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Cambridge University revealed to have £6 billion as workers languish on poverty-level wages

In-depth research from Unite, the UK’s leading trade union, has uncovered that Cambridge University is sitting on over £6 billion of cash and investments while trying to maintain it can’t afford to help its lowest-paid workers.

The revelations coincide with fresh strike action by university workers. Cleaners, librarians, museum workers and many other staff at the university have been in a long-running pay dispute over the failure of the institution to acknowledge the cost of housing in Cambridge as well as the wider inflationary pressure on its lowest-paid workers. Some are being paid less than £23,000 per year yet live and work in one of the most expensive parts of the country.

Unite has compiled a financial report that shows that Cambridge University is in rude financial health. Some of its findings include:

  • The university is fabulously wealthy, holding cash and investments worth around £6 billion as of July 2023.
  • The largest component of these assets is held in the Cambridge University Endowment Fund known as CUEF. CUEF assets have grown by £477 million in the last three years.
  • Unrestricted funds have grown by £1.5 billion since 2020, and by £800 million after excluding pension fund changes

 Meanwhile, Unite’s members who are asking for just an additional £5,000 per year “Cambridge weighting” are being told the university cannot afford the £ 75 million this would cost.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: 

“Cambridge University is one of the richest education institutions in the UK and has billions of pounds at its disposal. Yet rather than help its lowest paid workers with the cost of living in one of the most expensive cities in the UK it is fiddling while Rome burns. It pleas of poverty have been exposed as being entirely hollow.

“Unite’s commitment to the jobs, pay and conditions of its members means it never stands on the sidelines. The workers at Cambridge University have the union’s full backing in their fight for fair pay.”

Over 450 Unite members at the university are taking further strike action on 12, 13 and 14 March.

Unite regional officer Ian Maidlow said: 

“Our members do vital work for the university and keep essential services for students and academics up and running. The resulting disruption to the smooth running of the university is a direct consequence of management’s intransigence in making a decent pay offer.”