Teaching about philanthropy education at university level is growing but still limited in Europe, according to a new study, Philanthropy Education in the UK and Continental Europe: Current provision, perceptions and opportunities. Of the 20 countries surveyed, 11 – including the UK, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy and France – offer some provision, but philanthropy education is barely on the radar in Scandinavia or (with the exception of Lithuania) the former Soviet Union.
Nevertheless, there are approximately 20 course modules and nine dedicated academic centres on philanthropy across Europe. The majority of the academic centres were established after 2000, an indicator of recent growth. Moreover, the research uncovered 16 professional training courses on topics ranging from foundation trusteeship to grantmaking practice and endowment management.
Defining philanthropy as study or training in the history, theory and practice of private contributions for public good, this year-long study of the emerging field of philanthropy education in Europe investigated the countries, institutions, disciplines and levels at which philanthropy is taught across the continent. It also examined perceptions about the prospects for growth in the field and ethical issues associated with philanthropic investment in this area.
The research highlighted various challenges, including variations in the meaning of philanthropy from one country to another, which has implications for ‘framing’ it as a subject of study. In the UK, for example, a strong voluntary tradition has meant that the space between state and market has traditionally been understood in the context of voluntary sector studies, which includes philanthropy within its rubric.
There are signs that philanthropy is now finally achieving academic visibility in Europe and it is hoped that this research will provide a baseline for further studies in the years ahead.
The research was carried out by former Pears Foundation director Charles Keidan together with Cathy Pharoah of City University London and Tobias Jung of the University of St Andrews.