St John’s College, Cambridge, will, from this October, provide those students from the poorest backgrounds with a sum of £9,750 in the form of a grant to replace the maintenance grants scrapped by David Cameron’s Government in September.
Cambridge News reported that the ‘studentship’ will run for five years on a trial basis before becoming a permanent feature if it is successful.
Senior tutor Dr Matthias Dörrzapf said: “We believe that a student who is capable of making the most of a place at the university should be able to benefit from a complete educational experience regardless of their financial circumstances.” He added: “We are taking a step towards meeting our longer-term ambition to guarantee that every student capable of studying here is able to do so and fully supported from start to finish.”
Alumni donations have been able to fund the new access initiative, providing financial support to cover living expenses, expected to cost up to £145,680 in the forthcoming academic year. Similar to the existing awarding criteria of the Cambridge Bursary Scheme, the John’s ‘Studentship’ fund will be available to students who come from families where income is lower than £25,000.
The college has also declared that it will release a new scheme of summer bursaries to select students who fall into a much higher household income bracket of £66,154.
One student at Queens’ commented:“without maintenance grants, studying at Cambridge would have simply been unaffordable for myself and many of my peers. The Government is lumbering low income students with yet more debt and pushing a good education out of reach for many.”
Maintenance grants were scrapped by Chancellor George Osbourne last September, with the argument that there was a basic injustice in forcing taxpayers to fund grants when the recipients would be likely to earn a lot more than them in the future. He revealed that they totalled a cost of £1.57 billion to the taxpayer.
The axing of the maintenance grants were decried as “frightening and undemocratic” by some politicians, and will impact more than half a million of the poorest students living in England. Paul Blomfield, Labour MP for Sheffield Central, gave a strongly worded criticism of the way the motion was passed in the House, saying: “No mention was made in the Conservative manifesto of ending those grants. “Is it therefore not completely unacceptable to make that fundamental change by the back door?
When the new maintenance grant system begins in September 2016, those away from home in the capital can receive up to £10,702. This will then have to be repaid once graduate income exceeds £21,000.