Development and Alumni

Naming policy

Official naming policy for recognising philanthropic contributions and individuals of distinction.

Part One: Context and Purpose

The University of Edinburgh has built strong bonds with philanthropists over the centuries who are committed to enhancing our work, seeing the University continue to flourish, deepening the impact and accelerating the public good that flows from our work.

As philanthropy plays an increasing role in realising the University’s ambitions, we have a strong interest in seeking to recognise donor generosity through the naming of academic posts, scholarships, buildings, facilities, and other areas of activity. This allows us to demonstrate the pride we feel in our close associations with those who choose to prioritise us among their philanthropic giving. This in turn accelerates the development of a culture for philanthropy across campus and helps inspire others to give.

Similarly, by deciding, on restricted special occasions, to name a facility after an individual of high distinction with close associations to this University for reasons beyond philanthropy, we are able to promote and honour our connections with those individuals.

While each case will be treated on its merits in line with the detail of this policy, the University will strive wherever possible to ensure that namings across its campuses reflect the diverse nature and backgrounds of those individuals with whom it enjoys a close current, or historical association.

Purpose of the policy

This policy:

1.1. Ensures that naming recognition decisions are made in a coherent and consistent way in accordance with the University’s objectives.

1.2. Ensures compliance with wider University regulations and procedures, including the work of the Ethical Fundraising Advisory Group and existing Senate/Court regulations relating to changes to nomenclature for Professorial Chairs.

1.3. Establishes the processes and criteria for

1.3.1. decision-making for approval of naming recognition;

1.3.2. duration of naming recognition;

1.3.3. potential revocation of naming recognition.

1.4. Ensures that the rationale for naming recognition decisions can be clearly articulated.


This policy will apply where:

1.5. The University has received a high level philanthropic gift under the criteria set out in Part Three (below), and wishes to recognise the donor’s generosity;

1.6. The University wishes to name a significant element of the University Estate, as defined in 2.2. after an individual of distinction, where there is no connection to philanthropy.

Updates to this Policy

1.7. Future updates and changes to this policy will be approved by the following committees: Estates Committee, Policy & Resources Committee, and Court.

Overview of Remainder of the Policy

1.8. There are three additional parts to this Policy:

Part Two sets out an over-arching process, with associated definitions, for naming of significant elements of the University Estate.

Part Three details the process and criteria for the management of naming recognition connected to philanthropy across all aspects of the University’s activities will be managed.

Part Four details the process and criteria for the management of naming recognition in honour of individuals of distinction, connected to significant elements of the Estate and the naming of Chairs.

Part Two: Process for naming of any significant part of the University Estate

2.1. Any potential naming of any significant part of the Estate (as defined in 2.2.), whether in recognition of philanthropy or to honour individuals of distinction, will be considered by the Estates Committee following consultation with the Convener of the Estates Committee, the University Secretary, the Vice Principal (Philanthropy and Advancement), the Director of Estates, the Director of Communications and Marketing and a nominated EUSA representative. In cases relating to specific Colleges, the relevant College Registrar must also be consulted.

2.2. For the purposes of this policy, the definition of a ‘significant’ part of the Estate includes buildings, wings of buildings, and significant high-profile spaces within buildings (such as floors, major lecture theatres and laboratories), and substantial external public realm spaces (Quads, squares, courtyards, etc.). In cases where there is any doubt as to whether part of the Estate is considered ‘significant’ for the purposes of this Policy, the Vice-Principal (Philanthropy & Advancement) should be consulted, who will seek confirmation from those listed under 2.1 as necessary.

2.3. In the case of naming of buildings, the Principal will be consulted before any case is considered by Estates Committee. As and when Estates Committee makes a recommendation for the naming of a Building, the Principal will take that recommendation to Policy and Resources Committee for approval. In the case of high profile buildings, as determined by the Principal in consultation with the Policy and Resources Committee, approval will subsequently be sought from Court.

2.4. Processes for naming recognition for elements of the Estate not considered significant (as defined under 2.2) are covered in Part 3 (where relating to philanthropy) and Part 4 (relating to individuals of distinction).

Wider considerations for all Estates-related gift recognition

2.5. Any naming recognition on the physical campus must comply with any legal agreements entered into by the University, such as wider funding agreements or limitations imposed by the planning authorities.

2.6. Any resulting naming recognition signage for capital projects will be in line with the University’s corporate identity, and corporate or organisational logos will only be included when not to the detriment of the University’s brand.

Part Three: Naming Recognition relating to Philanthropy


This part of the policy will be relevant when:

3.1. The University wishes to acknowledge a benefactor who provides high-level funding towards the cost of construction or refurbishment of a building or part of that building, or provides high level support for research programmes, academic posts, scholarships, lecture series, or other areas.

Process for Identifying Naming Opportunities

3.2. The Development & Alumni Office, working closely with academic and professional support colleagues, will be responsible for identifying and confirming the circumstances where the University may wish to recognise the generosity of donors via an appropriate naming. The Vice Principal, Philanthropy & Advancement, has responsibility for ensuring all naming opportunities relating to philanthropy conform to this Policy and are approved according to the processes outlined below, before they are discussed with prospective donors.

3.3. Where naming opportunities can be identified at the outset of a project (e.g. for specific capital programmes) these will form part of the fundraising strategy for that project.

3.4. Naming opportunities will also be encouraged and considered for existing buildings, academic positions and other activities, as set out in the remainder of this Section.

Criteria for Naming recognition connected to philanthropy

3.5. In determining the appropriateness of considering naming recognition in a particular circumstance, the following factors will be considered:

3.5.1. Whether the gift level committed for the specific priority in question meets the gift level guidelines within this Policy, as summarised under 3.6.

3.5.2. The appropriateness of associating the donor’s name, or the preferred name suggested by the donor, with the University. Gift discussions reaching this stage of development will already have been considered by the Ethical Fundraising Advisory Group (EFAG) in terms of the acceptability of the source of funding, and any reputational risk identified by that group which may be relevant to a naming opportunity will be borne in mind.

Gift Level Guidelines

3.6. The recommendations below suggest an appropriate range of donation levels where the University may wish to recognise the generosity of a donor.

3.6.1. For capital gifts for new buildings and equipment, the value of the donation should normally meet a minimum of 50% of the estimated cost of the building/facility. However, an amount ranging from 35% to 70% may be considered appropriate depending on circumstances. A more flexible approach may be appropriate for naming of existing buildings and facilities, but the estimated current value of that building will provide an appropriate starting point for the above percentage guidelines.

3.6.2. Naming proposed for ornamental features such as fountains, landscaping, or benches whether new or existing, will normally require the gift to cover the full cost of the feature and a maintenance fund at a level agreed with Estates.

3.6.3. For all academic posts the University’s preference is for these positions to be funded on a long term basis via endowment (see 3.7). In some limited circumstances funding for a minimum period of at least five years may be appropriate.

3.6.4. For new academic posts, which are not already built into the University’s financial plans, the donation level should normally meet the full salary and directly associated costs, based on current endowment return estimates or multi-year projections for non-endowed gifts.

3.6.5. For existing academic posts, where the costs are already included on the University’s core baseline, or are built into its confirmed future investment plans, the donation level should normally meet at least 50% of the salary and associated costs, based on current endowment return estimates or multi-year projections for non-endowed gifts. 

3.6.6. For Post-doctoral posts/Fellowships, the same guidelines apply as for other academic posts above. In circumstances where an endowed gift is not possible, the donation should normally fund the position for a minimum period of three years to create a naming opportunity for that period.

3.6.7. For student scholarships (whether undergraduate or postgraduate), the University will not normally consider naming recognition for specific student scholarships for donor commitments below £10,000 each year (this amount to be reviewed periodically), alongside a commitment from the donor to fund the agreed scholarship programme for the full duration of the undergraduate or postgraduate course in question.

Endowed Gifts

3.7. Where naming recognition is considered in relation to endowed gifts for activity, the estimated annual income from the capital sum donated should broadly meet the annual levels indicated in 3.5.3 to 3.5.7 above.

Naming Recognition for wider philanthropic contributions across campus

3.8. It may occasionally be appropriate to name a facet of the University in recognition of extraordinary contributions made by long-standing benefactors to the University, where no gift has been made towards the cost of the specific project in question. In these cases the net present value of any previous gifts to the University from the donor may be considered. Such cases should follow the consultation process outlined in 2.1 before seeking approval from Estates Committee.

Duration of Naming recognition relating to Philanthropy

3.9. Consideration will always be given to the term for which naming of any facility or activity should be conferred, following the guidelines below:

For naming of significant parts of the Estate (as defined under 2.2)

3.9.1. For new buildings and facilities or parts thereof, it will be customary to specify a period of time for which naming is conferred of no more than 50 years, and typically in a range between 25 and 50 years. If appropriate and possible, after that period has expired the donor will be given the opportunity to renew their gift for the prolongation of the naming for another agreed period. Equally, the University may consider that the strength of brand and reputational benefit of the existing naming justifies a continuation of the naming with no further gift support.

3.9.2. Where a facility has been refurbished, it may be appropriate to name the facility for a shorter period than 25 years (it being likely further refurbishment will be required over that period).

3.9.3. For naming recognition relating to academic posts, scholarships and other activities, naming recognition will normally be agreed to cover only the period of time over which philanthropic income meets the guideline contribution levels as set out under 3.5. This also applies for endowed gifts, where a minimum of 50 years for permanent endowments is appropriate, and a shorter period for expendable endowments, depending on the detail of gift agreements. In all cases (whether endowed or recurrently funded) an indication of the likely duration of naming recognition should be included in gift agreements.

Revoking of naming recognition

3.10. Both the donor and the University may reserve the right to revoke a particular naming, particularly in the unlikely development of a reputational risk to continued mutual affiliation, but in these highly unlikely circumstances the University has no financial obligation to return any received contributions to the donor. Where the University wishes to consider revocation of an existing naming recognition, this will be considered initially by the Ethical Fundraising Advisory Group and subsequently, at the discretion of the Principal, University Court.

3.11. If the donor is unable to fulfil agreed gift instalments on a multi-year pledge upon which the naming was bestowed, the University reserves the right to withdraw the specific agreed naming, while seeking to negotiate an alternative and appropriate recognition opportunity with the donor.

Changed campus circumstances or priorities relating to an existing named activity or facility.

3.12. In circumstances where the purpose of the building, facility, academic post, scholarship programme or other activity in question change considerably during the agreed period of naming recognition (through the need for redevelopment, or the planned withdrawal from a research/teaching area, for example), reasonable effort will be made to notify the donor or their representatives, and to discuss whether there might be any impact on the intended use of their gift. Every effort will be made to honour the intention of the original gift and to identify alternative appropriate naming recognition opportunities, to address the circumstances in mutually-agreeable ways.

Process of Approval of Naming recognition relating to Philanthropy

3.13. Schools and other units across the University are expected to contact the Development & Alumni Office about potential naming recognition before discussing them with prospective donors, in order to ensure that all naming recognitions adhere to this policy.

Approval for Capital Projects

3.14. For potential naming recognition relating to significant elements of the University’s Estate (as defined under 2.2), the Development & Alumni Office will liaise with academic units, confirming that the criteria within this Policy have been met (or highlighting any exceptions), before consulting as per 2.1 above. The proposal may then be recommended for formal approval by Estates Committee.

3.15. For other naming opportunities relating to less significant elements of the Estate (as defined under 2.2 above), where the above criteria for naming recognition have been fully met, The VP for Philanthropy and Advancement may approve specific naming opportunities, in consultation with the relevant Head of School/project sponsor and the Director of Estates, and will confirm the detail of written agreements with donors. Confirmed naming recognitions at this level will be reported to Estates Committee for information.

Posts, Scholarships, Academic Positions and Programmes

3.16. For non-Professorial academic posts where all of the above criteria for naming are met, the naming will be considered and confirmed by the relevant Head of School, Head of College and the Vice-Principal for Philanthropy and Advancement.

3.17. For Professorial posts, the naming and its duration will, in addition to those highlighted under 3.15, also be considered by the Principal. As for all such positions, the creating or naming of a professorial chair requires a Court Resolution, which includes formal consultation with Senate and the General Council.

3.18. High level gift agreements relating to, for example, research or teaching Centres, Doctoral Colleges, etc. will often include a combination of staff, student, research and potentially capital/equipment support, over varying periods. In these circumstances flexibility is needed in terms of appropriate naming recognition; the Development & Alumni Office will draw on the above gift level guidelines and other relevant aspects of this Policy in making a recommendation for approval by the relevant Heads of School and College, and the Principal, who will decide whether any further approval is required.

Confirming the offer of naming recognition with donors

3.19. Once internal approval has been fully confirmed in line with this Policy, subsequent contact with donors to offer naming recognition may be made by either the academic unit or the Development & Alumni Office, or a Senior Officer of the University, following consultation with the Development & Alumni Office.

3.20. The Development & Alumni Office is responsible for facilitating and managing the written agreements for naming recognition, which will incorporate the relevant aspects of this Policy.

Part Four: Naming in relation to Individuals of Distinction


4.1. This part of the policy is concerned with the naming of significant elements of the University Estate (as defined under 2.2 above) or University Chairs after individuals of distinction, where there is no link to philanthropy.

4.2. For namings relating to elements of the Estate not considered significant (as defined under 2.2 above) spaces may be named to honour individuals of distinction without the formal consultation outlined in 2.1 above, provided that the proposal meets with the approval of the relevant Head of Academic Unit and the relevant senior manager in the Estates Department. In these circumstances, the full range of other options for honouring significant achievements and distinctions should always be fully considered.

Criteria for Naming elements of the Estate after individuals of distinction

4.3. Naming of significant elements of the Estate (as defined under 2.2 above) will be reserved for those who have had a transformational impact on the University or the wider world. The University has many other ways of recognising outstanding contributions through its programme of Awards and Honours. Exceptional circumstances where naming of a significant element of the campus estate might be considered would normally combine:

4.3.1. A wish to honour Individuals with extremely close associations to the University who have made outstanding and sustained contributions to Scottish, European, or wider international societies and/or global higher education and research, and at the very highest levels. (Such individuals would not normally be a current student or member of staff at the University), and

4.3.2. Circumstances where the naming of a part of the Estate would be especially relevant, when compared with the University’s many other forms of top-level recognition.

4.4. Consideration will also be given to any opportunity cost which may be relevant, should the same element of the Estate have strong potential for attracting high level philanthropic support.

Criteria for Naming of Chairs after individuals of distinction

4.5. The individual should be of such eminence in the relevant academic discipline that their name will be readily recognised by those now working in it.

4.6. It should not be expected that all, or indeed perhaps the majority, of chairs will be named. There needs to be good reason to do so, beyond the wish of any particular incumbent.

4.7. A proposal to name a chair should normally come forward at the time it is being created or, if an existing chair, filled. A very strong case would be required should chairs be named during the incumbency of an individual.

Process of Approval of Naming and Duration for individuals of distinction

4.8. It is essential that no contact is made with any individuals of distinction (or their family, representatives or descendants) who might be the focus of such a naming of part of the Estate, or of a Chair, before the proposal has been considered and approved fully in line with 4.9 and 4.11 below.

4.9. Requests for consideration of specific cases relating to the Estate must include consultation, as outlined in 2.1 to assess the strength of the case against the above criteria (4.3 and 4.4) prior to recommendation to Estates Committee. For cases relating to significant parts of the Estate (as defined under 2.2. above) the Principal will be consulted, before it is considered by Estates Committee, which can make decisions for everything up to, but not including, the naming of a building. As for cases relating to philanthropy for the naming of a building, the Principal will take such recommendations relating to individuals of distinction to Policy and Resources Committee for approval. In the case of high profile buildings, as determined by the Principal in consultation with the Policy and Resources Committee, approval will subsequently be sought from Court.

4.10. Naming recognition connected to significant elements of the Estate to honour individuals of distinction, where approved, will usually be confirmed for a period of between 25 and 50 years of duration.

4.11. A decision to name a Chair requires a Court Resolution, which would be put to the University Executive in draft for comment. The covering paper should include a brief explanation of the reason for naming the chair and for the chosen designation.

4.12. Once named, the expectation would be that the designation of the Chair would endure indefinitely and not be subject to change merely on the wish of any present or future incumbent. Confirming the offer of naming recognition for individuals of distinction

4.13. Once internal approval has been fully confirmed in line with this Policy, subsequent contact with individuals or their family, representatives or descendants, may be made by either the academic unit or the Development & Alumni Office, or a Senior Officer of the University.

4.14. Where appropriate, the Development & Alumni Office will be responsible for facilitating and managing written agreements for naming of significant elements of the Estate after individuals of distinction, in line with the wider terms of this Policy.


Chris Cox, Vice-Principal Philanthropy and Advancement

Eleana Kazakeou, Projects and Policy Officer, Development and Alumni

Approved by Court, 23 April 2018

Download the policy

Naming Policy - Recognising Philanthropic Contributions and Individuals of Distinction (PDF)