Inequalities on travel grants must act as a warning

Jack May 29 October 2015

After a while, the story from any college-based investigation becomes predictable. There’s almost always a discrepancy of some sort, and there’s always a situation in which students at some colleges get a very good deal whilst students at others are left slightly short-changed.

It was the case earlier this year with our investigation into college accommodation costs, it was the case in our last issue with college land ownership, and it remains the case with this week’s investigation into the travel grants awarded by colleges for students’ research purposes.

It is easy for these discrepancies to become laughable, and for us to shrug them off as obvious and inevitable.

However, in normalising the small slippages of the college system, we stop ourselves from delving into the more problematic parts.

This newspaper applauds the stated aim of new CUSU president Priscilla Mensah in aiming to pin the colleges to the mast on their academic and welfare provisions, and hopes that her efforts will be successful. Arbitrary inequalities caused by the college system must not be allowed to pervert the quality of the student experience at Cambridge.

That being said, the situation with travel grants is in many ways unique. Many of these grants come from specific donations from alumni – both living and deceased – and as such are tied to the purposes for which they were given. It would be wrong to go against the wishes of these alumni by centralising these grants, particularly when that might mean going against the wishes of the dead. For now, this college inequality must act as a warning of others elsewhere.