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Cambridge plans free degrees for poorest students
August 20, 2018
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LONDON: The University of Cambridge is considering rolling out fully-funded “debt-free” studentships for its poorest students following criticism about a lack of diversity at the prestigious institution.

Some students “with greatest financial need” could have both their tuition fees and living costs covered by the university, according to documents obtained by the student newspaper Varsity.

The university may target students who had received free school meals as part of a wider initiative to improve access to the most disadvantaged groups - which is set to be launched in the autumn.

It comes as Cambridge and other elite universities have been in the spotlight for failing to admit sufficient numbers of students from ethnic minorities and poorer backgrounds.

Ministers and the Office for Students have criticised top universities for not making enough progress after it was revealed that some Oxbridge colleges had admitted no British black students.

Details of the new scheme come in the same week that rapper Stormzy launched a scholarship to help two black British students get to Cambridge University.

The Stormzy Scholarship - which will pay the tuition fees of two students - was announced on A-level results day when thousands of students found out their grades and university places.

And now meeting minutes of a university task force, obtained through Freedom of Information requests, have revealed that Cambridge is looking to provide greater financial support for students who would usually be given the highest maintenance loans from the UK government.

Labour MP David Lammy, who has been campaigning for Oxbridge to improve access, welcomed the proposals from Cambridge, and called them “long overdue”.

Lammy, a former higher education minister, told The Independent: “The devil is in the detail though because it is clear that Cambridge will need to look closely also at other indicators.

“For example, there are significant parts of the north of England where people aren’t making their way to Cambridge.” He added that there were also ethnic communities that were underrepresented.

On the Stormzy scholarship, Lammy said: “I welcome him reaching into his pocket - but you have got to ask why Cambridge alumni have not been able to do this in the past.” “I think that the bursaries and scholarships that are available are spread too thin right across the student body,” he added.

The Independent

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