Students may apply for up to a maximum of £1,800 per academic year.Katie Kasperson

Payouts from the University’s physical and mental health fund have increased by 850% in four years, a Varsity investigation can reveal.

In the 2018/19 academic year, the fund awarded just over £64,000 in individual student awards, and £344,371 in 2021/22. In the 2022/23 academic year, the fund allotted £609,788 to students, Varsity Freedom of Information requests have uncovered. This marks an increase of 853% over four years.

The Cranes’ Charity fund provides financial aid through reimbursement to students facing physical or mental health treatment costs not readily available through the NHS or the University.

The rise in awards is matched by an increasing number of applications to the fund. 85 applications were received in 2018/19, with 94% of these accepted. Three years later in 2021/22, the number of applications rose to 378 and again to 645 in 2022/23, with 84.8% of these being accepted. This total rise in applications stands at a 659% increase.

The increase in demand for the fund comes as more students are declaring mental health diagnoses. Last month, Varsity revealed that the number of students disclosing ADHD in 2022/23 had almost doubled compared to three years ago.

Students may apply for up to a maximum of £1,800 per academic year. In 2022-2023, 108 students received the full amount of £1800 in a single application and 36 received £1800 over two or more applications.

Students may apply for financial assistance towards recommended specialist mental health treatment, medical treatment, associated travel costs covered, and support for Autism and ADHD diagnostic assessments with specific documentation.

The fund is financed by investments in the Cambridge University Endowment Fund, which as of December 2023, holds a spendable value of £1,395,098.

The total gross income to the Student Medical Fund has increased in recent years in alignment with rising applications. In 2018/19, the fund accumulated just over £115,000 in funds, which then increased to £127,424 in the subsequent academic year and finally to £138,536 in 2022/23.

The Fund also provides funding for specific elements of the University’s Student Support Services. In 2022/23, the Fund provided £82,374 to the University Counselling Service to fund a range of services.

Varsity can also reveal the distribution of the funds between colleges. In 2018/19, Wolfson students made the highest amount of approved applications (8), with Emmanuel and John’s students both recording 7 approved applications.


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In the last academic year, Girton and Newnham led with the highest number of approved applications at 37 each. 63 applications were withdrawn, marking a substantial increase from the 4 withdrawn in 2018/19.

One student described their largely positive experience of the fund, which included a “straightforward” process with their application being approved in the same month it was made.

However, the student told Varsity that the system could be improved by paying funds directly to students, rather than through their colleges.

Another student told Varsity that their tutor’s handling of the application caused them “extra stress,” as they were “unfamiliar with the fund” and its “bureaucracy”.

The student also said that “one of the main weaknesses of the fund is that there is no system for helping people find therapists,” as the first professional they were allocated was “not qualified” to help them.

The University of Cambridge has been contacted for comment.