All the best — Cambridge's Student Support Initiative seeks to raise £500m to support current and future generations of students

All the best — Cambridge's Student Support Initiative seeks to raise £500m to support current and future generations of students

Contact us
to discuss gift opportunities

  • Group of undergraduate students sitting on steps
    Photo: University of Cambridge, Nick Saffell

Dr Mark Wormald is Secretary of the Senior Tutors’ Committee and Co-Chair of the Student Support Initiative

"In October 2018, Vice-Chancellor Stephen J Toope announced an ambitious £500m fundraising initiative to support current and future generations of Cambridge students — the Cambridge Student Support Initiative (SSI). For those of us who had been working with colleagues across Collegiate Cambridge to distil the priorities and principles of this programme for almost two years, it was a bracing moment of irreversible commitment, as well as a statement of intent. 

But in the months since, thanks to the generosity of our alumni, significant progress has been made towards the Vice-Chancellor’s vision of a Collegiate University that is truly open to the best students. Collaboration has been key. Collegiate Cambridge represents more than 30 institutions, each with their own unique characters and traditions; working together is essential to ensuring we are able to offer all our students the best support, whichever their College or subject. 

So what does the SSI comprise? There are three core elements. For some years we have recognised the need to add to our capacity to attract the world’s best research students — postgrads — against ever stiffer competition from universities in North America, Europe and Asia. We urgently need more fully-funded PhD studentships to bring them to Cambridge. And there’s another problem. Student loans deter too many from applying for the Master’s courses, which in some subjects make the bridge to doctoral study. Being genuinely open to the best means that access to higher degrees must not be limited to those who are sure they can afford it. 

Second, we must have the systems in place to identify and admit the very best undergraduates, including those who have suffered real socio-economic and educational disadvantage — and the means to offer the financial support they need to thrive here. This involves being as open and as clear as we can be in explaining the real benefits of studying at Cambridge to prospective applicants, and in ensuring that our current students know we can meet individual need consistently and fairly. 

All these initiatives are in pursuit of a single shared aim: to make Cambridge the most diverse and open community of talents it can be.

Dr Mark Wormald

The extraordinary generosity of David and Claudia Harding’s £100m gift to the University and St Catharine’s, announced last term, has already made a huge difference to our capacity to provide financial support to the best. It can also address financial need. Part of the gift is being channelled into what we are calling the Harding Challenge. We are working together on proposals whereby funds raised by Colleges for their own students would release a matching sum into a new Intercollegiate Fund. All these initiatives are in pursuit of a single shared aim: to make Cambridge the most diverse and open community of talents it can be to support undergraduates in greatest need across Cambridge. 

But we also recognise a third, overarching priority: the wellbeing and mental health of our students. The brilliance of our current generation of undergraduates and postgraduates does not protect them from the pressures of today’s world places on young people. We know how much Cambridge has to offer beyond supervision rooms, lecture theatres, libraries and laboratories. We need to make sure that these opportunities — cultural, sporting, or just the space for quiet restorative reflection — continue to help our students find a balance between life and work and are not crowded out by anxieties, perfectionism or imposter syndrome. 

We know from recent surveys that we have work to do here. Together, students, the University and Colleges have shaped a strategy that has prompted us to review, reinterpret and update our means of pastoral and welfare support, ensuring both that services do not overlap and that gaps are removed. In addition to responding to individual need, we are taking a proactive public health approach to these challenges, informed by leading research on both sides of the Atlantic and working in partnership with Universities UK. We want our students to be as well equipped as they can be for their life as global citizens beyond, as well as at, Cambridge, so this work is essential. 

All these initiatives are in pursuit of a single shared aim: to make Cambridge the most diverse and open community of talents it can be, drawn from every corner of the UK and the world. We want to be as open as we can all be about our collegiate University’s extraordinary strengths and wrinkles, and we recognise that, so far as our students are concerned, we must unite. That, of course, means working, as we will be over the next five years, with our extended community of alumni and friends. Your support will make all the difference."

— Dr Mark Wormald, Secretary of the Senior Tutors’ Committee and Co-Chair of the Student Support Initiative

To take advantage of the Harding Challenge now, and multiply the power of your donation, please contact your College.

Find out more

To learn more about our ambitions for student support, please contact:

Andrew Paterson

Senior Associate Director — Student Support

andrew.paterson@admin.cam.ac.uk

+44 (0)1223 332288

This article was first published in CAM (Cambridge Alumni Magazine) Easter Term 2019, Issue 87.

Related impact stories

Philanthropic giving is at the heart of the success of the Collegiate University, enabling us to make discoveries that change the world and to ensure that our students receive an unrivalled education.

Decorative
Philanthropic impact story
“Like the women who study here, our buildings are innovative and impressive,” says Fiona Duffy, Development Director of Murray Edwards College. “But even buildings that have won architectural awards need renovating from time to time to meet the needs of the next generation of students.”
Matt Mahmoudi portrait photo in black and white
Philanthropic impact story
I am the proud holder of the first Jo Cox PhD Studentship in Refugee and Migration Studies at Pembroke College. Jo was an inspirational Cambridge graduate who was prepared to ask big questions and to speak on behalf of those who had no voice.

Giving opportunities

Philanthropic giving is at the heart of the success of the Collegiate University, enabling us to make discoveries that change the world and to ensure that our students receive an unrivalled education.

A group of Chemistry students
The Department of Chemistry’s Next Generation Studentships programme offers full scholarships to the brightest young people who don't qualify for other scholarships, which are increasingly restricted to particular areas of research or specific groups of students.
Graduating students at General Admission, 2012
The Cambridge Bursary Scheme, run by the University's Student Registry, offers many UK and EU students studying for their first degree financial support in the form of non-repayable bursaries, the value of which is dependent on their household income.