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Hardship Support

The Financial Undertaking

One of the conditions of your place at the Pembroke and the University is that you provide the Student Registry (aka Board of Graduate Studies) with an undertaking that you have sufficient financial resources to cover your costs (fees and maintenance) for the whole of your course and that if you do not have sufficient financial support then you should not give a guarantee or start their course.  For example, they are expected to honour any promise to take out a loan made as part of the guarantee.

Students are also warned, before admission that the pound's exchange rate can show considerable fluctuation and that, although we are sympathetic to such problems, this is not a valid reason for not honouring the guarantee given and the College is not able to consider hardship applications in such circumstances.  Students are advised that it may be wise to use a sterling bank account to secure funds for the entire period of their course.

The College’s policy towards graduate hardship needs to be understood in this context.

Hardship policy: general

The College recognises that funding circumstances can change for reasons that are genuinely outside students’ control, and tries to be sympathetic in such cases.  Pembroke’s hardship funding is designed to be flexible and sensitive to individual circumstances.  All Pembroke graduate students in genuine need are eligible for College hardship awards.

However, any graduate applying for hardship support must show both that the financial arrangements made before admission were robust and that subsequent problems have been truly unpredictable.

Students who find themselves in financial difficulties should approach their Tutor in the first instance and then, if they decide to apply, should complete the graduate hardship form in consultation with him/her.  Be prepared to provide full details.

Students on one-year courses are eligible for hardship support on the same terms as other graduate students.  That is, they will need to demonstrate that they have suffered a material and unforeseeable change in your financial circumstances since the date of admission.

Hardship support: terms and conditions:

Awards are considered on a case-by-case basis.  However, in estimating costs and completing the form, it is important to note that any hardship support given by College will normally assume that:

  1. students will take College accommodation if it is available (please consult Dr Coombs about availability before making alternative plans).  If a student is offered College accommodation and declines it, the College will not pay extra subsidy for higher rental charges incurred elsewhere.
  2. non-rent expenditure should not significantly exceed £100 a week.

As a condition of support, we may ask graduates to supply a fresh financial guarantee, particularly if a severe problem has arisen early in the course.  We will not normally give any hardship support unless we think that the student in question has a realistic chance of securing funding for the whole of the rest of the course.

Awards may be either interest-free loans or grants, at the College’s discretion.  Any support is likely to be limited and cannot extend to full replacement of guaranteed funds.  Hardship grants are normally in the region of £500-£700, the maximum hardship grant is £1,000.  A loan is more likely to be in the £500-£700 bracket.

It is a condition of the award of a loan that the student:

  • acknowledges in writing the terms of the loan
  • commits to a schedule of repayment (interest will be charged if the schedule is not adhered to)
  • understands that s/he will not be allowed to graduate until it is repaid in its entirety.

In general, College hardship grants are awarded as leverage.  In other words, we use them strategically, to encourage other funding bodies to give support to the same application.  We very rarely give a grant without at least matching funding from elsewhere.

Hardship support is given most frequently to deserving fourth-year PhD students (see below).  Occasionally we are asked to contribute to support given by the Cambridge Trusts to students in their second and third years (see page 6).

Fourth-year PhD students

Students who have completed three years (9 terms) of research towards a PhD are automatically exempt from University fees.  The College, wherever possible, will offer fourth-years accommodation, which can be terminated on giving 4 weeks’ notice.  This is the standard way in which the College assists its fourth-year students.

It should also be noted that several UK Research Councils and overseas funding bodies have in recent years increased significantly the maintenance stipend that they pay to PhD students in years 1-3.  Part of the reason is to encourage students to begin to save modestly against the possibility of having to survive without funding for part of the fourth year.

Only in exceptional cases, where submission is delayed owing to unforeseen circumstances, and where there is genuine need, is the College able to make hardship loans or grants, on the leverage principle. 

It is therefore essential to apply for support elsewhere as well.  You should strongly consider applying to the following: to your funding body for extra help, to the Board of Graduate Studies hardship schemes.  The Board of Graduate Studies administers a scheme of Research Awards aimed at helping students experiencing hardship as a result of unforeseen changes in their financial circumstances.  Further information and an application form can be found on its website.

PhD students in the sciences should also note the possibility of applying for support to the Lundgren Fund and the Cambridge Philosophical Society.  Its website gives details of the application procedure for its grants for this and other purposes.  Please note that applicants to the CPS must have been members of the Society for at least a year and therefore it is essential to explore this possibility well before making an application.  There may be other appropriate Funds among those advertised in the Reporter.

Sometimes these other funds require a simultaneous application to College for support; please discuss the procedure with your Tutor and the Tutorial Bursar or College Registrar before specifying the sums that you require from each fund.  When making an application to other funding bodies, especially to the better-endowed funds, it is important to apply for the maximum amount.  The College is not normally able to provide more than 25-33% of the total funding requirement of fourth-year students.

Students who make a successful application to the Cambridge Trusts for partial support for the second or third year of their course

Overseas students in search of additional funding for the second or third years of their course will often apply to the Cambridge Trusts for a bursary.  The Trusts can only give very partial support to such students, if any.  The College does not normally support students at this stage.  However, all applicants for these Cambridge Trust awards should send a copy of their application to Dr Coombs.  This is to help us to respond, in the event that we are contacted by the Trusts and asked if we will contribute to a joint package of funding.  Further information is available on the Trusts website.