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‘I can’t pay my Cambridge college bill yet, I’m still waiting for my bursary’

Cambridge University distributes bursary payments far too late for students to maintain a comfortable standard of living


Cambridge University sends their bursaries out to students far too late into the term.

Given the cost of living crisis, students are unable to pay their College Bill whilst maintaining a comfortable lifestyle. A basic choice presents itself during term: pay your rent and struggle, or struggle with the knowledge that your college bill is looming in the background.

Speaking relatively, the conventional Cambridge student relies on their student finance and student maintenance loans which come in at the beginning of each term, but only is it until around week four do those eligible receive the university’s bursary payment. Many students receive Cambridge University’s standard bursary. Yes, granted, some receive more than others, but there is still a difference in one’s bank account when Sainsbury’s prices of pesto and fajita kits have drastically risen. A question I beg to ask is, can the university possibly change this?

(Image Credits: Zoe Porter)

I myself am in receipt of the bursary and I checked the date of when my College Bill was due this term in Lent, the deadline of the 3rd of February. Yet, the date of which I received my bursary payment was the 6th of February.

Upon confirming this on their financial support website page, Cambridge University confirmed that February 6th was its earliest date of payment this term. It is baffling to me that students who may not necessarily be as financially covered by their student finance or other means of scholarships are expected to bridge that gap. 

I spoke to a second year from Churchill College struggling with her finances in Michaelmas, and she asked: “Why does it genuinely take until week four for the bursary to come in? Week three feels like hell until I get to that point.”

This Camfess from Michaelmas term perfectly encapsulates the general consensus forming regarding how late bursaries are being paid to our bank accounts:

(Image Credits: @2Cam2fess, Nov 2022)

Speaking to another second year undergraduate at St John’s, she said her student finance “doesn’t cover my college bill so the bursary is needed for that… there are some restrictions with the bursary coming in half way through term, especially given now that there are so many raises in price of living in Cambridge — from May Balls to weekly shops”.

Speaking to another second year undergraduate at St John’s, she said her student finance “doesn’t cover my college bill so the bursary is needed for that… there are some restrictions with the bursary coming in half way through term, especially given now that there are so many raises in price of living in Cambridge — from May Balls to weekly shops”.

Sidge girlies can only thank their lucky stars that their new buttery has finally opened. Coffee is slightly cheaper to ease their Seeley Library essay crises.

(Image Credits: Zoe Porter)

I took it upon myself to compare our situation to the other half of Oxbridge. With my top tier investigation skills, I only managed to discover that students at Oxford University receive their bursary in the second week of every term. The proof is in the pudding: Oxford’s own website about student funding.

I mean, if Oxford University can send out their bursary payments much earlier into term, why can’t Cambridge?

The singular counterargument I shall provide for why students are obliged to wait until week four for payments, is that bursary payments of week four are used to stretch over the latter half of term. Thus, students have no choice but to wait until the halfway mark to feel slightly more financially secure. But, this should be down to the individual rather than the university in deciding how and when to spend their bursary, right?

(Image Credits: Zoe Porter)

The obvious conclusion then is that Cambridge University, whilst willing to offer us support, have seemingly failed to consider the practicalities of it.

It seems now one of the rare times I encourage us to turn to Oxford as an example.

The University of Cambridge has been contacted for comment.