Culture of giving back to our alma mater

WHEN I was a student back in university, I can hardly recall a single lesson from those lectures that I attended. Just like those moments back in school, I did so just for exams with almost no clue of how these would help to chart my future.

However, the cheerful smiles of my sports mates, the motherly touch of those nurses in campus who cared for me during my daredevil motorcycle stunts, the debate with a professor on why should we do outer space expeditions and the snoring sound of a chemistry student just next to my room remain with me till today.

After all these years of leaving university, I finally figured what it has given me. The university, till this very day, taught me about life.

This realisation prompted a series of questions. Why have I never realised all these before? Why was I so blinded towards building a good career and taking it towards greater heights? Why is it that I was feeling proud instead of thankful during my graduation? And above all, why did I never come back to my alma mater and give back? Not for the benefit of the university, but more for those who started off like me, trying to figure out life.

Quoting a proverb, “when eating bamboo sprouts, remember the person who planted them” resonates deeply with the culture of giving back among the alumni.

In Malaysia however, it is uncommon to see graduates giving back to the university or higher education institutions (HEIs) once they have made their first steps into the career world before soaring there.

Take Harvard University in the United States as an example. The institution’s exclusive endowment fund collected US$32bil (RM129bil) in funding.

What does it mean by Endowment Fund (EF) and why is it a necessity? EF is a form of fund contribution (donated) parallel with the goal of preparing more educational opportunities to lessen the government’s accountability in the higher education sector.

In other words, EF “accumulates the fund” through alumni contribution, corporate charity, profit from HEIs’ strategic investment and donation from the wealthy. Such contributions will be returned to the students in the form of scholarships and charity and at the same time, effectively supports the university’s endeavors.

For example, in the United Kingdom, the culture of giving back to their alma mater through alumni has become a tradition that should be proud of. A study showed that over 144 universities in the UK recently have shown a significant increase in the contribution of donors to the University’s Fund through alumni each year. In 2006-2007 more than £548mil (RM3003.04bil) were received through donations.

Most donations came from their former students. The involvement of former students in acquiring donations from other individuals and corporate companies for their alma mater was implemented through various campaigns and activities.

Among them was the Oxford Thinking campaign that began in 2004 and raised funds over £1bil (RM5.48bil) until 2010.

Even though the culture of giving back to the alma mater does exist in the higher learning institutions in Malaysia, it is still insufficient comparatively to Oxford and Harvard.

The awareness and commitment to give back to the Alma Mater among alumni should ideally exist from the culture of being grateful and showing gratitude.

Universiti Sains Malaysia’s (USM) top leadership established the USM Foundation (Yayasan USM) under the Trustees Act (Incorporation) 1952 (Act 258) on March 31, 2014 to collect and consolidate funds as well as mobilise sources of donations, gifts and other related concessions from within or outside of Malaysia for the benefit of USM.

Nine Trust-funds have been created under the USM Foundation for a more transparent and detailed assessment.

They are:

1) Kursi Trust-fund: This trust-fund supports accomplished academicians and professionals for special purposes in terms of expansion and sharing of knowledge;

2) Research Trust-fund: This trust-fund finances the research related to the university’s sustainable agenda to prepare the solution for a sustainable tomorrow;

3) Academic and Globalisation Trust-fund: This trust-fund aids the academic programmes including student and academic staff mobility programmes for global exposure;

4) Joint Venture Trust-fund: This trust-fund supports joint venture programmes between the university and the community or industry;

5) Talent Trust-fund: This trust-fund helps the cost of living of the students who require it;

6) APEX Trust-fund: This trust-fund finances the programmes under the APEX agenda;

7) Building and Maintenance Trust-fund: This trust-fund finances the maintenance of the in-campus buildings. This trust-fund will also be utilised to purchase necessary equipment for the buildings. In addition, it will also aid in funding the construction of new buildings for the university;

8) Islamic Endowment Trust-fund: This trust-fund supports the necessities that involve Islamic Endowment and

9) General Trust-fund: This trust-fund will be employed for the general funding of matters outside of the above mentioned eight trust-funds.

We hope that with the existence of the USM Foundation, enough funding will be accumulated through contributions to help in ensuring a sustainable tomorrow of USM.


USM Foundation Management Committee