Many Churchill alumni enjoyed their undergraduate education at Cambridge for free. However, those matriculating today pay tuition fees of £9,250 per annum and the average debt after a three-year undergraduate degree for a UK student at Cambridge is now an estimated £55,380.

Bursaries and hardship grants make a significant difference in encouraging students to apply to Churchill who otherwise might fear getting into debt, and to their educational outcomes once here.

Those from economically disadvantaged backgrounds face the acute need to secure paid work during vacations with the knock-on effect that opportunities available to their more privileged peers – such as unpaid or expenses-only internships, overseas travel or further study – are constrained. This is why, on top of the Cambridge Bursary, students in the greatest need at Churchill also receive annual grants of up to £2,000 to enable them to fully benefit from everything that Cambridge can offer.

Katie Thacker (U19) is a second-year undergraduate at Churchill who has benefited from additional financial support via the Cambridge Bursary Scheme and the Winston Churchill Top-Up Bursary Fund. You are invited to read her full story below to gain an insight into the multiple beneficial impacts of this bursary support.

Meet Katie

Hi! I’m Katie and I’m a second year studying History at Churchill. I’m particularly interested in both global history and modern British social history – I especially find studying about topics, such as class and gender, which are really close to my heart incredibly interesting, insightful and empowering. I’m originally from the exotic lands of Essex (although I sadly no longer have the accent!) I’m from a low-income background and I’m the first person in my family to attend university.

Before coming to Cambridge, I attended a local state grammar school. It was there I decided I wanted to attend university, although Cambridge felt like an unachievable pipe dream until after I received my GCSE results. I was very privileged to have some incredible teachers (shout out to Mrs Sanderson and Mrs Davidson!) who really helped me to love my subject and gave me the confidence to believe I could study it at university, without whom I definitely wouldn’t be here!

Since coming to Cambridge, I have received financial support in the form of the university-wide Cambridge Bursary and this is topped up with the Winston Churchill Top-Up Bursary. Receiving financial support from Churchill College has made all the difference to my time here. Money was a huge worry from me from the moment we received our offers, due to the high advance deposit required and the fact we’re unable to have a part-time job alongside our degree. The bursary has enabled me to cope when unexpected additional costs have cropped up, such as laptop repairs or replacing my bike when it got stolen, as well as helping me to afford to stay at College for parts of the holidays to study, due to a lack of study space at home.

It has also helped me to fully participate in life at Churchill and in Cambridge. From being able to afford membership of the societies I wanted to join, such as the Cambridge Union, to affording to take part in formals and May week events alongside my friends. It’s also the small things, like being able to say yes to grabbing lunch with a friend you made in fresher’s week without having to worry about if you can afford it, or if you should just have lunch at home, that have made all the difference to my time here and enabled me to grab all the opportunities that have come my way. The bursary has removed the stress of having to constantly worry about money and has allowed me to focus on the important things and I will always be grateful for this.

I’ve had the best time at Churchill so far. I really appreciate the lack of expectations to be a certain type of person, or to fit a certain mould. Before coming to Cambridge, you very much have a perception of who the typical Cambridge student looks like, but within days of arriving at Churchill I realised this isn’t true. There’s no archaic rules or procedures to follow, and the relaxed environment at Churchill has helped me to feel comfortable with who am I without feeling like I need to change parts of myself to fit in. I like that it’s slightly out of the centre, away from the tourists and the grand architecture. It’s such a different (and less imposing!) atmosphere that coming back home after lectures feels like taking a sigh of relief. And my second favourite thing is Blazing Saddles, the on-site bike shop, which has saved my life (or bike!) more times than I can count.

I’m now half-way through my degree, which is a very scary thought! My plans after graduation are still somewhat up in the air, but something I’m really interested in going into is journalism. I’m currently the Editor-in-chief for the Tab Cambridge, a student newspaper and writing for the Tab has really helped develop my passion for journalism – in particular news reporting and interviews – and so this is something I’m considering after graduating,. However, because being indecisive is a key element of my personality, I’m also considering a career in public policy and working with NGOs to help influence government policy, for example in relation to education or poverty, as these are matters which are very close to my heart. If this is the case, I’d love to do a masters in either policy or history (I’m 50% of the way through my degree but it still interests me more and more every week!) although much of this depends on being able to secure funding. The pipedream is to work at the UN one day, but I think there might be a bit of time before that!

My time at Churchill has been made by receiving financial support form the College. However, for every student like me who has benefitted from receiving financial support from Churchill there are multiple students who have had applications for bursaries or hardship grants rejected because there aren’t the funds available. The reality is many students at Churchill struggle financially and I promise you that whatever support you’re able to provide the college – however big or small – it will have real, tangible impacts on students here.

How you can help

The Cambridge Bursary Scheme is being extended from October 2021 to give an extra amount to students who have indicators of deprivation, such as Free School meals. Those in middle-income households will get smaller amounts of additional support. This extension is being underwritten by a central fund for one year, but thereafter Colleges will need to pay for the extra provision from their own resources. Churchill has a larger number of eligible students in both categories and will therefore need to find an extra £50,000 per year to fund the extension. All of our bursaries have only been made possible because of generous alumni support. Now, with increased pressure on financial resources we need your help to ensure the College can continue to reach, support and fund as many of the best students as possible from all backgrounds to truly transform young lives.

You can read more about the Student Support Fund and Winston Churchill Top-Up Bursary Fund by visiting the Think Forward website, where you can also make a gift.

You can also contact the Development Office if you have any questions about different ways to support our students.


Email the Development Office