At King's, our mission has always been to attract the very best students - regardless of background - and support them here to achieve to the very highest of their ability. However, for too many of the most able students who could thrive at Cambridge, there are still real or perceived barriers to coming here.
The College's new Student Access and Support Initiative aims to improve equality of access and opportunity, and to help combat entrenched social and economic disadvantage. The Initiative will be the catalyst for seven areas of permanent change that will transform our ability to improve access and ensure that students with talent and tenacity will be welcomed, valued and able to thrive here.
On 1 December 2018 the King’s Campaign was launched with the announcement of a £33.6 million gift from an alumnus, to kick-start the College’s transformational initiative to improve access for disadvantaged students. Inspired by the College’s commitment to overturning barriers for students from disadvantaged social or economic backgrounds, the gift will finance the building of two new halls of residence, with the rental income recycled to feed into a new student access and support fund.
With this remarkable investment as seed funding, the Student Access and Support Initiative (SASI) aims to:
- increase the undergraduate intake from 130 to 140 per year, reserving 10 places solely for talented students from disadvantaged backgrounds
- support students through the new University transition programme which is expected to begin in autumn 2021
- launch a ‘post-offer, pre-A-level’ tuition scheme to correct the academic support deficit for state-school applicants. This is needed to reduce the much higher incidence of state school offer-holders failing to attain their required A-level grades when compared with those in private education
- offer an intensive bridging programme over summer to improve attainment for offer holders who just make or just miss their offer grades, to introduce them to the teaching methods and environment of a Cambridge College
- intensify our access and outreach work to widen participation without academic compromise, and work with other leaders in the field to increase applications from high-achieving pupils who might otherwise not apply to Cambridge
- provide annual bursaries of £3,000 to undergraduates from economically disadvantaged backgrounds to ensure these students can fully partake in College life and accept summer internships that help them further their career goals
- establish a new King’s graduate bursary fund to address disadvantages in graduate opportunities
Through the rental income from the new student accommodation, funding will be created for 10 additional places for disadvantaged students each year. Where academically merited, half of these places will be given to students who have undertaken the Transition Year Scheme (see below). The new student accommodation being built will cover the additional spatial demands brought by the places.
Each new student costs the College around £4,500 per year. After the third year of the Initiative, a full complement of 30 students would thus cost the College £135,000 each year. This money will entirely be made available through the rental income from the new student accommodation.
A Transition Year, without cost to students, is designed to widen access for those pupils who show academic promise but who – through lack of support or encouragement – would be likely to experience difficulties in the University environment without a prior period of acculturation. It is hoped that a number of graduates from the Transition Year would then go on to fill a portion of the 10 additional places for disadvantaged students each year.
Running from 2021, the Transition Year is a University-wide initiative of which King's is a part. The cost to the College will be £70,000 per year, which will also be entirely funded through the rental income from the new student accommodation.
Post-offer support for A-Level students from low attainment schools will be provided as part of Project Access. The scheme pairs current students with applicants from low attainment schools in a mentoring set-up which allows the applicants to benefit from the recent experiences of close contemporaries.
King's is already involved with Project Access as part of a joint initiative alongside Christ's College. At present the scheme runs at a cost of £75 per student, but an additional £15,000 per year will allow us to fund an expanded programme of mentoring and one-to-one tuition. This cost will also be funded through the rental income from the new student accommodation.
A Bridging Programme will be created for potentially gifted students from low attainment schools who have missed their academic offers by a small margin. The Programme is designed to help those students get up to speed academically before matriculating, via an intensive pre-sessional course. This will give the College increased confidence in accepting those students who have narrowly missed their requisite grades, whilst also reducing the students' potential struggles later during their time at University.
The Bridging Programme will initially run as a pilot scheme involving other Cambridge Colleges, beginning in 2020. The cost of the scheme to King's will be £57,000 each year, with additional funding from other partners. This cost, too, will be entirely funded through the rental income from the new student accommodation.
Additional rental income not already apportioned to specific access projects will be used to continue and expand our outreach programme, giving us greater flexibility and opportunity to develop relationships with schools, to run workshops and open days for students from under-represented backgrounds, to create promotional materials and to evaluate our impact in order to improve our methods in future. This rental income will equate to an initial fund of £125,000 over two years, followed by an annual sum of £23,000.
To fully support our planned outreach work, we would like to transform the Access and Outreach Fund into an endowed fund of £3,000,000, giving us an annual income of £100,000 with which to expand and improve our programme of activity. Since £23,000 will already be made available through rental income, we are still looking to raise £77,000 annually, or an endowed equivalent of £2,313,000.
As part of the Student Access and Support Initiative, the 30 additional undergraduate students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds will, on top of the Cambridge Bursary, receive annual grants of up to £3,000 to help level the playing field and allow all students to fully benefit from everything that Cambridge offers. To fund this, £90,000 of the annual rental income from the new student accommodation will be ring-fenced for this purpose.
Through additional fundraising, we would like to expand this initiative to all current students who are in full receipt of the Cambridge Bursary, which over recent years has averaged 52 students per year.
Student hardship at graduate level is an acute problem. There are now fewer grants available and less student loan availability, penalising students from socially and economically disadvantaged backgrounds in particular. As part of the Student Access and Support Initiative, we would like to be able to offer grants of up to £3,000 per year to economically disadvantaged graduates, thereby matching our offer to undergraduate students.
The major donation towards SASI will itself generate £75,000 each year, allowing us to provide grants to at least 25 graduate students each year, out of the 260 who are currently enrolled at King's. Through the fundraising campaign, we would like to double this to an annual fund of £150,000 in order that all those graduate students who require financial assistance can get it.
King’s has among the highest percentage of state-school educated undergraduates of any Oxford or Cambridge College (77%), but there is still so much more to be done to ensure greater access to Cambridge for talented students from less-privileged backgrounds. We believe we have a social and moral obligation to reach, support and fund as many of the best students as possible from all backgrounds. Contributions to our Student Access and Support Initiative have the potential to truly transform young lives.