Explaining the residence charge

Where your money goes, and what you can do.

What is the “residence charge”?

Girton College chooses to charge students one integrated residence charge, which covers rent, any extra fees and charges, and an in-built Kitchen Fixed Charge (which pays to part-subsidise Hall).


How much am I paying? Can this change?

A person’s residence charge expenditure is based on their matriculation year, and this decides the rate for their entire time at Girton. Any “rent negotiations” referred to by the College, JCR or MCR will not affect any current Girtonians, but instead will affect the incoming fresher cohort, who join the following September.

All people pay for a 38 week tenancy, with the exception of those in Ash Court, who are required to move out for five weeks (but do not pay for these weeks). Rents are fixed for those who matriculated before 2017; those who matriculated in 2017 will see rents increasing each year, capped by RPI.

Ongoing rent negotiations are taking place on behalf of first years (whose rents are somewhat variable) and for incoming freshers.

How is the residence charge decided?

The “residence charge” is agreed as part of a wider set of “fees and charges”, which is passed by College Council. New residence charges are proposed for following cohorts in this paper, usually by the Bursar, to College Council.

There are 18 members (trustees) of College Council who can accept or reject these charges. The JCR President, Vice-President and Treasurer are three of these trustees; the MCR President and Vice-President complete the set of the five “student trustees”.

As a result, all the student trustees can oppose the changes, but if 9 or more other trustees support the fees and charges, it will be passed. No JCR or MCR agreement is required, and as trustees, the JCR and MCR members are required to vote in favour of the long term interests of College.


What do I do if I cannot afford my College Bill?

If you are having concern about finances, speak to your tutor immediately. Even if they may not have the answer immediately, they will know who best to ask internally.

On top of bursaries, Girton College has substantial hardship funds, which can be used to assist a student in times of financial hardship. If any further advice is required, contact a member of the JCR Committee.


Why are rents so much higher than at other colleges?

The high rent situation at Girton can be explained by three key factors. The first is a matter of definition; the second the fundamental issue of college inequality, which leads to the final issue, namely how the college uses donations in their investment strategy.

Firstly, Girton charges one unitary residence charge, with an inbuilt KFC. When comparing “rents”, it is important to include a college’s KFC in the annual cost. The college KFC for those matriculating in 2017 is £23.65, meaning the weekly rent is £23.65.

Secondly, Girton College has one of the smallest endowments of any college: given that Girton is one of the larger colleges, this results in a very low amount of assets per student. These assets are held in order to provide an investment return each year. This return is split: some is returned back to the investment portfolio to grow it, but the rest is brought into Girton’s operational income.

Rent forms a substantial part of Girton’s gross income. All colleges tend to make a nominal loss in their financial records, since their accountants are required to note depreciation, an estimate of the falling value of their assets (like land). However, it is more useful to use measures of cash flow. In this case, the question is: how much money does Girton’s core functions bring in (teaching, rent, conferencing, catering), and how much money does Girton spend on these core functions. The majority of colleges make a loss by this calculation.

This leads to the second issue: donation and investment. These are the two core ways in which colleges cover the deficit between their core income and their expenses. Cut the Rent Cambridge are correct to note there is no correlation between college endowments and rent prices; this is because what matters is how donations and investment are used. Three types of college are identifiable.

  • Colleges with huge endowments, providing a substantial return: these colleges can cover their deficits with returns from investment. Think Trinity. All donations that can be placed in their investment portfolios are.
  • Colleges with smaller endowments, who are more likely to cannibalise their donations and use them as an income source, rather than wait for long term returns.
  • All the other colleges, who fall somewhere between these two strategies.


Girton College’s long term financial strategy is aiming for financial stability. This centres around building up a significant endowment to provide a return. As a result, all donations that can enter the investment pot are, with the aim of a long term return: this is the foundation of the Development Office’s current programme, “A Great Campaign”. However, this means these donations cannot be used in the main income, and so College will continue to have a deficit. It is estimated that this deficit will remain open until 2021.

The issue is this means that the College’s strategy involves using the residence charge to provide income. Girton College has never made profit from accommodation, like most colleges, and the ratio of income to expenditure has remained at approximately 0.8:1. However, accommodation expenses have been increasing. The income from our investments at present is insufficient, and donations are not being used to make up this deficit: as a result, increased rent prices are being used to manage this annual deficit.


What is the JCR doing, and what else can we do?

JCR student trustees, as of 5/2/2017, are currently in the midst of rent negotiations. The Living Costs Review Committee, agreed back in 2016, has finally been set up for the first time, and can present papers to Council. Similarly, we are in discussion with the Bursar. Data from surveys on the “residence charge” and alumni donations have proved extremely useful.

The argument made by the JCR, on top of existing concerns about student welfare and affordability, is that the rent prices are reaching such a level that a) students are considering moving into public accommodation, and that b) negative experience of rents is meaning current students are less likely to donate to the college in the future.

The rent negotiations will eventually conclude. It will not affect any students currently in Girton, but will hit future generations. The numbers of future years affected will be Any final charges will most likely be settled on the Council on 16th February 2018. The predicament of the JCR and MCR in being unable to stop agreed papers results in a need for ingenuity. Several actions are possible.