Emma bar is one of Cambridge's last remaining student-run barsDaniel Gayne

Emmanuel College’s bar has raised their wages to the national minimum wage of £5.90 per hour for 18-20-year olds.

Earlier this year, a Varsity investigation revealed large discrepancies between pay at College bars, with some staff – including those at Emmanuel – paid significantly below minimum wage.

The bar, which is staffed by students but funded by the College, will now pay its staff £5.90 per hour, with shift supervisors earning £6.90 per hour. Previously, workers had been paid £3.63 per hour for four-hour shifts and £3.67 per hour for three-hour shifts. The decision to increase wages was made jointly between Emmanuel College and the two student managers of the bar.

Students had worried that raising wages would affect prices at the bar; however, according to Lauren Carneiro-Mulville, one of the two student bar managers, the price of food and drink will be kept the same.

The bar will open an hour later to compensate for the wage increase, which was felt to be the “more popular option amongst students”.

According to Katie Nelson, former president of Emmanuel College Student Union, the college bar makes an annual loss.

The pay increase brings wages up to the National Minimum Wage for 18-20 year olds. The minimum wage for those aged 21-24 is £7.38, and those over 25 are entitled to a National Living Wage of £7.83, as of April this year. Staff wages for workers during ‘Bar Extensions’ – a college event held a couple of times per term which is usually fancy dress themed – have also been increased to match the amount paid on normal nights.

Emmanuel is one of few colleges across Cambridge which operates an entirely student-run bar: Sidney Sussex, St Edmund’s, Newnham, Clare, Wolfson, Lucy Cavendish, and Downing also employ students in their bar.

Wages for student workers differ significantly across colleges, where most have wages set at minimum wage or above. St Edmund’s college has the only bar in Cambridge which operates on an entirely volunteer-run basis.

Lauren Turner, a second year student at Emmanuel who has worked at the college bar, said that although she previously “wasn’t unhappy with the lower wages”, she was also “very happy to accept the extra money”.

She added that working at Emma bar is “genuinely very fun”, saying, “I can appreciate that it’s not a very arduous job and many a free drink is given out”.

This sentiment reflects the general popularity of the bar among Emmanuel students, with shifts to work there often taken within a minute of the bar rota being released.


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Emmanuel’s decision to increase wages comes after a Varsity investigation into bar staff pay found that Emmanuel and Newnham staff were worst paid for their work. Newnham workers were found to be compensated only with Sainsbury’s vouchers amounting to £2.50 per hour worked.

Newnham's bar, the Iris, opens on 13th October. The bar committee said that they “have recently re-evaluated the fiscal amount of vouchers that student volunteers receive” and that “as students ourselves, we are continuously striving to provide the best for volunteers” but noted that “the student-run bar does not fall under official college payroll".