Going to any University costs money and getting your head around what you have to pay, when you have to pay, and where the money comes from can seem daunting. However, contrary to popular opinion, Cambridge is one of the cheapest places to be a student, with academic, transport and social costs fairly low compared to many universities. The following pages break down the costs of being at Cambridge, so you know exactly what’s involved.
As I’m sure you’re all aware, the tuition fees debacle has been more or less permanently in the news for quite a while now. Students starting university after 1 September 2012 are now on a new student finance scheme. Cambridge tuition fees for “home” students have been £9,000 per year for all undergraduate courses which started after 2012-13.
The important thing to realise is that you don’t have to pay these whilst you are a student, but that you can take out a loan which is repaid in small instalments once you are earning over £21,000. It’s clichéd, but it really is an investment in your future, and you’re likely to see a massive financial return in increased earnings, as well as experiencing the best three (or more!) years of your life.
Fees for EU students are the same as for home students. However, EU students will not have their fees paid for through their LEA in the same way that UK students do. If you are an EU student and need advice about paying your fees, get in touch with the education department of your government. If you are from outside the EU you will be classified as an overseas student. Fees for overseas students are higher and details can be found on the University website.
Grants, Loans and Bursaries
Government Maintenance Grant
This is a means-tested grant of up to £3,387 for UK students which is only available for students starting their courses before the 2016-17 academic year. Due to recent changes to student finance under the current government, 2015-16 will be the last academic year where the UK government offers a maintenance grant. You will not have to pay back any of the maintenance grant. The means- testing takes into account your household income. Students whose household income is £25,000 or less will get the maximum grant. If your household income is between £25,000 and ~£42,000, you will receive a reduced government grant. Importantly, those receiving the government maintenance grant will continue to do so for the duration of their course – providing that their household income does not change significantly.
See this web page for more information:
The Cambridge Bursary (or Newton Trust Bursary) is also a means-tested grant of up to £3,500 (as of 2016) for each year of your degree if your household income falls bellow £42,600. Again, you will not have to pay it back. You will receive information about the bursary in your first couple of weeks, but every student who qualifies for a government maintenance grant will also receive a Cambridge Bursary (money towards your College bill in the first two of every three terms each year). There is no additional assessment, and you should only need to provide notification of your LEA assessment. If you receive the full government grant, you will be given a Cambridge Bursary. If you receive less from the government grant, your bursary will be determined on a sliding scale based on household income. If you receive funding from additional sources, the amount given to you by the Cambridge Bursary will decrease accordingly.
For full details see the Reporter dealing with scholarships and grants (available in the library and from Heffers bookshop) or see this web page:
There are also student loans available to help with living costs. Maintenance loans are repayable at the same rate of interest as inflation, calculated from when you start your course. Like your fees, you will only start repaying your loan after you graduate and are earning £21,000/year or more. There is also some respite from fees repayment, so that you can take ‘repayment breaks’ in the future, if, say, you plan to save to put down a mortgage on a house.
By now you will probably have sent off an application to your LEA for assessment of your parent’s contribution to the fees, or chosen the non-income assessed loan. You apply for the student loan at the same time as the assessment for contribution to tuition fees. You’ll receive the first installment of your loan during Freshers’ Week (they normally arrive on the Tuesday), after College have confirmed your arrival.
Make sure you have all relevant documents with you:
Passport, National Insurance number, and also an alternative form of photo ID just in case you need it.
The college bank details for payment of College bills are:
Barclays Bank plc.
Sort code: 20-17-19
Account number: 80055565
Account name: St John’s College, Cambridge.
SWIFT BIC: BARCGB22
Freshers have to pay their College bill, which you will receive at the end of August, when you first arrive in college. You can do this by cash, debit card, cheque or direct transfer. If you need to wait for your maintenance loan to come through before paying the bill, you will just need to show your student finance paperwork and fill out a late payment form on arrival. If you envisage any other difficulties in paying your bill, get advice from the Accounts Office ASAP (+44 (0) 1223 339357 / Accounts@joh.cam.ac.uk). The pre-payment bill is effectively a deposit so that you don’t have to pay for your final term here and covers one term’s College and University fees, accommodation and kitchen fixed charges.
For the rest of your time here, you will be billed retrospectively. So everything you owe for Michaelmas term will be billed to you during the Christmas holidays for you to repay when you return in January.
Termly College bills typically contain:
- University Fee – (although this is paid direct to the College through your LEA)
- Buttery Charge – the amount you’ve spent on your buttery card (e.g snacks in the bar, meals, hall tickets etc)
- Room Charge – your termly rent
- KFC – Kitchen Fixed Charge. A set amount paid by everyone to subsidise the Buttery and Hall and keep meal prices low
- Network Charge – cost of keeping your room computer online. This is approximately £20 per term
- Cambridge Bursary – if you are entitled to one, the amount you were awarded is subtracted from the amount you owe
Even if you don’t receive Bursary money, you can always see your tutor if you’re in difficulties. If you find that they don’t have the information you need then go straight to the Senior Tutor. John’s is incredibly lucky to have many means of financial assistance for undergraduates, so don’t hesitate to ask if you are in difficulty. St John’s has a policy that no student should ever feel pressured to leave their course for financial reasons. If you find yourself in trouble, there will be someone to help you out. St John’s has a very generous hardship fund, which can give out money on a case-by-case basis. If, for any reason, you encounter unforeseen financial difficulties, you will not be left to handle it on your own.
College provides grants for books, travel (both academic and non-academic) and extra-curricular activities – your Director of Studies should be able to advise you on what are available, and application forms are available from the Accounts office. Keep receipts for all these things and then deductions are taken off your College Bill.
The Learning and Research Fund is available to help students towards half the costs of the purchase of books, periodicals, software, hard- ware, equipment, teaching aids and towards the full costs of approved course related or research related activities such as conferences, workshops, summer schools, summer research programmes, language courses. This includes refunding 50% of the cost of a laptop, if it is purchased just before going to university for the purpose of studying.
Choosing a Bank
Ideally, you’ll need to have chosen and opened a student bank account before you come to Cambridge for your first year. That way your loan can pop right into your account when you get it. However, don’t worry if you can’t do it early, many people leave it until the beginning of Freshers’ Week. You might want your account to be based in Cambridge rather than at home, so you can see a manager used to dealing with student finance (and lack of it!). Here’s not the place to list the virtues of all the banks available, but there are a few things you should be aware of.
(a) Overdrafts- the amounts offered vary, as do their interest rates. Choose carefully! Most have 0% interest on their student account overdrafts, but be aware that this only lasts for a certain amount of time after you graduate!
(b) Perks and freebies- these vary from free railcards to Amazon vouchers. However, they don’t necessarily mean you’re getting a better deals so do your research!