Image of A Jesus College student standing by a door entrance and talking to a group of visitors

£100m University bursary scheme launched to support students facing financial pressures

From October this year, new undergraduates joining Jesus College will have access to an enhanced University of Cambridge bursary scheme to help with living costs.

Over the next ten years, more than £100 million will be awarded to students from across all Cambridge Colleges. It is intended to enable students to enjoy the benefits a Cambridge education offers and to participate fully in academic life.

The new scheme is being made possible through 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. Far 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 (currently it’s 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.

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.

Dr Richard Anthony, Jesus College’s Bursar, has been involved in bringing the new scheme to fruition. He said: “This will be one of the most generous schemes in the country and will mean many more students can benefit from financial support. I would encourage any prospective students, particularly those who are worried about the financial impact of studying at Jesus College, to find out more.”

Dr Geoff Parks, Senior Tutor at Jesus College, said: “By enabling recipients to participate fully in university life, the enhanced bursary scheme will enable our students to maintain a healthy life-work balance and make the most of their time at Cambridge.”

The University of Cambridge's Vice-Chancellor, 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.”

Under the new scheme, bursaries of up to £3,500 per year will be given to new undergraduate 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.

The 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. The amount they receive is a grant and 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.

This piece is based on an article first published on the University of Cambridge's website.