DURHAM University has received a $3.5m donation to support diversity and future generations of leadership in technology.

The donation was 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, 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 under-represented 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 and internships programme for computer science students, leveraging the university’s global networks to give students access to transformative career opportunities.

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 streaming platforms in the world. He is largely credited for the development of this personalised user experience, said to be synonymous with the Netflix brand.

He said: “‘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.”

Anne-Marie Imafidon, 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. “Under representation 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.”