• Public collegiate research university
  • Founded 1209 – world’s third oldest university
  • Member of the Russell Group – leading UK research universities
  • 23,000+ students
  • 40% international (around 3,200 students) – from 140+ countries
  • Mission: “to contribute to society through education, learning and research at the highest international level.”


  • No main campus – the colleges and academic facilities are spread throughout the city
  • Students make up roughly 20% of the town’s population – it is very much a university town
  • Bikes are one of the favourite modes of transport – the town is relatively flat. Students are not usually allowed to hold car parking permits.
  • The university owns eight cultural and scientific museums in Cambridge
  • Great public transport links to the rest of the Uk – 50 minutes north east of London via train
  • Plenty of green spaces and outdoor activities – such as a lazy punting session on the river or a stroll through the Botanical Gardens
  • Low levels of crime
  • Afternoon tea is a Cambridge institution and there are many tearooms to indulge in tea, sandwiches and cake! There is also a flourishing food and drink scene with plenty of great places to take family and friends when they visit.

The College System

  • 31 colleges / 29 accept undergraduate applications
  • Murray Edwards and Newnham only admit women
  • Clare Hall and Darwin only admit postgraduates
  • Hughes Hall, St Edmund’s, Wolfson admit only mature students (21 and over at the time of matriculation)
  • Not all colleges admit students for every subject and some have strong reputations for particular areas, others for political leanings or interests in areas such as sustainability and the environment
  • All students are required to have a college affiliation
  • Each college is self-governing and independent
  • Colleges are responsible for admitting undergraduate students and for organising the academic ‘supervisions’; they also provide accommodation, meals, and an environment for students to socialise and meet new people, as well as offering pastoral and academic support when needed.
  • Choose your college based on: preferred size, location (eg. near your subject buildings), appearance and type of accommodation, particular facilities or clubs/societies/activities, and personal ‘fit’ – each college has a distinct feel that should gel with the living environment you think will suit you best. Short-list half a dozen and then do some deeper research via the university and colleges websites. Try and speak with current students if you can.


  • Six academic schools: Arts and Humanities, Clinical Medicine, Biological Sciences, Technology, Physical Sciences, and Humanities and Social Sciences.
  • Within these schools are various faculties that organise teaching and research across the university
  • 30 undergraduate courses offering 65+ subjects
  • Most courses cover the subject area broadly to start before students then choose from a range of specialist areas – allows more flexibility than some other universities
  • Generally the number of subjects to choose from increases each year and some papers (topics) are offered in various courses
  • Students have compulsory papers and then a range that they can select from according to their interests
  • Each academic year consists of three very intensive 8-week terms – terms are called Tripos. The pace of learning is very fast.
  • Students are expected to be self-directed and independent when it comes to managing their studies. 42-46 hours per week is the average students are expected to spend on their academic work – including class time.
  • Students are also expected to prepare heavily during the holidays – students vacate the university premises but are still engaged in studies and assignments. Hence they are called ‘vacations’ rather than ‘holidays’
  • Teaching is delivered through ‘supervisions’, seminars, lectures and practicals (for certain subjects).
  • ‘Supervisions’ are a hallmark of the Oxbridge system and provide regular small group tuition (1-4 students) for students with leading academics in their field. Students are expected to prepare assignments for these supervisions which they will then discuss.
  • Students generally receive between one and four supervisions per week.
    Written exams are the main form of summative assessment. Science students will often have practical work that is assessed, and most courses include a research project or dissertation.
  • There usually aren’t any opportunities to resit exams at Cambridge – except for Medicine and Veterinary Medicine.
  • All students are allocated a Director of Studies who is an expert in their subject area and responsible for their academic welfare
  • Course changes are rare, but may be possible if you have the necessary background in the subject you wish to switch into.


  • Admission is highly selective but varies considerably between subjects depending on the popularity. On average there are around 6 applicants per place.
  • In most subjects students are required to sit additional tests – such as the Thinking Skills Assessment or the Cambridge Law Test. These tests must be registered for by the relevant deadlines – many occur in September.
  • All students are interviewed before an offer is made – interviews normally take place during the first three weeks of December.
  • Applicants who are not admitted by their chosen college may be entered into the Winter Pool where they can be considered by another college – 20-25% of offers are made through the Pool.
  • All applications are submitted via UCAS – deadline 15th October.
  • Students are required to submit a 4000 character personal statement, one academic reference and their predicted grades
  • Typical A level offers are A*AA or A*A*A for sciences
  • IB 7,6,6 or 7,7,6 for sciences
  • Minimum 5 AP courses at grade 5 + high marks in the US High School Diploma + high SAT/ACT (students must disclose all tests taken, including retakes).
  • Qualifications are expected to be taken in a single sitting to demonstrate the ability to cope with academic rigour and the potential to succeed within Cambridge’s heavily exam-based assessment system.
  • Applicants are assessed individually so account is taken of a student’s circumstances – offers may be modified on this basis.
  • Decisions are normally sent out in January after the Winter Pool has been completed


  • International tuition fees vary from around £24,000 for many humanities and social sciences subjects up to £63,000+ for medical and veterinary medicine programmes.
  • International/overseas students will also have to pay an annual College fee that covers a range of educational, domestic and pastoral services and support. College fees generally range from £8,500 to £11,500 per year.
  • Living costs will vary between students depending on their lifestyle and college choice, but the minimum to budget for is around £12,400 per year (excluding tuition and college fees)
  • The university advises that students should not undertake part time work during term time so they can fully focus on their studies
  • While there is extensive financial support for UK applicants, aid for international students is limited; however, there are Cambridge Commonwealth, European and International Trust awards; College awards; and country-specific scholarships.
  • Few full undergraduate scholarships are available – most support is a partial contribution and is means-tested.
  • The Jardine Scholarship is a comprehensive award available for students from Cambodia, mainland China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam applying to certain colleges at Oxford and Cambridge.


  • College-owned accommodation is guaranteed for most students for 3 years
  • Each college has a team of Porters who are responsible for the safety and security of staff and students. They are often a student’s first point of contact for information or help around the college.
  • Costs for room and board vary considerably across the colleges – check prices before deciding which college to apply for to ensure there are options within your budget
  • Colleges offer shorter annual accommodation contracts (26-39 weeks), so you don’t pay rent during the vacations unless you choose to stay in Cambridge.
  • Each college will have a library and computer facilities
  • A lot of social activities are organised within the colleges, such as film nights and discos – these are often open to members of other colleges as well.
  • Each college will have a common room for students to socialise and many also have their own gym and sports facilities.
  • Some have music practice rooms and performance spaces. Most colleges have a choir and an orchestra, and often a range of other musical groups – to suit all tastes and levels of experience.


  • 700+ clubs and societies
  • Cambridge Union is the world’s oldest debating society founded in 1815 and a globally recognised debate organisation. Technically independent from the university, it offers students high level debate and public speaking experience and welcomes a host of distinguished guest speakers each year.
  • Other notable societies include the Amateur Dramatic Club, the comedy club Footlights, and the Cambridge University Chamber Orchestra.
  • Many colleges hold regular formal dinners at which students are often expected to wear their gowns – called Formal Halls. Special Formal Halls are held at Christmas and for other notable occasions.
  • May Week occurs after the end of year exams during which a series of May Balls are held by colleges – often very lavish, all night events with lots of food, drinks and entertainment.
  • The first day of May Week is also a popular date for college garden parties.
  • JCR (Junior Common Room) is an opportunity for students to participate in their own college student union. Student officers are elected annually by their peers.
  • Rowing is one of the most popular sports and the annual Boat Race with Oxford is televised globally
  • Athletes representing the university in certain sports can apply for a Cambridge Blue – sporting colours
  • The sporting facilities are extensive and most sports are well catered for
  • Varsity is the oldest Cambridge student newspaper and is published weekly. News stories from Varsity have also appeared in a number of UK national newspapers


  • Graduate employment prospects are excellent – one of the top universities in the UK targeted by Britain’s leading graduate employers
  • Open Days are held in July and September.
  • There is also a range of online events for prospective applicants to sign up for, including: subject masterclasses, an applicant webinar series, and Think Cambridge – a three week series of webinars to encourage Year 11 and 12 students to apply.

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