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New Cambridge bursary scheme pioneered by Trinity

Cambridge’s new enhanced bursary scheme – providing £100 million over the next ten years to UK students – is launched today. It was pioneered by Trinity’s Senior Tutor, Professor Catherine Barnard, and the Tutorial Office, working in collaboration with other Colleges. The launch of the new bursary follows a pilot scheme largely funded by Trinity alumni donations.

The new scheme expands and improves provision under the existing Cambridge Bursary scheme meaning that more students will qualify for support since the threshold for eligibility will rise from the current maximum household income of £42,620 to £62,215. The University expects 25-30% of students will be eligible for the enhanced support (up from around 20%). Once fully rolled out, around 700 students will also qualify for an additional £1,000 because they were eligible for free school meals.

The launch of the enhanced bursary scheme follows a pilot scheme largely funded by Trinity. Research on the pilot scheme showed that students in receipt of the pilot bursaries were able to participate more fully in the academic and wider student activities Cambridge has to offer. The awards also had a positive impact on their mental wellbeing, reducing the anxieties they had about finances.

This was the experience of Trinity student Eve Simpson, who is studying Law. She welcomed the new scheme.

I come from an area of Birmingham that is in the top 1% of deprived areas on the national index. It’s really important to have a scheme like this – it really makes a difference in everyday life. It alleviates financial stress – I won’t have to ask my family for money and make decisions that seem trivial to other people  whether I can join a society or whether I can go out with my friends on one day or even whether I can buy something to aid my studies.

Eve Simpson, Law student and TCSU Access Officer

Looking back on her first year at Cambridge, when she was weighing up which student society she could afford to join and how far her money would go, Eve said the pilot scheme made all the difference. ‘It was an easy decision with the bursary’s help because I was able to say well I have got that money to enable me to do things like this.’

Professor Barnard said:

I am delighted that the pilot scheme, conducted with many Cambridge Colleges, proved successful, paving the way for a new Cambridge bursary that will benefit more students.

The enhanced bursary scheme is about removing barriers, and helping students fully participate in University life. Our evidence suggests supporting students in this way not only improves their wellbeing but ensures they can thrive while studying at Cambridge.

The new scheme, announced by the University today, is made possible by the generosity of philanthropic donations from alumni and friends of the collegiate University. The Harding Challenge, established by David and Claudia Harding as part of their £100 million gift to Cambridge and St Catharine’s College in February 2019, was designed to underpin this expansion in bursary provision.

Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge, Professor Stephen Toope, said:

This new enhanced bursary scheme, which wouldn’t be possible without the generosity of donors, will help to ease some of our students’ financial worries. The scheme’s launch means far more students will be eligible for support. This is particularly relevant now, at a time when many families’ incomes have been affected adversely by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Over the next ten years, more than £100 million will be awarded to students, across all Colleges. The additional funding, to help with living costs, will enable students to enjoy the benefits a Cambridge education offers, regardless of their personal financial circumstances.

UK students can apply to the Student Loans Company for a maintenance loan to cover basic living costs. There is widespread take-up of these loans: repayments are linked to future earnings which means they are more like a tax than conventional debt, and they are an invaluable support to making University more affordable for as many students as possible.

However, research conducted by the University suggests many students struggle to meet all their expenses because parents often can’t afford to contribute to the extent that these means-tested loans assume they will. It’s these financial gaps that the new bursary scheme will help to alleviate.

Under the new scheme, bursaries of up to £3,500 per year will be given to students from households with an assessed income of up to £62,215, without any application needed. Previously students were given support if the assessed income rose to £42,620. No awards were given above this level.

The new bursary will be tapered so those at the lower end will receive more. For example, all undergraduates from households with assessed incomes below £25,000 will receive the full amount. Those at the top end will receive £100. The amount they receive is a grant, so is non-repayable.

Awards will be further enhanced for students who join the University from local authority care or who are estranged from their families. In addition, the scheme will include a supplementary award of £1,000 per year to all low-income students who qualified for free school meals, contributing to a bursary of £4,500 in each year of their undergraduate studies.

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