Wages not Wine: Booze Hound Colleges Spend £3 million on Wine

The colleges of Cambridge University spent a shade under £3 million on wine last year reports JOSH SIMONS.

| UPDATED 3 million Booze fellows King's st johns Trinity Wine

Figures obtained by The Tab through Freedom of Information Acts show just how much Colleges spend on private dinners, providing free dinners and free wine at High Table.

Roughly £7,000 a day was spent on wine across the colleges in 2012/13, precisely £2,691,767 in total. £1.9 million was spent specifically on dining for Fellows. In comparison, the university itself spent £5.8 million on bursary provisions and £2.7 million on outreach activates.

Hypocrite Proctor tells off student for spraying cava

St John’s College, where Prince William is currently being wined and dined, was the second-highest spending college. It spent £443 per undergraduate on wine, £260,064 in total. Fellows dine in Hall free of charge. John’s spends £70,000 on access schemes, which is just under four times less than its wine costs.

John’s glugging down the wine of missed opportunity for Access

Keynes-loving King’s spent the most on wine, costing the college £338,559, which works out at just less than £850 per undergraduate. Last term, King’s College Student Union hosted a Living Wage rally in King’s’ Keynes Hall, arguing the college should pay its staff a minimum of £7.45 an hour.

A first year undergraduate at King’s, Micha Eversley, described the college’s ‘utter hypocrisy’: ‘The 123 workers paid below that which is enough to live on have been told King’s cannot afford to pay a decent wage.

‘These figures reveal how ludicrous that really is. Prioritising wine over workers is unacceptable.’

Barney Mcay, who runs KCSU’s Living Wage campaign explained, ‘King’s has consistently stated that it supports the principle of a living wage, if only it had the funds. So it’s a real slap in the face to find out that a sum is being spent on wine that would be more than enough to pay its entire staff a living wage…it’s becoming increasingly obvious that college is becoming a business first and an educational institution second.’

A member of KCSU executive added the figures were ‘impressively ludicrous.’

King’s spends around £44,000 per year on access initiatives and advertising in underprivileged areas. It therefore spends over seven times as much on wine as it does access schemes.

Here is King’s with all their wine

The discrepancy is marked at Trinity too. There Fellows’ dining costs for 2011-12 were over £560,000, whilst the college spent £470,018 on access initiatives. The money for Trinity’s 3,797 dinners comes out of its ‘general funds’.

Rory Landman, Trinity’s Bursar, pointed out that, Trinity’s wine costs cover ‘wine for meals, wine for college entertainments, annual gatherings, conferences and for resale. We have a community of well over 200 academics, 400 staff, 1,000 students and 15,000 alumni.’

Trinity fellows playing a drinking game?

The site of recent protests over planned rent rises, Gonville and Caius spends almost twice as much on wine as it does access initiatives. Its wine bill was £131,296, or £170 per undergraduate, whilst its spending on access schemes was £72,582. At Caius, Fellows dine at High Table free of charge. Students on the other hand are obliged to attend at least 32 formal halls a term, at £3.60 a pop.

Emmanuel devotes £28,652 to access schemes, but spends over four times that on wine: £114,608.

Not all colleges rate their booze quite so highly. Despite not being a wealthy college, Selwyn spends over £300,000 on access schemes and just £59,956 on wine. Girton too spends more on access than wine: £30,045 was spent on wine, over £82,000 on access. At Murray Edwards and Churchill the bill for schemes to widening access is roughly the same as the college wine bill.

Murry Edwards and Churchill only have about this much wine

Some colleges include wine and dining privileges in Fellows’ pay packages, whilst others do not. At Downing for example, which spends £84,080 on wine, Fellows receive 7 meals per week as a ‘benefit-in-kind’ as ‘part of their remuneration’. Chuchill too described dining rights as ‘rewarding them [Fellows] for their contribution to the College’.

Some colleges take a different stance. They prefer to pay their Fellows on a purely financial basis or grant their Fellows just one or two free meals per week in college. Girton, Selwyn, Pembroke and Churchill all insist Fellows pay for their own wine when they dine in college.


Just a tad late, Newnham, Clare, Robinson, Selwyn and Hughes Hall have finally responded to our follow-up FOI requests.

Newnham claim to have spent a modest £3,918 on free parties over the 2013/14 period, and ‘do not hold the information’ regarding how much of that was spent on wine.

Clare got catty about the use of the term ‘perks’ as their Fellows do not receive a salary. The total expenditure on free wine and whiskey for Fellows for the period between 1 October 2013 and 1 October 2014 was £12,420, and a gargantuan £244,698 was spent on free dinners and parties for them.

Righteous Robinson and charitable Churchill claim to spend absolutely nil on Fellows’ perks, i.e. alcohol and dinners.

Selwyn maintain that their Fellows pay for their own wine, but they do each get an allowance of 7 free meals a week, adding up to a total cost of £107,195 in 2014.

Hughes Hall has spent just £34.62 over the last 12 months on port and sherry for Fellows. They are also entitled to attend two free Formal Halls per week during term time where alcohol is served (one and one half glasses per person), and six free meals a week. They are charged, however, for the full cost of the annual Fellows’ Dinner.