Non-EU internationals make up 48 per cent of Cambridge University’s tuition income

Students hold strong opinions on disproportionate fees

Data recently released by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) reveals that non-EU internationals made up 48 per cent of the university’s income from tuition fees in the financial year 2019-2020. Meanwhile, the student numbers summary reveals that non-EU internationals only made up 25 per cent of the student body in 2020.

The HESA report also reveals that all tuition fees (collected from home, EU, and non-EU students) and education contracts comprised 16 per cent of the university’s net income in 2019-20, which totalled over 2 billion pounds. Other major sources of income included research grants and contracts (28 per cent), funding body grants (10 per cent), and what HESA labels as “other income” (41 per cent).

Image credits: Worldbridge

A look at the university’s fee structure illustrates significant divides between international and home/EU fees amongst undergraduates– in 2019-20 (the same year as the HESA data) home and EU students were charged 9,250 pounds per year whereas non-EU internationals were charged between 19,197 – 52,638 pounds depending on course.

The most expensive courses were Medical and Veterinary Sciences, whereas the least expensive were non-laboratory subjects such as Education, English, History, Law etc. From this academic year (2021-22), incoming EU students shall have the same fee status as non-EU internationals (in light of Brexit). When approached for comment, current international students had strong (and occasionally differing) opinions.

A second-year undergraduate from Australia commented that “Many of us internationals tend to come from quite privileged positions. It’s right that those of us who come from relatively safe and prosperous nations pay more to join this incredible institution when we have good universities at home.”

In comparison to peer institutions around the world that international students often have competing offers from, Cambridge’s tuition fees may even appear modest. For example, MIT charges $55,510 (£41,808) annually in undergraduate tuition (with the ‘cost of attendance’ totalling $77,020 (£58,064)) for the academic year 2021-22. Similarly, Stanford charges $18,491 (£13,914) per quarter and has three quarters a year, bringing undergraduate annual tuition to $55,473 (£41,742) in 2021-22.

However, the Australian undergraduate also acknowledged that “I think it’s also important that the most tenacious students from the least privileged positions in the world, and the less wealthy in wealthy nations, have an opportunity to access Cambridge.”

Image credits: Worldbridge

James He, a third-year undergraduate from New Zealand, shared that “I guess we did sign up to this university knowing that we would pay a lot more to compensate the fees of our peers, but this doesn’t mean we are cash cows…some of us are not rich and are frankly scrambling to keep up with the financial burden…our family’s perception of ‘affording’ can mean ‘sell the family’s car and borrow money from relatives and maybe sacrifice the education of younger siblings.'”

Aman Vernekar (from India) shared that he was fortunate to receive the Cambridge Trust’s Manmohan Singh Scholarship which made it possible for him to pursue his studies in Engineering. However, although this scholarship meant that he had to pay roughly the same amount as a home student, he did not have access to the student loans available to UK residents.

He added that although he was very grateful for the support he had received, he believes the university needs to widen its scholarship offerings to international talent.

He commented that although the Cambridge Trust offers scholarships for a range of courses and countries, these are available only to a select few, are not always readily advertised, and often provide only partial support. The Manmohan Singh Scholarship that he is a recipient of has now been discontinued for future years.

The University of Cambridge has been contacted for comment.

Featured Image Credits: Liam McClain

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