The 2015-2016 cohort bursary scheme saga is coming to a patchy end, with affected students having been contacted on Monday 18th February about new available opportunities being funded.
The affected students were notified of the opportunities that they would be eligible for, funded by the £250,000 set aside by the College. These include Undergraduate Research Opportunities Programs (UROPs), Careers services, and overseas electives for medical students.
However, this correspondence comes with almost a month’s delay from the initial announcement of the secured £250,000 funding during the 22nd January Union Council meeting, adding insult to injury to what has been perceived as sub-standard management of the situation.
The Imperial Bursary, settled by the College and the Union two years prior to the entry of students receiving them, is given to undergraduate home students with annual household incomes of up to £60,000. Because of a 2013 government decision to make the National Scholarship Program unavailable to undergraduate students, the bursary scheme for students entering in 2015 saw a £500,000 drop in funding. The College and Union decided to reduce the financial support packages for students under the £35,000 - £60,000 income bracket. However, in 2014, when the College and Union decided to increase the bursary for students entering in 2016, they overlooked any further reimbursement for the 2015 cohort.
These “unintended consequences” saw the 2015 cohort left with less funding than the cohorts either side of it; these students received lower bursaries than those who had enrolled a year earlier and a year later. According to the 2018 Imperial College Union Bursary Survey, the bursary was “essential” to the living costs of 71% of respondents, and to the accommodation costs of 63% of respondents. The 2015 bursary scheme is estimated to have effected around 200 undergraduate students. Many of these students have already graduated or are in their final year, and the College has come under criticism for taking until now to reimburse their financial provision.
A member of staff commented on the inadequate 2015-2016 bursary scheme management, “I was mortified to read the article on the student support packages that were lower a few years ago, and how the college just played the long game to obfuscate until most of the affected students were out of the system. What a piss weak way to deal with mistakes. So often the case at Imperial.”