Cambridge University has redefined students’ poor status as they say anyone from a household of up to £62,215 income is automatically eligible for a bursary.

From the start of next academic year, undergraduates who qualify for financial support will be given up to £3,500 each year to help them “participate more fully” in university life.

Previously, students whose family income came to £42,620 were eligible for bursaries, but from this October it will increase to £62,215.

Prof Stephen Toope, the university’s vice-Chancellor, said: “This new enhanced bursary scheme, which wouldn’t be possible without the generosity of donors, will help to ease some of our students’ financial worries.

“The scheme’s launch means far more students will be eligible for support. This is particularly relevant now, at a time when many families’ incomes have been affected adversely by the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Cambridge students are discouraged from getting jobs during term time so they can concentrate on their studies. But they face a range of costs which their student maintenance loan may not be enough to cover, such as fees to join societies or sport teams.

While some students rely on their parents to send them extra money each term, this option is not available to all.

“The enhanced bursary scheme is about removing barriers and helping students fully participate in University life,” said Prof Catherine Barnard, senior tutor at Trinity College which led a pilot of the scheme before it was rolled out fully.

“Our evidence suggests supporting students in this way not only improves their wellbeing but ensures they can thrive while studying at Cambridge.”

Bursary scheme will cost £100m

The enhanced bursary scheme – which will cost £100 million over the next decade – is in part financed by a donation from David and Claudia Harding.

Mr Harding, who read natural sciences at Cambridge in the early Eighties, went on to found Winton, a global investment management and data science company which uses computing technology to apply mathematical and statistical methods to the field of investing.

His wife Claudia is the managing trustee of the David and Claudia Harding Foundation, which has donated to various scientific and mathematical causes including the Science Museum, the Crick Institute and the Max Planck Institute in Berlin.

In February 2019, they donated £100 million to Cambridge University to provide financial support for students, and part of this will be used to extend the bursary scheme.

Under the new scheme, students from the UK or European Union whose household income is below £25,000 per year will receive the full bursary of £3,500 each year they are studying at Cambridge.

The amount is staggered so that those whose family have an income of between £55,000 and £62,215 will receive £100 per year. All bursaries are gifts and do not need to be repaid.

The university’s Faculty of Education conducted research to find out how effective this level of support is for students and found that it contributes substantially to their wellbeing, participation in academic life and student societies, and overall student experience.

Last month, a Cambridge University college launched the UK’s first full scholarship for students from disadvantaged backgrounds to rival similar opportunities granted by “top flight” Ivy League universities in the US.

Under the new scheme by St John’s College, students will have all their tuition fees, accommodation costs and other day-to-day living expenses paid for by the university.