• Emmanuel College, Cambridge

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Emmanuel College, Cambridge

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Emmanuel College
Established: 1584
University: University of Cambridge
Address: St. Andrew's Street
Telephone: 01223 334200
Website: www.emma.cam.ac.uk
Student Union/JCR website: Emmanuel College Students' Union
Graduate/MCR website: no
Admittance: Undergraduates and postgraduates


Student Statistics

  • Total Undergraduates in 2014-15 = 495 (263 men + 232 women)
  • Students admitted to their current course in Oct 13: 129
  • Students admitted to their current course in Oct 14: 161

Source: Student Statistics 2014-15


Emmanuel College is situated on St. Andrew's Street, just outside the main town centre; near to Downing, Peterhouse, Sidney Sussex, Pembroke and Christ's colleges. It enjoys being near enough to the main shops, restaurants and bars, without all the tourists who frequent the Backs' colleges.

  • 0.62 miles to the Engineering Department on Trumpington Road.


Rooms are graded from 1 to 8- the higher the number, the nicer the room and the more you pay for it. A grade 1 is definitely small but livable, a grade 8 is basically your own flat. Factors other than size are taken into account- for instance views, noise, distance from college, etc.

All first-years live in 2 sites within college (North Court and South Court). South Court rooms are exclusively grades 3&4 - all the 3s are identical as are the 4s. This is the 60s building which also houses the bar.

North Court North Court rooms range from grades 1 to 6 (although very few 5s and 6s will be available for first years) and are more variable. You go through an underpass from the main site to get there. Rooms facing inwards over the court are lovely, those facing outwards look over a building site or the bus station and can be noisy as a result. Inward facing automatically means a higher grade so grades 1&2 are almost exclusively outwards facing. Some nice grade 4s facing inwards and one immense grade 3 that is obviously a mistake as it is huge.

I chose North Court as I hated the fluorescent lights in south court but South Court has nicer showers and toilets. Rooms in North Court are more spaced out and vary more in terms of size compared to the South Court (and are also definitely older). Showers are a bit dodgy though (one of them the lock broke for the last three weeks of term) but they're still usable. I had a chance to talk to the maintenance people once and they said over the next decade they'll be closing down one staircase at each year in North Court to do full renovation, although people on here probably won't get to use these new rooms by the time they leave.

North court seems a rather nice option - the two North court rooms I've seen (one belonged to someone I visited last February, the other I went for my interview) both seemed nice and spacious and quite comfortable actually.

I think North Court's lovely, although you do get bus station noise. I personally wouldn't choose to live there because I'm not a fan of the layout - it's quite closed off, two or three rooms to a corridor rather than the more communal South Court (the bar one) or Barnwell/Blantyre (the out of college ones).

South Court I liked being in South Court because I had a good group of friends on my staircase and the layout is in general more sociable, although I suspect our grades suffered a little from it being perhaps too sociable But I loved it as a place to live, I was really happy there

South Court you know what you're getting, North Court you don't (although they do try to give you the grade you request but if it is 5-6 then it is unlikely and you normally end up with a 4). If you want a grade 4 it might be an idea to apply for a 5-6, that's what my girlfriend did even though she knew there were no 5-6s in South Court. Equally, I did that and got a grade 4 in North Court. Applying for grade 3-4 is more likely to land you with a 3, particularly in North Court.

In the next 2 years, room allocation is done by a randomly chosen ballot. You pick your second-year room in the order that your names are drawn out of a hat, and this order is reversed for 3rd-year rooms. However, 3rd-years pick before second-years.

Second Year In second year, you will probably end up living outside college, either in college-owned houses about 5 minutes walk away or in buildings (called "hostels", but basically like college staircases except not in college) with 40 or so other people about 15 minutes walk away. About 20% of second years live in college, but usually they end up getting small rooms, as the third-years pick first, then most of the remaining North Court rooms are given to freshers.

Most second year accommodation is offsite, so chances are you'll end up living in Barnwell, Blantyre or Warkworth next year. Barnwell is set out much like normal halls staircases, just a bunch of rooms in a big building (or couple of buildings in this case). Blantyre is similar - a couple of houses knocked through - which is decoratively speaking the nicest of the three and is really bright and sunny with a nice garden. However, there are loads of doors (like North Court) and it is probably the worst situated of the three, with few shops nearby. Warkworth is a terrace of houses, with rooms that vary in quality. Although it is the closest accommodation to college, it lacks its own washing facilities or proper kitchens, so ironically you may end up spending more time walking back and forth than you would living further away. Barnwell is known as the party house (mainly because it's the furthest from college), and generally has a great atmosphere. It's right next to the Grafton shopping centre, and is directlly on the river, so it's popular with boaties. It is often said to have the worst rooms of the lot (this is almost certainy true in some cases), but it actually includes 6 of the largest second year rooms (seperate bedroom/living room anyone?) and has a fantastic kitchen.

Advantages of living offsite? There aren't too many, but ultimately the choice is offsite in a large room surrounded by friends or onsite but crammed into the last available space. It's a total pain trekking into college up to three times a day for food, supervisions etc, and you're unlikely to make it to many lectures unless you're a medic. You also lack the luxuries you get used to in your first year, such as a 24 hour cashless vending machine, or a bedder (doing your own hoovering for the first time after a year of nothing can be traumatic). There is certainly more freedom (Barnwell is entirely unsupervised, and the others aren't far off), plus the sense of community with the other second years you live with is very strong.

Third Year In third year, the rooms tend towards the bigger end of the scale, and are either in college or in the houses on Park Terrace that back onto college. Some third-years opt for shared sets in Old Court- you have your own (quite small) bedroom with a desk in it, and share a huge living room with a friend. Third-years also live in Hostel (a brick building overlooking the Paddock), New Court (palatial grade 8s if you're very lucky) or the nicer rooms in North Court.


Food is actually not bad at Emma. It's all quite cheap and you pay using your student card (just swipe it over the reader and it all gets shoved on your college bill). Hall serves breakfast, lunch and dinner every day, except for Sunday where you have brunch and dinner only. I'd tell you the mealtimes but I still don't properly know them - I think breakfast is 8.15-9.15, lunch is about 12.30ish-1.30ish, dinner is 5.45-7ish, or something along those lines. Barely anyone goes to breakfast, but lunch and dinner are always pretty manic, mostly because very few people have any cooking facilities other than a microwave or combi oven.

Breakfast is pretty much standard fare - sausages, bacon, eggs (fried during the week and scrambled on Sundays, but avoid the scrambled because it's rank), very greasy fried bread, hash browns, tomatoes, beans, that malarkey. During the week you also have cereal, either from a dispenser or just mini packets. There are also loaves of sliced bread lying around, with baskets of butter and honey and jam - you grab a slice or two and shove them in the toasters that they plug in in the dining hall. Almost everyone goes to brunch on Sundays because it's a bit later - maybe 11-1 or something. They have newspapers and pastries, and also the remains of Saturday night's dinner (yes, ew) so it's a bit more varied than breakfast. Also, there are always yoghurts/mousses/rice pudding available in hall. Oh, and there's a dodgy juice machine that people only really seem to brave with brunch.

Lunch is my favourite meal of the day at Emma. There's a salad bar (which I'm not too keen on, but I'm not a salad person) and some absolutely awful over priced sandwiches that I also tend to skip past. There'll be a main, with generally two or three options for meat people and one veggie option. If you're veggie, be prepared for a life of cheese and pasta, that's pretty much all you ever get. And the occasional mushroom. For meat people they tend to have a meat thing and a fish thing - sometimes it's curry, sometimes it's just a hunk of meat in a gravy concoction. To go with that you have a potato crafting - somehow, Emma contrives to serve a wide variety of potato, but you inevitably end up eating lots of potato croquettes, which look a lot more appetising than they actually are. They also have lots of icky overcooked vegetables that I can't really comment on because I ate them once and have refused ever since. You can get fruit as well, which is what I tend to do.

Anyway, lunch and dinner are basically the same, except that at lunch they always have chips, soup and greasy pastry things as an alternative to the mains. I'm a chip addict, so I eat them almost every day and hate weekends because they don't serve them then (but I don't weigh a million stone, before you all start picturing me as some kind of whale). The greasy pastry things are sausage rolls or pies or pasties and taste rather yummy. The soup is really good too, except for the tomato stuff that tastes like they've taken the hoops out of spaghetti hoops.

For lunch and dinner they also have desserts, although I think they're more plentiful at dinner time. They always always always serve cheesecake, and we're all heartily sick of the stuff now. Sometimes they do this weird thing where they mash up bananas and chocolate croissants and bake them. So yeah, the desserts can be a bit suspect but generally worth a try, if only to laugh at exactly how hard you have to whack the ginger cake to get your spoon into it. Oh, and there are ice creams in summer, mostly Maxibons, Fabs, Calippos.

There are ketchup dispensers and sachets - sachets cost 5p or so. Salt, pepper and sugar are free and left on the tables in hall.

Drinkswise, there's the temperamental juice machine that I mentioned earlier and also a coffee machine (can't comment, I've never used it) and a cold milk dispenser. You have to pay for all of those, but water is free, cold, tastes filtered and is available just after you pay from little fountains that you have to hold a glass under while balancing your tray on one arm (takes practice). You can also buy drinks from the counter when you're paying - bottled juices and fizzy drinks and things, but they're quite overpriced.

To counter this, however, there are two vending machines as you leave the serving area that are an absolute godsend. You can use them all the time. One of them sells crisps, chocolate, the occasional packet of Jaffa Cakes and cans of fizzy drink, and you pay on your college card. This tends to empty out by the end of the week and is only restocked on Mondays. The other one is just for bottled fizzy drink, which costs 90p per bottle. You can also get crisps, chocolate, sweets and drinks in the college shop, which is run by ECSU and is open during most mealtimes, where you can pay by cash or college bill.

Obviously, hall isn't the only option. There are tons of places to eat around Emma which you will definitely partake of once you get fed up of eating stodge all the time. The coffee shop Savino's, which is just outside North Court gate, has AMAZING food and drink and is quite cheap - made cheaper still by the fact that Emma students get a 10% discount there. There's also a Subway, Nanna Mexico, millions of pizza places, Nando's, GBK etc up the road, and tons of student offers that make it really cheap to eat out.

So, to summarise - hall = good but not brilliant, easy to get bored of but definitely wholesome food with the occasional nice thing thrown in. It gets you through anyway

Social Spaces

The college has a student-run bar situated in South Court which is extremely popular with both its students and those from other colleges. It is often criticised for its general stickiness (floors, tables, walls...), but with drinks so reasonably priced some compromises must be made. It is on two levels. And, well, it's just barlike - in a submarine themed kind of way. Frequent themed 'Bar Extensions' are held, which tend to provide most of the gossip for the rest of the term.

The Old JCR is a quiet common room with armchairs and sofas, as well as a TV, DVD player and a brand new Wii.

In summer, the paddock is used as a social place as students are free to laze around on the grass or bring their trays outside for lunch and dinner. Tennis and badminton courts are set up at the far end.

Library and Computing

Emmanuel has a large library, which is adjacent to the paddock. It is open 24 hours a day, and in exam term this is certainly made use of! It has just finished a comprehensive refit, and now has more seating, lots of toilets, a small computer room, a break room with a coffee machine, and a really great room on the fourth floor with views out across Parker's Piece.

Emma has two on-site computer rooms for students (plus the new one in the library). Internet access is very good in all areas of college, and is a wired connection everywhere but Old Court. Blantyre has famously good internet (rumoured to be due to a group of Computer Scientists living there a few years ago). Barnwell's used to be infamously bad, but they put more wireless routers in this year and it seems quite a bit better - perfectly useable, if a bit slow for iPlayer at peak times.

Academic Performance

Emmanuel's ranking in the Tompkins Table (which ranks 29 colleges by their Tripos exam results): 4th (2015), 5th (2014), 4th (2013), 2nd (2012), 2nd (2011), 1st (2010), 2nd (2009), 2nd (2008), 1st (2007), 1st (2006), 5th (2005), 1st (2004), 1st (2003), 2nd (2002), 2nd (2001), 3rd (2000).


Emma was declared the 6th sportiest Cambridge College in Michealmas 2009 by The Tab. See The Tab article: The College Cup revealed


The Welfare scheme at Emma is arguably one of the best in Cambridge. In exam term, in particular, ECSU works hard to organise a variety of events to make life more bearable. This year we had massages, comedy nights, sweets, a bouncy castle, giant bubble wrap and even a DVD night with the master of the college.

Emma, like many other colleges in Cambridge, operates a college parents scheme, which can be very beneficial to freshers trying to find their feet in their first term or so. Two third years are assigned a 'family' of around 5 first years to take under their wing. They will meet them on the day they arrive, give them tours of Cambridge and together participate in a number of (mildly competitive) inter-family events in the first few weeks. Generally families will comprise people studying all different subjects in order to help freshers to quickly gain a wide circle of friends. Somewhat confusingly, new students will also be given a seperate set of (second year) subject parents, who are assigned to help with any academic questions.


The college's atmosphere is often described as very friendly. Students from other colleges often comment on Emmanuel students' approachability and their being down-to-earth. Emmanuel also has a repuation for being a very academic college, which can be shown by its consistent top performances in the Tompkin's Table. Hard-working and friendly!


  • Wren Chapel (image 1, image 2)
  • Canteen and medieval dining hall (image 1, image 2)
  • College bar with regular DJ nights and live bands (image1, image 2)
  • Library (image)
  • Computer Rooms with PC and Macintosh computers and up-to-date scanners and printers
  • JCR (Undergraduate) Common Room with TV, games, sofas
  • MCR (Graduate) Common Room with periodicals, tea and coffee, games, playstation, Sky TV and a free pool table
  • Music Practice Rooms
  • An organ, two grand pianos, several upright pianos and a harpsichord for students to play
  • Dark Room for photographers
  • Art Room
  • Theatre/auditorium (150 seats) used for plays, films, concerts and guest lectures (image)
  • Open-air swimming pool (open in Easter term)
  • Lawn tennis courts (open in Easter term) (image)
  • Croquet Lawn (open in Easter term)
  • Table Tennis Room
  • 2 Squash Courts
  • Extensive gardens (with grass that you can walk on!) and duck ponds (image 1, image 2, image 3).
  • Free laundry service (only college which provides this)
  • Sports ground a few minutes away from the main site with facilities for cricket, football, hockey, netball, rugby and tennis.
  • Boathouse on the river with a gym (image)

Student-eye view

Look up Emmanuel in the CUSU Alternative Prospectus


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