One student called the charges "confusing and unclear"Louis Ashworth for Varsity

Students across the University are paying hundreds of pounds a term towards “unclear and confusing” charges in their college bills.

A Varsity investigation has revealed the extent of these charges at different colleges. The most common was the Facilities Charge, with KFC, Minimum Meal Charges and Establishment Charge also included in Varsity's Freedom of Information statistics.

'Hidden charges' at Gonville and Caius were over £700 more than the next worst offender, Fitzwilliam Data obtained by Ella Howard and cleaned by Romilly Norfolk for Varsity, 2024

The KFC (Kitchen Fixed Charge) is, according to Fitzwilliam College, a “contribution to the overhead costs of the College catering operation”. At Fitzwilliam, this is calculated at £369 per year. This is similar to Newnham, which requires students to pay a KFC of £387 if they do not wish to use the college’s pre-payment food plan.

Lucy Cavendish describes their Facilities Charge as necessary to “cover IT support,” the “use of library facilities,” and “to help support the provision of College Catering”.

This charge can range significantly, from £138 a year at Lucy Cavendish, to £101 a term at Girton.

Many colleges also include a Minimum Dining Requirement (MDR) in termly bills, where students must pre-pay for their meals at the start of term. At Gonville and Caius, this charge amounts to £589.68 a year, compared to £300 at Fitzwilliam and £155 at St Edmund’s.

One Newnham student told Varsity they were “not aware of how much I would be spending at the buttery, and I have ended up using the kitchen less than I thought, and yet I still am expected to pay the KFC”. The student has been unable to change this in between terms and is now “being charged for something (they) do not use”. The student criticised their college for making students “estimate something we couldn't predict and now I am losing money because of it every term”.

Caius also demands a termly Establishment Charge of £786.51, said to be a “contribution to the cost of non-academic facilities” that are “free at the point of use” to students.

Certain colleges include other hidden charges for students, such as for laundry, which is £2.20 a week at Fitzwilliam and £22.69 annually at Girton.

22% of Caius student's total living costs are spent on 'hidden charges'Data obtained by Ella Howard and cleaned by Romilly Norfolk for Varsity, 2024

Yet another additional charge at Fitzwilliam is the annual £5 travel fund, used to help students that may require a taxi in an emergency.

Both Downing and Fitzwilliam require students to pay to be members of their alumni societies, either in a one-off payment of £36 or £8 per term respectively.

However, Downing will not continue this charge next year, matching a growing trend of colleges dumping their hidden costs. For example, Jesus, Peterhouse and Christ’s all scrapped their KFCs in the past 5 years.

Students welcome these changes with one Christ’s student saying they “like that there is no hidden charges, because it is very predictable what the bill would be each term so you can budget beforehand”.

Sarah Anderson, president-elect of the Student Union and current member of Fitzwilliam College, told Varsity of her concerns about the “confusing and unclear” purpose of hidden charges, especially what she described as the “vague” Kitchen Fixed Charges.


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Anderson expressed how they “make it difficult to budget for the term as you may have missed one of the charges or be hit with a new one”.

“It would be fairest for colleges to roll all these charges into rent,” as this would allow students to “negotiate better rents with our colleges,” she added Anderson acknowledged this would be a “really difficult change to communicate” as “no one wants to be the JCR president who allows rent to appear to increase dramatically”.

A Newnham College spokesperson told Varsity:  "Until this year the College has operated a mixed model of a Kitchen Fixed Charge and a Buttery Pre-paid Meal Plan. We are ending that model this year, and replacing it with a much more straightforward system of credit whereby any unspent credit is returned to the student."

Gonville and Caius and Fitwilliam colleges were also contacted for comment.