The announcement of the new grants has been welcomed at St. John'sSimon Lock

St John’s College will fund the living costs of students from disadvantaged backgrounds, to counteract the recent scrapping of maintenance grants by the government. 

Starting from next year, students with annual household incomes of less than £25,000 will receive a grant of up to £9,570 per year in order to cover the costs of day-to-day life.

The new ’studentships’ scheme will run until 2021, during which period St John’s will monitor its effectiveness and decide whether to continue it.

It will be bankrolled entirely by funds raised by Johnian alumni, as part of efforts across the university to ensure that students can meet the cost of their education.

The college has also launched a summer bursaries scheme, available to any students with household income below £66,154. 

Osborne scrapped grants last yearM. Holland

The summer bursaries will help undergraduates to study and pursue educational interests or career development opportunities during the summer vacation.

Dr Matthias Dörrzapf, Senior Tutor at St John's, said: “Like any other College in Cambridge, we believe that a student who is capable of making the most of a place at the university should be able to benefit from a complete educational experience regardless of their financial circumstances. 

“By covering the living costs of the students who need the most help, while also introducing bursaries for the summer vacation, we are taking a step towards meeting our longer-term ambition to guarantee that every student capable of studying here is able to do so and fully supported from start to finish.” 

Maintenance grants for lower income students in England and Wales were scrapped last July by Chancellor George Osborne, and will be replaced by loans from September this year. 

St John’s estimates that the first year of the studentships will cost around £145,680. The figure of £9,570 a year includes what can already be claimed through the Cambridge Bursary Scheme, which can give students up to £3,500 a year depending upon their financial circumstances.

The scheme will initially be available only to undergraduate students from the UK or the EU. However, St John’s intends to open it up to international students as well.

in a statement to Varsity, CUSU Access Officer Helena Blair praised the college's move: "Recent cuts to government financial support mean students from poorer backgrounds will face much higher levels of debt; it is therefore hugely encouraging to see colleges stepping in to provide bursaries and grants that enable students to thrive free of financial pressures and limitations.

"However, it is a shame that this level of support is not offered across all colleges – every college does all they can to prevent anyone dropping out for financial reasons, but beyond that students at different colleges can have strikingly different financial experiences. As the cost of university rises this is something that increasingly needs to be addressed."

Speaking to Varsity, Laura Day, a 2nd year student at St John’s, described the studentship scheme as “a brilliant initiative”, which “demonstrates the inclusiveness of the university as a whole." 

She added that the introduction of new student grants “challenges any misconceptions prospective and current students may have about the demographic attending the university, or St. John’s College specifically, providing encouragement to those who would previously not think an education at Cambridge a viable option. It levels the educational playing field, ensuring nobody is left behind – St. John’s is making a fantastic leap forward, and it would be great to see other colleges follow suit."

Another St John’s student, Meg, told Varsity she also welcomed the new scheme. “I have known people to be put off Oxbridge by the stereotype that it is only for students from wealthy backgrounds,” she said, “so anything that will widen the diversity of the student body at St John’s – and hopefully in the future Cambridge in general – is great."