Free Places Programme


UK students who are eligible for Free School MeStudents sitting next to the riverals and start their undergraduate course at St John’s from October 2023 may be eligible for a Free Place, which would fully fund their studies at Cambridge.

The financial support package will pay for all tuition fees and also offer a non-repayable maintenance grant which, in combination with the University-wide Cambridge Bursary, will cover accommodation and other living expenses in full.



In order to be eligible for a Free Place, you have to:

  • study for your first full time undergraduate degree at St John’s;
  • start your studies in / after October 2023;
  • be a British citizen;
  • be a resident in the UK;
  • be eligible for Home fee status and full funding from Student Finance England, or other regional funding body (ie tuition fee loan and maintenance loan);
  • have a household income* of up to £16,190 per annum; and
  • have been eligible for Free Schools Meals throughout the last three years of your secondary education.


**Household income is the combined income of all income earners in the household, before tax but after pension contributions. Student Finance England base their assessment on the most recent complete tax year before their application process opens; as an example, for the academic year 2023-24, this would be tax year 2021-22. If there has been a substantial drop of the family income since then, students can request a reassessment based on the change of their circumstances. 

Additional eligibility requirements

Year Groups: All undergraduate students, either on a 3-year or 4-year course, are eligible for the Free Places Programme before their graduation.

Year Abroad: Students remain eligible during their Year Abroad, provided that this is a compulsory part of their course. 

MVST students: MVST students are eligible during the years of their pre-clinical studies, but not during the years of their clinical training.

Yearly reassessment: Students are awarded the Free Places funding for one year, and a reassessment is performed based on up-to-date financial information at the beginning of each academic year. 

Students in receipt of other funding

The aim of the Free Places Programme is to support financially students coming from lower-income backgrounds. This is a means-tested initiative and it is at the discretion of the College to adjust the value of the award in the event that a student is in receipt of (or is subsequently awarded) other funding, either from the College, the University, or an external body. Students are expected to carry on pursuing other funding opportunities. 

Application Procedure

Application Process

Students who are eligible for a Free Place have to apply to Student Finance England, or their regional funding body, for a tuition fee loan and a means-tested assessment.

Even if you do not wish to take out any loan, you should still apply to your regional funding body; otherwise, we are not able to assess your financial eligibility and you cannot be considered for a Free Place, a Cambridge Bursary or a St John’s College Studentship. After your income assessment is completed, you can, if you wish, request a loan amount of £0 and not take out the loan that you are entitled to. You should not cancel your loan application at any stage.

Students who wish to be considered for a Free Place will also be asked to submit to College an application form along with: (a) evidence of their family income and (b) a letter from their school or College confirming their eligibility for Free School Meals.

Students who hold an offer from St John’s and wish to be considered for a Free Place are strongly encouraged to apply to their regional funding body as soon as the application process opens, which is usually in March. If you think you are eligible, please do let us know by email at as early as possible and we can guide you through the process.

Please note that the provision of fraudulent information in order to obtain a Free Place, or any attempt to mislead the College in this regard, will be treated as a disciplinary offence and may result in serious disciplinary action by the College.

If you have access to funding from other sources [for example personal savings, dividends, legacies, or income from a parent who does not reside in the same household], you may wish to consider whether this source of funding could be used to cover your maintenance expenses during your course rather than applying for a Studentship.  We ask you to take this into account so that the St John’s College Studentships go to the students with the greatest need for financial support.