Peterhouse Chapel

Letter from the Chairman


Dear Friends

It is my privilege to write to you from the first time as Chair of the Friends, having succeeded David Edwards who led the Friends with great skill and dedication for six years.  I inherit an organisation in good order, financially stable, operating in a spirit of collaboration with the College.  We also have a resolve to widen 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 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 opened up a 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 have nevertheless – and at the students’ request – retained alleviating financial hardship at our core.  I will expand on this later.

Grants made during 2015/2016

The total of grants made from the General Fund for the year ended 30th September was £44,148.  This is down from £55,907 in the prior year.  The Friends have committed a minimum of £10,000 for each of the next two years 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.    However, the post holder did not start until the current academic year, hence the drop in expenditure.  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 fully utilised, which demonstrates the need for, and value of our support, which we are open to consider extending.

Our general expenditure was otherwise focussed on three of our traditional areas.  The first, and largest, is the alleviation of financial hardship by paying part 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, and the University provides 65% of the financial bursary. The College pay the balance.  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.  The Council capped its grant last year to £20,000, down from £30,000 in the prior year – with the consent of the College – to finance its commitment to the student counsellor.

Cambridge bursaries are only available to a relatively tightly defined group of students.  Many more, especially those from less privileged backgrounds, may well find themselves facing various financial challenges.  The Friends therefore 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 academic prizes.  We donated £5,228, up from £4,776, to fund a wide 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, in the current financial year we will award a smaller number of higher value prizes, including for the first time to postgraduates, to ensure the incentive and recognition remains meaningful.

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.  These worked as part of a wider team led by Professor Ian Goodyer of the University’s Department of Psychiatry and several papers from his 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 £36,991 last year, down from £61,318 as one of research studies ended.  However, Council has recently agreed to fund a new research post for a three year term.

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 2016 the General Fund was valued at £1,242,957 – up 15% on the prior year £1,076,576 reflecting a more favourable investment environment.  The Medical Fund was up 1% at £361,682 from £356,799 reflecting the drawdown of capital to fund the research posts, offset by investment gains.

Overall funds were up 12% at £1,604,639 (£1,433,375).  The Council has an Investments and Finance Committee comprised of several individuals with successful careers in the City.

Income received during 2015/2016

Investment income was £82,354, up from £55,454, in large part due to improved global investment conditions and also currency translation gains arising from our non UK investments.  A proportion of our gains were also taken into income rather than reinvested.

Income from gifts, donations and legacies to the General Fund was £10,729, down from £16,954 in the prior year.  This is explained by a £5,000 legacy not recurring, and 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 re-cast our recruitment materials for undergraduates and postgraduates leaving this year.

We are also communicating our intent to broaden our range of support. Alleviating financial hardship will remain our core purpose, but we would be keen to extend support for the Student Counsellor; provide financial support for a new JCR and MCR formal hall event to lower its cost to students and promote the Friends activity; assist in helping students into initial employment; and in time potentially supporting other areas such as language courses.  I would be interested in other ideas you may have.  These are all areas outside the scope of the College Development Fund where there is a proven need, or where other sources of financial support are unavailable.  College sports for example are well funded through other sources.

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 address at the bottom of the form or bring with you to the AGM.


The Council continues to receive warm support for its activities from the Senior Tutor, the Rev Dr Stephen Hampton, from Dr Saskia Murk Jansen, the Development Director, and also from the new Master, Bridget Kendall who has taken a keen interest in and endorses the Friends and our broadening purpose.

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.

I look forward to meeting some of you at the AGM.

With kindest regards

Ian Peters (Peterhouse 1977)

Chairman 2016 –