Durham University has announced that it has received a $3.5m donation to support diversity and future generations of leadership in technology.
The donation has been made by Durham University graduate Dr Neil Hunt, former Chief Product Officer of Netflix, to establish ‘The Hunt Programme’ in the Department of Computer Science. This donation will play a major part in expanding the University’s Women in Technology programme tackling the underrepresentation of women in leadership roles in the tech sector.
The Hunt Programme will also establish new scholarships to support students from low income and underrepresented backgrounds, ensuring talented prospective students can access Durham’s degree programmes regardless of their background or circumstance.
The donation will also be pivotal in launching the Department of Computer Science’s first Careers & Internships programme for computer science students, leveraging the University’s global networks to give students access to transformative career opportunities in the tech sector – something Dr Hunt sees as critical in his own career trajectory.
Dr Hunt became the first ever Chief Product Officer of Netflix in 1999, steering the company from a budding start-up providing an online DVD rental service to one of the largest and most recognisable streaming platforms in the world. Dr Hunt is largely credited for the development of this personalised user experience, which is now synonymous with the Netflix brand. He is now Founder/Chief Strategy Officer of med-tech start-up, Curai. As a successful Durham University Computer Science graduate, Dr Hunt has reengaged with his alma mater as a founding member of Durham’s Computer Science External Advisory Board. Through this advisory capacity, Dr Hunt has taken a fundamental role in shaping the future of Computer Science at Durham, bringing together other senior tech leaders to direct the Department and to launch innovative programmes such as the AMI Women in Technology Scholarships, named for inspirational young tech leader Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE
Dr Hunt, said: “Today’s high-tech industry is fiercely competitive for talent, and we cannot afford to shut out 50 per cent or more of the potential from even getting to the starting gate. Women make up just 15 per cent of Computer Science graduates – a figure that continues to fall – and this cries out for correction.
“My education at Durham University was a key stepping-stone to the success that I have been fortunate to enjoy in my career and I want to maximise the opportunities for those who follow. I hope my gift will inspire others – in industry and in education – to cultivate future generations of innovation and leadership from all walks of life.”
Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE, Durham University Computer Science Advisory Board member and CEO of Stemettes said: “The issue of diversity in tech is systemic and universities can play a huge part in modelling inclusive cultures and practices for schools and industry to follow.
“Underrepresentation is about attraction and pipeline, but also retention. I’m pleased to see Durham taking a proactive approach and prioritising inclusivity, and am proud to be part of the University’s AMI Women in Technology programme, which we will be able to expand significantly with Neil’s generous support.”
Dr Hunt’s donation will have a transformative impact on the future of Computer Science at Durham, attracting and supporting more young women into technology and equipping students with the skills they need to be the industry leaders of tomorrow.
Professor Gordon Love, Head of Computer Science, said: “Neil’s gift will be transformational to Computer Science at Durham, and we’re immensely grateful for his support as a valued member of our advisory board and as a donor to the University.
“The Hunt Programme will be pivotal in helping us to create vital scholarship support, ensuring talented students from all backgrounds can study Computer Science here and access formative industry experiences which will shape their future careers.
“Programmes such as our AMI Women in Technology scholarships would not have been possible without the immeasurable support of Neil and his fellow alumni, and it has been truly inspiring to have industry leaders of this remarkable calibre working with us to tackle this ubiquitous issue of diversity in tech.”
Full breakdown of the Hunt donation
The Hunt donation will have an impact on two crucial goals: attracting exceptional talent and building a diverse and dynamic student community at the university, and enhancing the career prospects of Durham graduates and developing their leadership skills.
Funding from the Hunt donation will support four key areas of development:
– The Anne-Marie Imafidon (AMI) Women in Technology Scholarships – attracting, developing, and supporting more young women in Computer Science.
– The Hunt Scholarships – attracting the best and brightest students to Durham regardless of their economic background, and delivering outreach events to engage underrepresented areas with computer science technology.
– Careers & Industry programme – giving students unparalleled opportunities to undertake meaningful career opportunities in global tech roles, cultivating future tech leaders with hands-on employability skills.
– Global College internships – supporting students specifically from Neil’s Durham University college – Collingwood – to undertake ambitious internship experiences through the college’s prestigious alumni network.