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Explaining the Student Support Initiative

We are putting student support at the top of our agenda with an ambitious new initiative, writes Professor Stephen J Toope, Vice-Chancellor, University of Cambridge

  • Words
    Professor Stephen J Toope, Vice-Chancellor, University of Cambridge
- 3 minute read
Professor Stephen J Toope
Professor Stephen J Toope

School leavers in the UK today have a greater opportunity to go to university than ever before, regardless of their backgrounds. That is how it should be in an advanced economy that puts a premium on intellectual achievement and skills.

But the noisy debate over the affordability of student loans in England and the limited availability of postgraduate funding underlines how the cost of study can still act as a real barrier to education. Whatever the outcome of the government’s current review into the funding of post-18 education, these are issues that will not go away. This is why it is so important that universities like Cambridge are able to offer financial support to the most talented students from around the world.

I am passionate about breaking down the barriers that might prevent some of those very talented students from coming to Cambridge. It is good for them – and it is good for the University – if we can help cover their tuition fees, living and study expenses. They benefit from a great education. In turn, the University benefits from working with some of the finest minds from around the world.

  • What is the Student Support Initiative (SSI)?

    The SSI is a new programme to support current and future generations of Cambridge students, covering wellbeing and mental health, financial support and access. It is backed by a £500m fundraising initiative.

  • What does the SSI do for student wellbeing and mental health?

    It has enabled a review of student pastoral and welfare support (ensuring that gaps are filled and that services do not overlap), and 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.

  • What does the SSI do for undergraduate access and financial support?

    It will enable Cambridge to offer greater financial support to students who have experienced socio-economic and educational disadvantage, and enable investment in actively attracting students from under-represented groups.

  • What does the SSI do for PhD and Master’s students?

    It will enable Cambridge to provide fully funded PhD studentships, and financial support to students applying to Master’s courses. This is vital for the students concerned, but also for Cambridge itself – the best research students are in demand, and Cambridge must compete with universities in North America, Europe and Asia to attract them.

  • Hasn’t Cambridge recently received a donation to do this?

    Yes. The extraordinary generosity of David and Claudia Harding’s £100m gift to the University and St Catharine’s will support 100 PhD students in residence, attract students from under-represented groups and encourage further philanthropy. But to meet its aims fully, the SSI requires much more – which is where the Harding Challenge comes in.

  • What is the Harding Challenge?

    Part of David and Claudia Harding’s gift has been set aside to encourage further giving to students. This means that if you are a new donor and decide to donate to any aspect of the SSI at your College, your gift will unlock additional funds for students in greatest need across Cambridge – doubling the impact of your donation.

  • How can I support the SSI?

    A gift has the potential to make a huge impact on students across Cambridge. If you would like to support student wellbeing and mental health, access and funding for postgraduates or undergraduates, please contact your College’s development office.