A Cambridge University college will offer free places for students from lower-income backgrounds by fully funding their education and living costs.
St John’s College has described its Free Places support package, which will cover tuition fees, accommodation costs, and other living expenses for up to 40 undergraduates at a time, as the UK’s most generous bursary scheme.
Eligible students will be able to access more than £17,000 of financial support for every academic year at Cambridge, around £51,000 over a three-year undergraduate degree, allowing students to graduate completely debt-free.
It comes as the most selective universities are under increased pressure to improve access to higher education for different groups of students including those from disadvantaged backgrounds.
The programme will begin in October 2023 and there will be a recruitment campaign to attract students whose household income is below £16,200.
Heather Hancock, master of St John’s College, said: “For more than 500 years, St John’s College has had an unwavering commitment to provide financial support for students in need.
“We are determined to sustain this legacy.
“Removing serious financial barriers for prospective students is a powerful signal that Cambridge really is for everyone.
“It is still true that high-potential pupils from low-income families, and young people leaving care, are deciding against university because of the prospect of significant debt.
“They don’t want to be a burden to their family.
“They worry about their future employability and how they’ll ever be free of an unimaginable financial millstone from attending university.
“We want to take away that anxiety and to give those talented young people the confidence to take a life-changing step towards St John’s and the University of Cambridge, knowing that they will truly be welcome and supported here.”
The scheme has been launched thanks to an anonymous foundation which has made a £14 million pledge to its fundraising campaign.
The college has also appointed an academic from St John’s to forge links with schools in the north of England to support students who may never have previously contemplated applying to Cambridge.
Last week, the University of Cambridge’s annual admissions statistics confirmed that Cambridge accepted a record proportion of state school pupils (70.6%) last year, up from 68.7%.