Our review of the past academic year, showcasing projects that have been funded by the philanthropic support of individuals and organisations.

Understanding autism

The Patrick Wild Centre, which conducts research into autism spectrum disorder, fragile X syndrome and other intellectual disabilities, received a legacy funding boost with the final instalment from Dr Alfred Wild’s estate. The centre was established in 2010 with support from Dr Wild, whose brother Patrick was severely autistic, and Gus Alusi and Reem Waines, whose son has fragile X syndrome. Since the centre opened, it has initiated the first medicine trials for fragile X syndrome, completed studies of non-medical therapies and pioneered techniques to conduct MRI scans in people with intellectual disability and autism spectrum disorder.

New Steinways strike a chord

Steinways 2019
A generous bequest has enabled the Reid School of Music to gain All-\nSteinway School status

Students at the Reid School of Music can now make music on a new fleet of Steinway pianos – widely considered among the best in the world – thanks to a generous bequest from former student Thomas Laing-Reilly. Students and staff visited the Steinway & Sons factory in Hamburg to choose the pianos. Their arrival in Edinburgh was celebrated with a public performance from the renowned Piano Circus ensemble, and culminated with students and staff joining in a selection of works involving all 28 pianos, which have since been transferred to their new home in Alison House. The addition of the pianos has helped the Reid School of Music achieve All-Steinway School status, the piano-maker’s hallmark of excellence in musical education.

Talbot Rice Gallery patrons

The University’s Talbot Rice Gallery has launched its first Patrons Programme, giving supporters the chance to contribute to new artistic talent and community outreach projects. Philanthropic support has helped the Gallery bring the work of world-renowned artists to Edinburgh, as well as support new work by emerging artists.

Philanthropic support celebrated

Shirley Hall 2019
Dame Stephanie Shirley at the opening of the Shirley Hall

A lecture theatre at the University’s Medical School has been renamed the Shirley Hall in honour of the philanthropic contribution of Dame Stephanie Shirley. The IT pioneer has been a supporter of medical research, committed to improving understanding of autism and other developmental conditions, and has made a significant contribution to research at the Patrick Wild Centre.

Lighting up student’s charitable legacy

Light show in Old College quad
Student Hadeel Abutaleb takes a photo of the light show in Old College Quad

Hundreds of fibre-optic flowers were lit up in Old College Quad to mark the 20-year anniversary of a charity founded by a former student. Ellie Maxwell, who died from cancer 10 years ago, launched Firefly International while she was studying English and Philosophy. The charity supports young people in areas of conflict through art and education. An award to support students who manage charities was launched as part of the celebrations. The Ellie Maxwell Award will offer £500 in funding and support for University of Edinburgh students who are developing ideas for promoting social change through their charities.

100 years of amazing books

Lindsey Hilsum, Sally Magnusson, Olivia Laing
Award-winning journalist Lindsey Hilsum, broadcaster and alumna Sally Magnusson and best-selling author Olivia Laing at\nthis year’s James Tait Black Prizes

This year, the James Tait Black Prizes, the UK’s longest-running literary awards, marked their centenary. The awards were set up in 1918 following a legacy gift from Janet Tait Black, part of the renowned threadmaking family J & P Coats. The prizes celebrate the best novels and biographies as selected by Edinburgh literature academics and postgraduate students. A drama category was added in 2013 and a short story prize for postgraduate students was offered for the centenary. This year’s winning books were Crudo by Olivia Laing and In Extremis: The Life of War Correspondent Marie Colvin by Lindsey Hilsum.

Reaching out to refugees

Fundraising undertaken by members of the local community has helped a University-based project reach out to refugee children in Greece using the power of music. Led by Senior Lecturer Dee Isaacs, the team from the Windows on our World project returned to Greece in the summer to host music, play and singing sessions for displaced children up to the age of 14, to help them process trauma and rebuild a sense of security and confidence. Windows on our World is part of the Music in the Community course, led by Dee, which explores how music can be applied as an educational, social, artistic or therapeutic tool.

Saving a piece of geological history

Lyell notebooks
The notebooks of Charles Lyell (courtesy of Sotheby's)

This year, the University launched a campaign to keep the notebooks of pioneering Scottish geologist Charles Lyell (a mentor of Charles Darwin) in Scotland, to give us a chance to better understand one of the greatest scientific minds of the last 200 years. Lyell influenced generations of scientists through his popular books and lectures and is credited with providing the framework that helped Darwin develop his evolutionary theories. The notebooks had been in private hands and were due to be sold abroad. Pledges from 1,164 individuals, together with gifts from organisations including the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the John R Murray Charitable Trust, and the University’s own contribution, enabled the purchase of the notebooks, which shed light on a number of contemporary concerns including climate change and species diversity. They will be made accessible to students, researchers and the public through exhibitions and digitisation.

Addressing gender equality in the law

The Law School made a commitment to addressing gender inequality in the legal profession with the relaunch of its Edinburgh Foundation for Women in Law. The Foundation seeks to helps anyone who identifies as a woman working in law by providing safe spaces for facilitating conversations around the inclusion and equality necessary to break down the barriers preventing them from reaching their full potential.

Record intake for Mastercard Foundation Scholars

Last academic year, the University welcomed its highest intake of African students enrolled on its Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program to date. A total of 71 students from African countries including Ethiopia, the Gambia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Zambia were supported to undertake undergraduate or postgraduate study at Edinburgh. The programme aims to provide outstanding African scholars who have limited educational opportunities in their home countries the chance to develop their full academic and leadership potential.

J.K. Rowling donates £15m to MS research

JK Rowling - Ann Rowling Clinic
J.K. Rowling has gifted an additional £15m to the Anne Rowling Regenerative Neurology Clinic

The author J.K. Rowling has donated £15.3m to the University of Edinburgh to help improve the lives of people with multiple sclerosis (MS) and similar conditions. The investment – which is inclusive of Gift Aid – will help create new facilities and support vital research at the University’s Anne Rowling Regenerative Neurology Clinic.

The Clinic was set up following a previous donation from Ms Rowling in 2010 and is named in memory of her mother who died of MS aged 45. It has established itself as an integrated care and research facility focusing on MS and neurological conditions with the aim of bringing more clinical studies and trialsto patients.

Ms Rowling said: “I am delighted to now support the Anne Rowling Regenerative Neurology Clinic into a new phase of discovery and achievement as it realises its ambition to create a legacy of better outcomes for generations of people with MS and non-MS neurodegenerative diseases.

“It’s a matter of great pride forme that the Clinic has combined these lofty ambitions with practical, on-the-ground support and carefor people with MS, regardless of stage and type.”

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