Posted on October 16, 2019 by staff

Ex-Netflix head donates $3.5m to Durham University


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.

The donation will play a major part in expanding the University’s Women in Technology programme, it said, 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 used to launch the Department of Computer Science’s first Careers & Internships programme for computer science students, leveraging its global networks to give students access to transformative career opportunities in the tech sector.

Dr. Hunt became the first ever chief product officer of Netflix in 1999, steering the company through its days as a start-up.

He is largely credited for the development of its personalised user experience, and is now founder and chief strategy officer of HealthTech start-up Curai.

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.

“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,” he said.

“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 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.”

Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE, Durham University Computer Science Advisory Board member and CEO of Stemettes added: “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.”