College tutors have been informed of the stricter requirements by the fund's secretaryLouis Ashworth for Varsity

Cambridge University is tightening requirements to access its medical hardship fund following a significant rise in claims in recent years.

In an email seen by Varsity, the University informed college tutors of the new eligibility criteria for the Crane’s fund, which provides funding for physical and mental health costs.

The rule changes, effective since 16 January, include a ban on retrospective applications, closer checks on students’ financial situation and a requirement for a letter from a GP. Previously a letter from any medical professional, such as a college nurse, was accepted.

The email identifies these measures as necessary to “better target funding” and “ensure only applications from students in the greatest financial and medical need are supported”.

The notice, sent by Alexandra Brace, secretary to the distributors of the Crane’s charity, cites a “a significant increase in applications” as the reason for the crackdown on eligibility. Last month, a Varsity investigation found that applications to the Crane’s fund had increased by 850% in the past four years.

The guidance to tutors has been updated to “strongly recommend” that they ask to see students’ bank statements to demonstrate they are in financial need. During the application process to the Crane’s Fund, students are also now required to answer additional questions regarding their financial situation, including their monthly living costs.

In the email, the fund distributors say that financial need is defined as lacking access to the anticipated cost of maintenance (£11,090 per year for undergraduates and £17,667 for postgraduates).

The email tells tutors that students spending more than these amounts on living expenses should not “expect to receive financial assistance”.

The forms of treatment which can be funded have also been narrowed and more clearly defined. The Crane’s Fund should now only be used for NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) approved treatment where there are “significant waiting times” under the NHS.

Funding will no longer be offered for travel costs, dentistry or for any student with private medical insurance, the new requirements say.

The email also stressed that the student’s medical condition must be “affecting their studies significantly,” and that tutors must outline how this is the case in their letter of recommendation.


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Isabelle Watts, a second year with experience using the Crane’s Fund, told Varsity that she felt the process was already “long and intrusive” but she understood “why this was the case”.

Watts also noted that she felt the fund distributors were “assessing me and my case, rather than a set of data from which to make a decision”.

Mike Nicholson, the University’s director of recruitment, admissions and participation, told Varsity: “The Crane’s Fund has provided students with an opportunity to receive assistance with funding towards medical costs for many centuries. Like many bequests, the funding is limited.”

“A number of amendments to the eligibility criteria have therefore been put in place to ensure that resource is targeted towards students in the greatest need of support, under the terms of the original bequest, which will safeguard the existence of funding for future generations,” Nicholson said.