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John Crane, an apothecary in Cambridge in the early seventeenth century, made a number of bequests to the University of Cambridge (the Benefaction of John Crane, 1651; see Endowments of the University of Cambridge (CUP, 1904), p. 565). A principal provision of the Benefaction was the establishment of a charity, now known as Crane's Charity, 'to be given to poore scholars for their Releife when they are sicke for paying for their Physick, dyet, or other things necessary for them in their sickness, knowing heretofore many have miscarried for want of meanes to releiue them'. The income for the Charity derived originally from Crane's estate in Lincolnshire, until its sale in 1951, after which the proceeds were invested by the University.

Distributors (Trustees)

A body of Distributors of the Charity was established under Mr Crane's Will and is laid down in University Ordinances (Statutes and Ordinances, 2016): the Vice-Chancellor, or a deputy (currently the Master of Fitzwilliam College); the Master of Gonville and Caius College; the Regius Professors of Physic, of Divinity, and of Civil Law. The Distributors are advised in their work by a Chief Apothecary.

Purposes of the Charity

The Distributors have determined a relatively wide interpretation of the purpose of the charity. In modern times, the view has been taken that the proper scope of the Charity is to assist students who are ill, and who can demonstrate financial need.

The Charity exists to provide financial assistance to members of the University who need treatment for physical or mental illness, or for injuries resulting from accidents, provided that the treatment cannot conveniently be obtained under the National Health Service. Assistance is normally provided by grants for junior members in residence, which can be made towards the cost of medical, surgical, or psychiatric treatments (including associated costs of, for instance, nursing home, convalescent accommodation, and travel expenses, etc.), or of treatment for injuries resulting from accidents – provided in all cases that it is demonstrated that the treatment cannot conveniently or readily be obtained under the NHS. The Charity will not normally make grants in respect of the cost of treatments outside the UK or associated travel costs, nor for expensive private treatments in the UK, where there might be reasonable access to appropriate NHS or similar provision in the UK.

The Distributors do not normally make grants for ordinary dental treatment, or for spectacles or contact lenses. Students with disabilities are generally expected to seek assistance through the Disability Resource Centre, which provides information about and access to a range of support, both statutory and discretionary. The Distributors nevertheless consider applications relating to disability on a case-by-case basis; assistance may be provided, for instance, where the student has acquired a disability since matriculation and where no other financial support is available. Grants cannot normally be made by the Charity towards the costs of diagnostic assessments for specific learning difficulties (such as Dyslexia).

Applications for assistance

The Distributors provide financial assistance to individual students on the basis of an application made on their behalf by their College Tutor. Colleges are normally also expected to make a contribution.

Applications for support may be made at any time. Applications are considered by circulation; Tutors are advised that this process can take several weeks, and can become extended if further opinion or advice needs to be sought – for instance, if there is insufficient detail or justification in medical or comparable opinions, or applications are about needs which might appear prima facie to be covered by the NHS or other services that the student’s GP is in a position to commission. The Distributors nevertheless expect applications to be determined within one month of receipt, provided that all the relevant information has been supplied. An application form can be downloaded below:

Tutors are routinely requested to submit a report, after an award has been made, as to whether the financial assistance proved to be beneficial to the student - in terms of treatments, remaining on their course, completing their degree, other outcomes, etc.:

Other activities supported by the Benefaction

In addition to providing support to individual applicants, which is the principal purpose of the Charity, the Distributors have also provided financial assistance for collective activity that they have determined as falling within the purposes of the Charity. Regular funding is provided to sustain the mental health and psychiatric support work of the University Counselling Service: the Mental Health Advisor (funded through Crane’s Charity until Lent 2016, representing a funding commitment of £135,000 over three years); psychiatric advice for students, provided by a consultant psychiatrist and cognitive-analytic therapist, for half a day per week in Term.

The following table summarizes the expenditure from Crane's Charity in recent years.


  Number of grants Colleges represented Average grant
to students
grants to students
collective activities
2006/07 44 20 £262 £11,507 £13,150 £24,657
2007/08 26 14 £459 £11,930 £5,000 £16,930
2008/09 45 14 £446 £20,074 £850 £20,924
2009/10 34 18 £403 £13,698 £6,875 £20,573
2010/11 21 14 £679 £14,251 £50,725 £64,976
2011/12 19 10 £472 £8,964 £51,570 £60,534
2012/13 39 21 £576 £22,449 £48,860 £69,309
2013/14 27 17 £762 £20,569 £48,990 £69,559
2014/15 35 19 £573* £21,188 £65,755 £86,943

* Largest individual grant awarded: £1,857

Financial information about Crane's Charity can be found in the University's Financial Management Information report, published annually as a special number of the Cambridge University Reporter.