Research excellence at the University of Kent

School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research

The Research Excellence Framework also assesses the impact that the research has outside academia. The case studies below are a selection of the research submitted by the School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research.

Million-pound donors

Dr Beth Breeze

Beth Breeze’s research into rich donors in the UK revealed that most charitable-giving decisions are taste-based, rather than needs-based. People tend to support causes that they have a personal interest in, or connection to, rather than backing the most objectively ‘worthy’ causes. Other significant factors include the belief that contributions will make a tangible difference, and confidence in the charity’s competence to fulfil its mission.

Media coverage of philanthropy tends to focus on those seeking to set global agendas by funding international development, global health and environmental issues. However, Breeze (above) also found that many donors are motivated by more traditional factors, such as religious beliefs, social duty and a desire to help in their local area.

The research provided other unique insights into changing forms of charitable giving associated with wealthy donors, and generated new data describing the scale of this phenomenon. It has been influential for policymakers in charities and the UK Government. The data was also used by the ‘Give it back George’ campaign, which persuaded the Government to drop its proposal in the 2012 budget to cap tax relief on charitable donations.

Dr Beth Breeze

In 2013, the website named Breeze as one of the ‘50 Most Influential’ people in fundraising.

Informing drug policy

Professor Alex Stevens

Research on the effects of drug decriminalisation in Portugal by Alex Stevens has shifted the international debate. Stevens’ research, in collaboration with Dr Caitlin Hughes (University of New South Wales), argues that decriminalisation is a viable and non-harmful approach to substance misuse. In addition, his research examined alternatives to imprisonment for drug-dependent offenders. The findings produced new evidence to support the expansion of treatment for such offenders.

Stevens’ work on decriminalisation has made a crucial contribution to evidence-based policy in this contentious area. His study has been widely discussed in the media, referred to by politicians in policy debates, and cited by campaigning NGOs such as Release, as well as institutions such as the Global Commission on Drug Policy, UK Drug Policy Commission and the British Medical Association.

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Last Updated: 11/02/2015

Banner photo (c) Simon Tollington, DICE