Cambridge to reconsider cutting bursaries to fund fee waiver

Senior academics at the University of Cambridge will rethink a proposal to create a large tuition fee waiver for poor students by slashing bursaries after arguments against the plan were heard by the institution’s governing council.

February 15, 2011

The proposals, put forward by a Cambridge working group, had recommended that the university charge the maximum £9,000 tuition fee in 2012-13 but alleviate the impact on poor students by offering them a discount of £3,000 a year.

However, students were angry that the current maximum bursary of £3,400 would be cut by more than half, to £1,625, to fund the scheme. They argued that the university’s focus on fee waivers would save the government money at students’ expense.

Yesterday, the university council agreed to propose a fee of £9,000 but did not rubber-stamp the working group’s detailed plan on student support.

It backed a total support package of £4,600 for poor students but did not specify the split between bursary and fee waiver.

The proposal – which will also be debated by college heads this weekend – is expected to be officially framed in the form of a “grace” before academics have the opportunity to vote in the Regent House, the institution’s parliament.

Rahul Mansigani, president of the Cambridge University Students’ Union, said: “We are delighted that the university has backed away from its proposal to slash the money given to students.

“Cambridge’s maintenance bursaries are hugely important to thousands of Cambridge students who depend on them, as well as to potential applicants.”

A spokeswoman for Cambridge said: “University council has discussed the issues of the tuition fee and access agreement. These will now be debated by members of the colleges committee on 19 February. Thereafter, members of the Regent House will have the opportunity to vote in a ballot.”

Meanwhile, Imperial College London has revealed it also intends to charge fees of £9,000 in the 2012-13 academic year.

A statement posted on the institution’s website says its governing body, the Court of Imperial College London, met on Friday when the plan was announced.

In a message to staff issued today, Sir Keith O’Nions, Imperial’s rector, says: “To maintain the excellence of the education we provide to students it is our intention, subject to agreement by the Office for Fair Access, to set fees at £9,000 for Home and European Union students for 2012 entry.”

He adds that Imperial still has “a way to go” before deciding what forms of financial aid would be offered to attract poorer students, but these would be announced in due course.

simon.baker@tsleducation.com

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