Netflix pioneer makes $3.5M donation to Durham University

We are delighted to announce that a transformative donation of $3.5M has been received from Durham University alumnus Dr Neil Hunt, former Chief Product Officer of Netflix. Dr Hunt’s gift will be used to establish the ‘Hunt Programme’ which will provide targeted scholarship, bursary, and internship support across the Department of Computer Science and Collingwood College.

Women in Tech

The Hunt Programme will have a substantial impact within Computer Science, expanding the AMI Women in Technology programme, creating new scholarships to support students from low-income and underrepresented backgrounds, and launching a pioneering new internships and industry programme to ensure our Computer Science students have access to unrivalled career opportunities across the globe.

Professor Gordon Love, Head of Computer Science, said: “Neil’s gift will be absolutely 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 fellow supporters, and it has been truly inspiring to have industry leaders of this remarkable caliber working with us to tackle this ubiquitous issue of diversity in tech.”

Anne Marie Imafidon MBE, 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 bridging the gap between schools and industry to collaboratively grow the pipeline of talented young women in the sector. I’m pleased to see this approach working at Durham, 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.”

Transformative Opportunities

This donation will also have a substantial impact on Neil’s College – Collingwood. In addition to The 1972 Club Student Opportunities and existing endowments provided to Collingwood via the Sara Pilkington Student Development Fund and College benefactor Mark Hillery, a major proportion of the donation will enhance the College’s already-thriving student development programme. It provides financial support to students undertaking developmental activities as well as bespoke opportunities for students to undertake career placements around the world.

Professor Joe Elliott, Principal of Collingwood College, commented “Neil is a role model who exemplifies the qualities of aspiration, inspiration and commitment to others that Durham University seeks to engender. His gift to Collingwood will help us to grow and sustain our burgeoning student development programme for years to come, and many of our students will have their lives changed forever as a result of his immense generosity.”

Dr Neil Hunt

Neil became the first ever Chief Product Officer of Netflix in 1999, steering the company from a nascent start-up providing an online DVD rental service to one of the largest and most recognisable streaming platforms in the world. He is widely credited for the development of this personalised user experience, which is now synonymous with the Netflix brand. Since leaving Netflix in 2017, Neil has gone on to co-found a machine-learning based start-up in the healthcare sector called Curai, with the mission to ‘scale the world’s best healthcare for every human being’.

As a Durham Computer Science & Electronics graduate from the 80s, Neil attributes much of his early career trajectory to the industry experiences he had access to through his Durham degree, deciding to give back to the University across areas of his own personal significance – particularly in relation to leadership and diversity in the tech sector.

Neil commented: “Today’s high-tech industry is fiercely competitive for talent, and we cannot afford to shut out 50% or more of the potential from even getting to the starting gate. Women make up just 15% 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 maximize 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.”

Durham Inspired

The University has recently launched the first, advanced phase of a major philanthropic campaign – Durham Inspired – which aims to support the next generation of inspiration and leadership at Durham University. The Durham Inspired Campaign cultivates support to enhance student opportunities and scholarships; to create an inspiring university environment through the development of University and community-related capital programmes; and to enable the pursuit of transformative research.

The Campaign is chaired by former Saatchi & Saatchi CEO, Rob Senior, who is joined on the Campaign Board by a number of senior alumni and benefactors, including newly-elected Lord Mayor of London, William Russell. The Campaign Board are working with University leadership to deliver the first phase of this initiative in partnership with the Development and Alumni Relations Office (DARO).

Neil’s campaign donation is one of the largest single gifts received in the University’s history and the largest gift ever donation to be received from the US, where the University is supported by an affiliated charity, Dunelm USA.

/Durham University Public Release. View in full here.