this.  We have also recruited younger members to the Council and have continued to refine our recruitment materials for undergraduates and postgraduates leaving this year.

We hope that you will endorse our policy of broadening our expenditure objectives.  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, in her combined role as Senior Tutor and Development Director during Dr Stephen Hampton’s sabbatical.  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.

Regrettably, I will not be able to attend this year’s AGM due to a wedding commitment, (not mine!), so Edward Neve will ably chair the meeting on my behalf.

With kindest regards

Ian Peters (Peterhouse 1977)

Chairman 2016 –