Sustaining a remarkable success story

5th October 2018 in Alumni, News and Events, People, Student News

Students on the lawn of Churchill CollegeChurchill is a remarkable place in many ways.

Outward looking, modern, open, it has always enjoyed a more relaxed atmosphere than many other colleges and is widely known to have one of the highest proportions of undergraduate entrants from the state sector amongst Oxbridge colleges.

Churchill also has a significant number of students from extremely challenging financial backgrounds and these students thrive at the College. As outlined by Richard Partington, the College’s Senior Tutor, ‘If you look at students from disadvantaged social and educational backgrounds nationally, they tend to perform less well at university than students with the same level of ability at entry who come from more advantaged backgrounds. But at Churchill this disadvantaged group have bucked this trend, often outperforming the Churchill average in exams at a time when the College’s academic performance has been exceptionally strong.’ Sustaining how well this group of students has done at Churchill is now a major College priority to be addressed with the help of our alumni. Richard Partington met with the Development Office earlier in the summer to explain why. 

The College provides excellent bursaries via the Cambridge Bursary Scheme. In addition to these bursaries, the College has also been able to provide targeted top-up bursaries of £2,000 a year for students from the very poorest backgrounds, many of whom have family incomes below £20k, £10k or even below £5k a year. Richard has looked at the background of students in great detail and has no doubt about the importance of providing this very specialised bursary support at Churchill:

The top-up bursaries stand out because they enable us to help the very poorest students, the most disadvantaged students, in a targeted way that we have found makes the biggest difference to their outcomes and indeed their happiness, and I’ve seen that in individual cases many times over in the last decade.

How does this extra money make a difference?

It takes the pressure off financially, which means that students from tough financial backgrounds don’t have to spend as many hours in paid employment outside term; or can afford to stay in College accommodation during the Easter vacation in particular, which enables them to focus on their studies and, in some cases, to avoid difficult family circumstances at home; or it enables them to participate fully in student life in a way that their financial situation might otherwise preclude, which often has positive knock-on effects for their work.

Our top-up bursaries have been funded hitherto by the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust for over 10 years. However, as Richard explained, ‘for very good, technical reasons, the WCMT has to withdraw this particular tranche of funding and devote the money to other purposes. We attribute the success of our poorest students to the very close individual support we offer them, and to the top-up funding they are receiving, so we would like, as a matter of priority, to continue to fund the top-up bursaries.’ The College needs around £75,000 per year to maintain the level of support previously provided by the WCMT funding. Richard feels that the top-up bursaries are so important and they’ve had such an impact that he has generously personally pledged £4,000 a year for five years to kick-start a new Winston Churchill Top-Up Bursary Fund.

The top-up bursary is about ordinary people, ordinary people facing in some cases extraordinary challenges and the lesson I think we should all take from that this is something ordinary people can help with. The difference this will make will be life-changing for many of these students. It will give them choice, it will give them a greater degree of confidence and exposure to the networks the opportunities that they might not otherwise be able to access. It will enable them to be better students academically because they have more time for their studies, they don't have to spend so much time working during the vacations, for example, to fund themselves or their families, and all of this feeds into enhanced social mobility, which in the end is one of the key dimensions of Churchill College, and what I hope will happen for those individual students is they'll have choice, they'll have really good outcomes and they will look back in 20, 30, 40 years time, and will see what was done for them and they too will give back.

We invite you to lend your support and help ensure talented students can continue to benefit from a Churchill education and the life-enhancing opportunities it provides, regardless of their background. Any sum is very welcome for these students. The funds received will immediately go to support our neediest students but it is also possible to endow a top-up bursary in perpetuity.

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Contact the Development office on 01223 331660 or email development@chu.cam.ac.uk

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