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The Magdalene Bursary Scheme

The Magdalene Bursary Scheme was introduced in 2012 in response to the tripling of university fees for home students.

The Magdalene Bursary Scheme has been a great success and hundreds of our students have benefitted over the years from the generous bursaries the College is able to offer thanks to the support from donations.

The Cambridge Bursary Scheme (CBS) is one of the most generous student bursary schemes in the country and it ensures that every student from a financially challenged background can be certain of a basic level of support across collegiate Cambridge. The Magdalene Bursary Scheme enhances the primary level of the CBS significantly.

Magdalene Members who choose to fund full named bursaries will know from reading the College annual reports that our enhanced bursaries enable students to make the most of student life and all Collegiate Cambridge has to offer. 

We hope you will find the information below of interest and note the extent of the impact that philanthropy makes to Magdalene students.

The Magdalene Bursary Scheme in Numbers

The College is supporting more students than ever before and the Magdalene Bursary Scheme’s expenditure has nearly doubled over the last ten years to £319,500 in 2020/21.

The Magdalene Bursary Scheme by the numbers

'Named' Bursaries

Many of our undergraduate bursaries have names attached to them to recognise an individual, couple or family who have chosen to fully fund a bursary, or in recognition of somebody whom a number of donors have chosen to honour by contributing, for example, to the Lisa and Duncan Robinson Bursary Fund or the Rowan and Jane Williams Bursary Fund.

Named donors have supported 128 undergraduates between 2012 and 2021 and thanks to these generous donations, the College is now supporting more students than at any point since the Cambridge Bursary Scheme was introduced in 2012.

Number of Magdalene Students supported by named donors

Number of Magdalene students supported by named donors

Since the introduction of the Cambridge Bursary Scheme, we have awarded in excess of £1.4 million in ‘named’ bursaries to undergraduate students, which would simply not have been possible without the generosity of our Members and Friends.

Of these, 84% have been full bursaries awarded to students coming from families with household incomes of up to £26,000 a year (financial data assessed externally by the Students Loans Company).

Full and Partial Bursaries Supported

Full and partial bursaries supported by a ‘named’ donor

Bursaries in the Time of Covid: The Student Experience

All of our students have experienced serious disruption in Easter Term 2020 and in the current academic year; those in receipt of bursaries have been no exception. A normal year might see Magdalene students using their bursaries to cover both ‘basic’ (rent, food, books) and ‘added extra’ (clubs, societies, sports and social events) elements of their student experience. The challenges of lockdown learning have meant that the support has been meaningful in new and different ways; regardless, the students have all hugely appreciated the flexibility afforded to them by this vital support. From the first lockdown in March 2020, all lectures and supervisions were moved online. Although the vast majority of students returned in Michaelmas 2020 and some in-person supervisions and laboratory sessions were once again possible albeit, in limited form, most students have not been able to return to College until this term, Easter term 2021, due to lockdown since late December 2020. Meanwhile, those who returned to Magdalene because they were unable to study at home have been obliged to stay over the vacations rather than residing exclusively through the eight-week terms.

Study essentials

More than ever before, students have needed to purchase, maintain and upgrade their own computers in order to participate in online supervisions and to watch recorded lectures. This is true both of students resident in Cambridge and those who have needed to study remotely. Moreover, those students who are clinical medics need access to transport, as accommodation outside Cambridge is only provided for them if their placements are particularly distant.

Students resident in College have had access to the College Library’s Click and Collect service and the University Library has made chapters available through scans on-demand and by subscribing to more ebooks than ever before. However, where students require full texts which are not available online, the only way of accessing them from home is by purchasing them online.

Cost of living

As ever, many of our students use their bursaries to cover their basic living costs like rent and food. Many have now returned to Cambridge because they do not have suitable study environments at home, may live in cramped accommodation or in order to limit risk to family members. In these cases, they will have needed to cover additional costs from only living in College during term time and during the vacation as students have been required to remain resident.

My experiences of Cambridge, that were made possible by [my donor’s] financial contributions, are something I will use, benefit from and cherish for the rest of my life.

- Laura, former HSPS student

Supporting Bursaries

Please do get in touch if you have questions about funding a named bursary or recommencing support; whatever the query, we will do our best to help!

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