Six Cambridge Colleges are now offering discounted May Ball tickets to bursary students

Downing, Jesus, Pembroke, and Homerton have joined Hughes Hall and Wolfson in a bid to make Cambridge culture accessible to all


The ongoing admissions access debate is only one element of Cambridge's elitism problem. Year on year, numerous Colleges come under fire for increasingly extortionate May Ball ticket prices. The expense of this archetypal aspect of Cambridge culture hits bursary students the hardest – now, things look like they're about to change.

In 2018, Hughes Hall and Wolfson Colleges took the first steps towards combatting May Week's inherent financial elitism by offering discounted Ball tickets to students on bursaries; these price cuts were worth 50 per cent and 20 per cent respectively.

In 2019, Jesus, Downing, Pembroke, and Homerton have followed suit.

Jesus' May Ball Presidents, Kate Fitzpatrick and Jacquie Rowe, explained that they have been able to offer a 50 per cent discount to Jesuans in receipt of a bursary; Downing now offers a £30 discount to students in receipt of a full Cambridge University bursary. When discussing their decision with The Tab, both Colleges emphasised the need to make students feel welcome at May Week "regardless of financial background".

Similarly, Pembroke College offers a £30 discount, while Homerton knocks of £20 from the standard ticket price – only for bursary students.

With this progressive pricing strategy having spread to six of Cambridge's thirty-one colleges in just two years, there are now promising signs of improved accessibility in elite universities.

Jesus' May Ball Presidents expressed the "hope that in future years we will be able to expand this scheme to a broader range of students, perhaps via a partnership scheme with other May Ball Committees". Indeed, as the market for May Ball tickets in Cambridge is highly competitive – with students having manifold Balls to choose from each Easter Term – one can justifiably hope that these access schemes will have rapid ripple effects.

As yet, however, the pricing decisions of six colleges are a minor move towards undoing the elitism inherent in Cambridge's May Week. Trinity and St John's were the first to charge over £200 per person in 2018; your author recently purchased a Magdalene May Ball pair worth an extortionate £380. Cambridge's access problem, both regarding admissions and University culture, remains entrenched. But perhaps the tide is turning.

Follow the Tab's 10x campaign to learn more about what's being done to improve access to the UK's top universities.