opening doors to a world-class education
Meet Charlotte, Salma, Siza and Neil...
At first glance, it is a remarkable fact that of the 86 Nobel Prize-winners that Cambridge has produced since 1908, at least a third received a scholarship or a discretionary grant.
Yet for eight centuries, brilliant people have been able to come to Cambridge because enlightened people who can afford to do so have supported them. Thanks to our alumni and friends, Cambridge has produced generations of graduates who shape the world for the better.
To ensure that tomorrow's achievers and leaders can transcend financial disadvantage, and fulfil their potential for the benefit of us all, philanthropic support is more vital today than it has ever been.
Cambridge undergraduates have these things in common: brilliance, energy, an appetite for a challenge, and a desire to make their mark.
The University and Colleges are committed to the principles that no student should be deterred from applying because of financial constraints, and that no student should have to leave because of financial difficulties.
In line with this commitment, Cambridge's response to the introduction of higher tuition fees for UK students has been robust. The Cambridge Bursary Scheme exists to ensure that students from less affluent backgrounds can cover all of their living costs. The Scheme provides bursaries of up to £3,500 a year (and more for students with families who live here all year round), and covers admissions to all 31 Colleges.
Cambridge has one of the most extensive bursary schemes within the UK. In 2011/12, in addition to any grant or maintenance loan provided by the government, over 3,000 Cambridge students, i.e. over a quarter of all the University’s UK undergraduates, have been eligible for a bursary to help with their living costs, with about 45% of these bursaries being awarded at the maximum level. There is no limit to the number of bursaries awarded by the Scheme - every student who applies and meets the eligibility criteria will receive one.
The role of Cambridge supporters who understand the significance of a world-class education, and the importance of making it available to the brightest students regardless of means, is indispensible. Through gifts in support of undergraduate bursaries, made to either the University or to a College, or directly to the Isaac Newton Trust, which administers the Bursary Scheme, donors are helping to ensure that the most talented students can come to Cambridge regardless of their financial backgrounds, and thrive.
Continued philanthropic support is essential. There is no gift that has a more immediate impact than the gift that opens doors to a world-class education.
Meet Charlotte Richer (top left).
"What made Cambridge special for me," Charlotte writes, "were the people and the sense of community - the feeling of being treated as an equal and belonging to something bigger than yourself. For me, Cambridge really was a level playing field: what mattered was who you wanted to be, what you wanted to achieve. Getting a full bursary enabled me to make the most of everything that the University had to offer. My time here - so different from my preconceptions of Cambridge - has made me determined to share my experiences with students as unsure about applying to Cambridge as I was." Charlotte (Jesus, 2004) worked as an Access Officer for the Students' Union, and then for the Cambridge Admissions Office as Schools and Colleges Liaison Officer.
Meet Salma Haji (2nd left).
Salma, the first in her family to attend university and the recipient of a full bursary, has spoken eloquently about the challenges that those from lower income families face - which are not only financial in nature. "At first, there were moments of self-doubt," she has said of her early days at Cambridge. "But I quickly realised that everyone felt that way, even students from better-off backgrounds." Salma (Newnham, 2004) graduated with a 1st in Medicine and aims to become a neurosurgeon. She is keen to keep in touch with her school in Hackney, and "tell them about life at Cambridge - especially about the college system, which means that you get a lot of personal support - financial and otherwise."
Liberating, tough, exciting, enlightening, thrilling: these are some of the words that graduate students at Cambridge use to describe their experience of postgraduate study at Cambridge.
In the Government’s most recent Research Assessment Exercise, Cambridge was ranked as the UK’s best research university, and is consistently among the top five in the world in international league tables. Its graduate students pursue deep, focused and original research under the supervision of world-leading experts, with access to outstanding facilities. They form part of a vibrant community of over 6,000 people, over half of whom come from outside the UK and enrich academic life here with their invaluable perspectives. And they go on to play leading roles within their communities and professions.
It is no wonder, then, that the world’s best graduates want to come to Cambridge - and Cambridge wants to take them. The ability to offer financial support for fees, accommodation and travel lies at the heart of the University’s ability to do so. Without comprehensive support packages offered early on in the application process, top candidates will gravitate to wherever funding exists, or to the world of work, and - particularly in the case of talented people from the developing world - be simply unable to realise their potential.
Alumni and friends are playing a key role in supporting Cambridge’s graduate students and such support is more critical today than ever. Student support is a top priority across the University, for every School, Department and Faculty. There is no better investment in the leaders of the future than supporting the exceptional students who come to Cambridge to pursue postgraduate degrees.
Meet Siza Mtimbiri (2nd right)
Siza researched the impact of HIV/Aids on rural primary school children in Zimbabwe for his PhD, and has also served as President of the Graduate Union. "To be able to meet the world in one place is a rare experience that I have cherished," he has said of his experience of St Edmund’s College, where he found the international atmosphere and the support services for families and mature students, excellent. "Being in a community of learners who are leaders in the field is priceless." Siza (St Edmund’s, 2007) intends to return to Zimbabwe and work to improve its education system.
Meet Neil Myler (top right)
Meet Neil Myler (Corpus Christi, 2004), who fell in love with Cambridge, "this beautiful, brilliant place", and with linguistics. He made the transition from undergraduate work at Cambridge to reading for an MPhil, which opened up a new side of Cambridge and scholarship to him. "The idea of leaving linguistics was just too unpleasant." Immersing himself in his specialist subject as a postgraduate has been "liberating. Often as an undergraduate I’d have to stop reading something interesting, but now I can pursue things. … There are moments when I still can’t believe I’m here. Cambridge’s beauty never gets old for me."
As for the next generation of Cambridge undergraduates: many of them are currently attending schools in deprived areas. Many are unaware of their own considerable ability, or that Cambridge is - in Charlotte’s words, above - a ‘level playing field’.
The University’s engagement with keen young minds begins early, by supporting students from disadvantaged or underrepresented backgrounds, and helping them to make informed choices about higher education and their future. Numerous outreach initiatives are delivered across the University by the Cambridge Admissions Office, the Colleges, the Faculties and Departments, and the Students Union, in collaboration with other higher education schools and colleges. Extending widening participation initiatives is key to upholding the fundamental admissions policy aim of the Collegiate University.
The collegiate University is deeply committed to ensuring that the benefits of a world-class education are accessible to all with the talent to succeed here. It also reaches potential students through the outreach work of the University's great museums and collections, and of its academic faculties and departments, which have in place programmes fuelled by passionate enthusiasm and creativity, through initiatives such as the Millennium Maths and Classics projects, through Cambridge Ideas, the Science Festival and Festival of Ideas.