Ronald Coyne, a law student at Pembroke College, has been slammed as “disgusting” after a video appeared to show him trying to set the banknote alight while wearing white tie and tails.
More than 3,000 people have signed a petition demanding Britain’s best university cuts ties with the first year student.
“Utterly disgusting behaviour should be punished,” one signatory wrote.
“[He should] not only be removed from the university, but be made to work voluntarily for 200 hours in a homeless shelter.”
The incident, believed to have taken place on February 2 after a formal at Coyne’s college, was filmed on Snapchat before it was released by student newspaper The Tab.
The video reportedly shows the law society member struggling to light the £20 note before it pans to the homeless person.
Coyne says “some homeless shelter” before the footage cuts out, the youth website reports.
Burning a £50 note in front of a homeless person is rumoured to be an initiation to the Bullingdon Club - an elite all-male drinking club at Oxford which boasts David Cameron and David Dimbleby among its former members.
Coyne’s mother, Sandra McLaughlin, has called her son’s behaviour “thoughtless and cruel”.
“It’s completely out of character,” she told the Daily Mail. “He did two years of volunteering at Stockbridge shelter homeless shop in Edinburgh when he was still at school.
“He’s a quiet boy, he wasn’t a wild teenager, he was in chess club at school,” she added.
McLaughlin told the newspaper Coyne went out “to do the homeless run” with a friend and few nights after the event, handing out food and hot drinks to people on the streets.
Coyne, who was communications officer at the university’s Conservative Association executive committee, has since been expelled from the group, who say he was not on his way to or from one of their events when the note burning occurred.
A Cambridge University spokesperson said the institution was “aware” of the incident.
“This incident has been referred to the University’s Disciplinary process,” they said.
“We cannot comment further while this process is underway.”
The incident has sparked fundraising for homeless people in Cambridge. One crowdfunding campaign for Jimmy’s Shelter has already raised £1,500.