The 'hidden' fees and bursaries all Oxbridge applicants need to know about

Bridge of Sighs, Oxford

What uni-related costs and financial help can you expect?

As an Oxford or Cambridge applicant, it's important to be prepared financially should you be successful in getting a place.

We asked current students if there are any extra unexpected or unavoidable costs that are specific to Oxbridge, or any bursaries they were entitled to. Here's what they said:


MagnumKoishi goes to Fitzwilliam College at Cambridge, and said there are two food charges students need to be aware of:

"The Minimum Meals Charge, which is a certain amount of money you're forced to spend on meals in college every term. If you spend less than the MMC on food, then they take the rest anyway so you might as well spend it all. At least formals count though, so you won't end up spending much more money than you'd be doing anyway.

"And the Kitchen Fixed Charge. This is a small amount to contribute to the running of the kitchen. It makes sense, and isn't too expensive, but it would have been nice to know about it before applying and accepting offers."

Formals and balls

RhynieChert, who goes to Newnham College at Cambridge, said: "Formals can be expensive but you aren't required to go, I only went to about three formals I paid for in my first year.

"The big cost can be if you want to go to a May Ball, but there are plenty of smaller and cheaper events in may week, such as the Cambridge Oxfam Garden Party for example."

They added: "May Balls range in price from £100 to over £200."

College deposit

RhynieChert also said that students had to pay a depost at the start of their first term: "As for 'hidden' costs – they weren't exactly hidden but in our first college bill we had to pay a £250 deposit of caution money."

This is described on the Hughes Hall website as "a deposit against damage to College accommodation. You pay it when you arrive and get it back when you leave, all being well. Some of our students leave their deposit as a donation to the college – we are always grateful when they do, and the money goes right back into improving our facilities.

"If you live in a College room, you must leave it clean and tidy at the end of each licence period. You should remove all your personal possessions, including bedding and items from the kitchen and bathrooms. If you don’t leave your room clean and tidy, we may make a charge by retaining some of your caution money."

Course-related costs

You may have costs that are specific to your course, but your college may reimburse you for these.

RhynieChert said: "If your course requires extras such as field trips, equipment, lab coats you have to pay these but my college refunded me when I submitted a request.

"Printing may be an issue if you're required to print lots of stuff but I have never needed to."


Most, if not all, colleges offer students a book grant, whether this is up to £75 a year, like Pembroke College in Cambridge, or 50% of the cost of essential texts to a maximum of £100 a year, like The Queen's College in Oxford.

At St John's College, EnglishStudent* said that "few people are denied the travel grant."

RhynieChert said that Newnham also "offers up to 50% refund on any academic books purchased (and will also just buy it into the library for you) and large travel grants are available as well."

The Oxford college offers several funds for various types of travel, from "travelling to some wilder part of the world" to "travel to the Middle East, Far East or Australia in furtherance of a worthwhile purpose/project which need not, but may be, academic in nature."


There may be outgoings for formals, food and events you wouldn't have at other universities, but generous bursaries are available for students from low income backgrounds.

MagnumKoishi said: "The college offers an additional bursary of £1,000 per year for students who are eligible for the standard Cambridge bursary, which I am indeed eligible for. This in total adds up to a maximum of £4,500 per year, which is a huge amount and more than covers any of the Oxbridge specific costs."

RhynieChert said: "I come from a low income background and have received significantly more financial support here than I would have at other unis.

"I automatically received £3,500 from the cambridge bursary scheme and an additional £800 bursary from Newnham on filling in a simple form, as well as money off my rent.

"There are other bursaries for sports equipment, money off music lessons etc, you just have to apply."

More useful links

What GCSE and A-level grades do I need for Oxbridge?
Oxford or Cambridge? How to choose where to apply
How to choose an Oxford college
How to choose a Cambridge college
Everything you need to know about Oxford colleges
Everything you need to know about Cambridge colleges

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