How rich are Cambridge students?
One of the local student newspapers -- Varsity -- has got another scoop. Last term it conducted an online questionnaire, which apparently revealed that 50% had at some time or other in their university career 'plagiarised' (whatever that meant).
I wasn't sure how much weight to put on these anonymous confessions, honestly. But now Varsity has run a new questionnaire to find out how rich the average Cambridge student is and how much their parents earn -- and, for the benefit of the punters, they've broken this down by college and Tripos subject. It's the lead story this week, even upstaging the article on that burning Cambridge controversy on the wine served to students at St John's Formal Hall. (That's irony, by the way, before you write in . . .)
Some of this new scoop plays to our usual prejudices. History of Art comes out top of the subject rich list -- with a claimed average weekly budget per student of £182 per week and an average parental income of £118k. Not enough to buy young Rupert a Caravaggio to work on, but still a generous cushion against poverty.
But there were other, surprising, results.
I'm not sure whether to believe the stories of students who claim to have to feed themselves by scavenging from supermarket bins, or of those, for that matter, who claim to drink bars dry of champagne. They are boasts of a different variety, I half suspect. Of course, if they're true, I have hugely more sympathy with the former than the latter, but (rather primly) would advise both to go and talk to their college's financial tutor. Most colleges have funds to help students who are really short of money and they also understand the problem of student debt -- which certainly is getting worse. They no doubt have plenty of advice to dispense to the stupidly spendthrift too.
But it was funny to see the average parental income at King's (with all it's radical image) coming out well above St John's (with all their wine at Formal Hall problems). And what about the women of Murray Edwards College -- which is still 'New Hall' to most of us, partly because its new name sounds more like a rugby prop than a college -- having Mums and/or Dads bringing in £108k and at the top of the college table? Old-fashioned Peterhouse, with all its slight hauteur, had an average family income of £54,800, putting it at the very bottom (and, reassuringly at first sight for those who want to dispel Cambridge's snobby image), rather lower than twice the median wage of a 40 -49 year old in the UK.
It was at this point that I began to see the problem with this bit of online 'research'.It wasn't just that there were only 783 respondents (fewer than 40 per college). That's not a bad rate as Cambridge student questionnaires go, actually. And it's not that they were all lying.
Isn't the problem that most of these students dont have the foggiest clue what their parents take home? And isnt it possibly the rich who are least aware of what the family income is and where it comes from? After all, they're not always having to fill in benefit and claim forms with exactly that kind of information.
Still a nice try, Varsity!