University's campaign to Make a World of Difference


The University of Leeds has announced a £60m fundraising campaign to create new student opportunities, push forward its research and support its vision of a place among world-leading universities.

Supported by more than 10,000 gifts to date, the Campaign is helping hundreds of students and enabling research which will make a difference to people’s lives the world over.

These gifts are already having an impact, helping young people from less privileged backgrounds to aim for a place at university and giving students the opportunity to contribute to research, develop as elite athletes and put their best entrepreneurial ideas into practice.

The Campaign is also driving forward research into key health challenges such as heart disease, dementia and tissue repair; supporting work to cut the carbon footprint of our major cities and to ensure the security of vital resources such as food and water; providing key insights into world trade and the global political economy; and enabling research that is unlocking some of the treasures of the University library’s remarkable collections.

The University’s biggest-ever donation, also announced today, will support the creation of a state-of-the-art library on its city centre campus. The library will be named after Irvine Laidlaw, who studied economics at Leeds in the early 1960s, and whose £9m gift is supporting this major development.

The Laidlaw Library, now under construction on Woodhouse Lane, will become a new focus for undergraduate life on campus, providing inspiring study spaces and the high-end technology needed by 21st century students. It will give easy access to the printed texts and electronic resources which are central to the first two years of undergraduate study, putting at students’ fingertips the materials required to support modern higher education

The four-storey building, due to open in the spring of 2015, will also provide a new home for some of the University’s outreach work with the local community.

Lord Laidlaw has been a donor to the University for some time, providing scholarships for students from less privileged backgrounds and supporting the brightest undergraduates to join major research projects. He traces this philosophy to his time at Leeds: “Being a student was an eye-opening experience for me – though I didn’t get a very good degree!

“I came from a quite privileged background and at that time Leeds was very much a working class university. As Grants and Welfare Secretary for the students’ union I was able to help people who were facing serious money issues – and I found out about deprivation in a way I’d not experienced before.

“This experience showed me how privileged I was and it stayed with me. I have been very fortunate; my business has been a great success, but success is not just about talent or ability. It’s also about encouragement, whether from the family, school or University, and we need to do more to nurture people’s ability.

“The plans for this magnificent new library have given me the opportunity to really cement my connection to an institution which gave me so much. I am looking forward to visiting Leeds soon and seeing it taking shape.”

Vice-Chancellor Sir Alan Langlands expressed the University’s gratitude: “This is exciting news. Irvine Laidlaw is a committed supporter of the University and the library will become a permanent reminder of his generosity.”

“Despite many technological advances since he and I were undergraduates, the library remains a fundamental part of student life. The Laidlaw Library will set a new benchmark for universities across the country – with inspiring study spaces and a state-of-the-art resource centre, it will be a new landmark on Woodhouse Lane. It will also be a bold statement of a university which is fully equipped for the modern world and facing the future with confidence.

“I am proud to be leading the University at this important time as we see donors’ generosity to our Campaign translating into genuine benefits for students, supporting excellence in research and promoting the part the University plays in the wider community.”

The Campaign has already attracted a number of other generous donations:

  • A £2.5m gift from Bacteriology and Biochemistry graduate Peter Cheney and his wife Susan has established a programme of fellowships, attracting leading academics to develop their research at Leeds;
  • A donation from Economics and Politics graduate Michael Beverley enabled the University to build a Super Resolution Light Microscope, which has already had a significant impact on research in a variety of areas including heart disease and dementia;
  • The Liz and Terry Bramall Foundation is funding the University’s Reach for Excellence programme for five years, supporting work in local schools and communities to encourage more local young people to aim high and achieve their full potential.

University Chancellor Melvyn Bragg explained how these donations revive a tradition of philanthropic support for universities: “The Victorian red brick of the Baines Wing and Clothworkers Court, the inter-war opulence of the Brotherton Library and the post-war confidence of the Parkinson Building are a living reminder of each stage in Leeds’s evolving history. Their names recall those great philanthropists who have shaped the University’s growth since its earliest days.

“In the post-war era, state funding for universities grew and the need for philanthropy declined. But now the state is pulling back, and I don’t see how we can be an ambitious university, creating inspirational opportunities for our students and growing our research to tackle the major challenges of the modern world, without the support of our donors.

“The new library will be a magnificent new asset for our campus, and I am so grateful to Irvine for this wonderful act of generosity.”

Further information and images:

For further information please contact the press office at the University of Leeds, tel: 0113 343 4031

A photograph of Lord Laidlaw is available on request, as are artist’s impressions of the planned Laidlaw Library. 

Notes to editors:

  1. The University of Leeds is one of the largest higher education institutions in the UK and a member of the Russell Group of research-intensive universities. The 2008 Research Assessment Exercise showed the University to be the UK's eighth biggest research powerhouse and the University's vision is to secure a place among the world's leading universities.
  2. Irvine Laidlaw was born in Scotland in 1942. After graduating from Leeds in 1963, he studied for an MBA at Columbia University. He founded the Institute for International Research (IIR), growing it to become the world's leading company providing conference organisation, training and knowledge and skills transfer, with over 3,000 staff in at least 40 countries. He joined the peerage as Baron Laidlaw of Rothiemay in 2004. Since selling the company in 2005, he has devoted himself to philanthropic activities. His Laidlaw Youth Project, which ran for five years from 2004 to 2009, helped disadvantaged children and young people in Scotland develop ambitions and raise expectations; he has also funded the Excelsior Academy in Newcastle-upon-Tyne; has provided support to a school in his home town of Keith and to his former school in Edinburgh; and has made substantial donations to English National Opera, Royal Opera House, Scottish Opera, Prince's Trust and many other charities. He has also given much support to charities in South Africa. In 2013 he was inducted as a founder member of the University’s Court of Benefactors, in recognition of previous gifts to support students from underprivileged backgrounds and research opportunities for the most able undergraduates.
  3. The gift supports the University’s Making a World of Difference Campaign – the institution’s first major fundraising initiative in the post-war years. Gifts to the Campaign are supporting key University research projects in the areas of Human Health, Global Society and Business, Climate Change and Arts and Culture, while also providing support for young people from less privileged backgrounds to aim for a place at University, and creating a range of inspirational opportunities for our students. This gift takes the total raised for the Campaign to more than £40m.
  4. The Laidlaw Library will provide over 1,000 new individual study spaces equipped with power points and the high-end connectivity needed for laptops, tablets and phones, which will give users access to online materials through the mobile devices many use as an integral part of their work. Flexible group study spaces will allow students to work together on joint assignments and presentations, reflecting the way modern learning is based as much on collaboration and interaction as it is on solitary study. Its community classroom will host outreach work with local schools and colleges, encouraging talented young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to aim high. A café and courtyard will encourage its use as a social centre; artwork from our gallery and collections will be put on public display; picture windows will afford a panoramic view south across the city; its steps will be a meeting place as resonant for the modern student as the Parkinson Steps have been for generations.