King’s would not be the place it is today without its diversity, and we as a College are committed to providing the same high quality experience to future King’s students as previous generations have enjoyed. As part of our central tenet of increasing access to higher education and selecting the most talented students regardless of background, we need to provide reassurance to those students that their financial position will not become unreasonable, and that they can benefit fully from the opportunities that Cambridge offers.
Increasing the support the College can provide to undergraduates and graduates alike has to be a top priority if we are to ensure that no student who would excel at King’s is prevented from doing so by his or her inability to pay fees, nor put off by the size of the debts incurred.
Whilst the balance of evidence suggests that student fees have not deterred undergraduate students from lower income families from applying to university, there is also strong evidence to suggest that – once they have arrived - students from less wealthy backgrounds are experientially disadvantaged to their peers in a number of ways, and may not be able to fully capitalise on the opportunities and circumstances available to their peers from more affluent backgrounds.
In order to mitigate this, the Cambridge Bursary provides non-repayable grants to students from households with an annual income of up to £42,000, working on a sliding scale with students from a household with an income of less than £25,000 receiving the full Bursary of £3,500 per year. Whilst the Bursary is an essential part of our package of undergraduate support, it does not go far enough. Students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds still face the acute need to obtain paid work during vacations, with the knock-on effect that opportunities available to their more privileged peers (such as unpaid or expenses-only internships, overseas travel or further study) are constrained.
To help level the playing field and allow all students to fully benefit from everything that Cambridge offers, King's is looking to expand its own offer of bursaries to students from lower income households, encouraging the very best students to apply to King’s and providing up-front support with fees and maintenance.
King’s opened doors for me, and I give back so that I can help to open doors for others.
- Alan Davison (KC 1975)
The Supplementary Exhibition Fund, fondly known as the ‘SEF’, was established in 1886 by Fellows and former students to provide financial help for undergraduate entrants, some of whom no longer could rely on their personal or family wealth to see them through their course.
Today, the SEF benefits undergraduate students who may be experiencing financial hardship, or those who may wish to undertake an activity with a financial impact which would not be possible without the College’s support. This may take the form of grants or loans to mitigate financial difficulties arising from accidents, illness and trouble at home and to provide educational materials such as books and musical instruments, as well as extra teaching.
Examples of costs funded include:
assistance with medical expenses
travel for research, conferences, auditions and interviews
materials and tools for practical coursework
travel and accommodation for family crises, such as bereavement
bridging loans to help with cashflow issues when exceptional expenses precede expected income
individual sports equipment and travel to competitions
funding for student-led workshops, seminars, conferences
extra-curricular language tuition (e.g. to increase access to non-english resources)
The SEF is in effect the student hardship safety net. The Financial Tutor makes grants to individuals, on request, for occasional and exceptional costs that would otherwise cause hardship. This may range from a few tens of pounds for a train ticket, to several thousand pounds for a term’s maintenance.
For over 130 years the SEF has embodied the spirit of King’s, and the pledge that the College makes – that no student should have their studies jeopardised by financial need. It remains the foundation stone of our own student support package, confirmed by the several thousand Members who have received help from the fund during their time here.
Whilst the formal teaching of graduate students is the responsibility of the Faculties and Departments, Colleges provide valuable, informal academic benefits for graduates, offering them a peer support network, a forum in which to present new research, and the chance to develop teaching expertise through supervisions. With so many of our graduate students self-funding, it is vital that we can provide additional support for costs which would otherwise hinder both their engagement with their studies and their future progression in their chosen area of interest.
With Cambridge being a globally important research university, we need to continue to make King's an attractive place for excellent graduate students, and to encourage enquiry without adding financial pressures. In line with our bursary offer to undergraduates, we would like to be able to offer up-front bursaries of up to £3,000 per year for those graduate students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds who might otherwise not be able to afford to take on a postgraduate degree, or who might find it difficult to make ends meet over the course of their study.
The College also recognises the additional funding concerns placed on graduate students, particularly regarding the need to conduct necessary fieldwork and research, and to attend academic seminars and conferences, which are increasingly seen as essential for further progression within academia but which often prove financially prohibitive to a large tranche of graduate students.
Established in 2013, the Graduate Students Fund has the express purpose of providing general support to alleviate financial hardship within the graduate community. Like the Supplementary Exhibition Fund for undergraduates, the Graduate Students Fund exists primarily to ensure that students should not feel the need to take paid employment to support themselves, recognising that it is a considerable distraction from study and reduces the opportunities for the academic and social interaction which makes King’s unique.
This fund significantly improves life here for our graduates by enabling them to fund vital research expenses and attend seminars and conferences which in turn raises their profiles nationally and internationally.
- Tim Flack, Senior Tutor
In order to ensure that our students can make the most of the opportunities for the academic and social interaction which makes King's unique, we must provide any undergraduate or graduate the help and support that they might require to fully immerse themselves in the experience of life at the College.
For our undergraduates, we feel it is essential that we become more proactive in offering annual grants which supplement our current support package to students without existing financial means. Our ongoing initiatives take us much of the way in this process, but we need to ensure parity and fairness across the board.
For our graduates, we aspire to ensure that all of our students have access to the support that can both mitigate crisis and times of hardship, and enhance the academic and social experience, providing a suitable environment for these brilliant young minds to thrive.