Clare College, Cambridge

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The most important thing to know about Clare is that it is a friendly and welcoming place to work and live - there's an inclusive unpretentious atmosphere and it's cool to be enthusiastic about what you're studying. Clare is the second oldest college in Cambridge, founded by Lady Elizabeth de Burgh in 1326. It has a population of around 450 undergraduates, roughly half and half male/female. Its oldest current building, Old Court, forms part of the famous Cambridge view of King's Chapel from the Backs, while across Queen's Road and on Chesterton Lane more modern sectors lie. As with most other colleges, Clare prides itself on being friendly and welcoming to students from all walks of life, and has a strong Access programme. Famous alumni include James Watson, David Attenborough, John Rutter, Siegfried Sassoon, and more historically, Marquis Cornwallis and Hugh Latimer. The Union of Clare Students runs ents every week, few colleges do this now. It's possibly the only college to allow punts to be taken out all night.

Total Undergraduates in 2011-12 = 494 (270 men + 224 women)Student Statistics

  • Total Undergraduates in 2009-10 = 490 (258 men + 232 women)
  • Total Undergraduates in 2008-9 = 493 (251 men + 242 women)
  • Students admitted to their current course in Oct 11: 144 (76 men + 68 women)
  • Students admitted to their current course in Oct 09: 158 (86 men + 72 women)
  • Students admitted to their current course in Oct 08: 157 (91 men + 66 women)



Clare Application Statistics See College applications and admissions statistics

Clare Application Statistics per subject See Appplication Statistics

At Clare, the proportion of state school to private school backgrounds is approximately 2/3 state and 1/3 private (68% of acceptances in 2013 were from the maintained sector. and 67% in 2012 (source)). This is slighty above the Cambridge average.


Map of Clare sites.

Clare College Old Court

Old Court

Clare's Old Court is situated on the Backs, tucked behind King's Chapel and next door to Trinity Hall. Old Court contains around 50 rooms for students (mostly 3rd years) as well as the Master's Lodge, the Chapel, Hall, Buttery, the Bar, JCR and MCR, as well as some function rooms and supervision rooms. From the back of Old Court you can walk out onto Clare Bridge, reputed as one of the most romantic locations in Cambridge, and across the Backs through the lovely Fellows' Garden to Queen's Road.

Clare Bridge

Memorial Court

"Mem Court" lies across Queen's Road, directly in front of the University Library, which is very convenient! It is also very close to the Sidgwick site, making it ideal for lazy Arts students. It is possible to get up at 8:55 for 9:00 lectures! It's also very useful for returning library books and the like, there's not such a long trek. All first years live in Mem or the associated Ashby, Thirkill and Lerner, along with a smattering of international graduate students and 2nd/3rd years (V staircase in Thirkill is commonly where 4th-year Linguists end up). The college library (Forbes Mellon Library, or FML) is also in Mem. Court, beneath which are music practice rooms and the LCR (see below). The FML building also houses the Bennett Room, a large room usually used for band practices but which can be booked for a variety of purposes through the Porters. The Gatehouse, at the back of Ashby Court close to the University Library, is more commonly used as a space booked for parties or gatherings, but other groups, including the Cambridge University Chinese Orchestra society, have used it as a practice area.

New Court (Lerner Court)

On the same site as Mem Court. Houses about 34 first year students. Also contains a new set of conference rooms.

All rooms are en suite and have wifi internet access. They're also more expensive than an equivalent older room in Mem, Ashby or Thirkill, although there isn't a lot of difference in the cost. However they do have much better gyp rooms (still no ovens though). The court uses solar panels and geothermal energy to reduce energy requirements and houses the new Riley Auditorium, a 150 seat auditorium which can be booked out for watching films. The Elton-Bowring Room, located in the Gillespie Centre along with the Riley Auditorium, is often used for meetings and conferences.

The Colony

The Colony is the least beautiful area of Clare. It is a disparate collection of buildings on Chesterton Lane, ranging from converted Victorian townhouses to 60s concrete monstrosities. Most 2nd years and 3rd years live here. It is further from all academic sites, but these are still easily reachable by bike in 5-10 minutes. Despite some buildings being less-than-beautiful, the Colony has a good community feeling. There is now a gym. Many of the rooms have just been refurbished and are therefore quite travel-lodge esque, but still quite nice compared to many college's accomodation. Some of the buildings can be see here


Clare has some of the best accomodation in the University, with one of the rooms in Old Court voted the best room in Cambridge by VarsitY a few years ago. Many first years have sets, and a large number of the college's rooms are en suite.

First year

As already mentioned, all first years live in Memorial Court (which technically includes Memorial, Ashby, Thirkill, and Lerner Courts). A large number of these rooms are en-suite sets (a living room and separate bedroom, plus bathroom) with others having a bathroom shared between two single bedrooms. Almost all students will get ensuite. There is, however, other accommodation on offer, from sloped-ceiling attic rooms (a lot of space for a very cheap rent) as well as sociable shared ensuite rooms- one bathroom for two rooms. The shared ensuites have one large room and one smaller room. Parents can be reassured that all price ranges are catered for, so to speak! The sets are wonderfully spacious, but rents are naturally higher on these. It is possible to request an en-suite, or to ask for a cheaper room, along with many other possible requirements. Once students have received an offer of place at Clare, they are sent a form detailing their accommodation requirements; is one typical question is whether size and facilities are more important than cost. This is aimed at allowing first years to obtain a room within their price and comfort range. All rooms in Mem are being refurbished with new carpets, curtains and furniture, if they haven't already got them. There are traditionally at least two "Musical Staircases" (normally S and T) on which everyone plays instruments, not always at civilised hours. The staircase arrangement of Mem is great for developing a group of friends, and tea parties will soon be distracting you for hours! If cooking facilities are important to you opt for a set as they may share the gyp room with fewer people. If you have severe food allergies a set will mean you can have a fridge in your living area without the noise keeping you awake.

Mem Court is used a lot for conferences/interviewees, and so you will have to move out fairly promptly at the end of term. However, for those international students and those keen to revise or work, Clare are very accommodating and it is generally possible to have accommodation over the holidays. Some rooms may have a lockable cupboard and you may be able to leave a trunk (of varying size, just luck what is in your room) in the attic. You will appreciate Mem even more once you start inviting friends round from other colleges whose rooms are literally a third the size of yours...

Rents 2013/14 are ensuite set £4237-£4543, shared ensuite £3535-£4018, ensuite bedsit £4195-4237, set £4018-4195, bedsit £3580-4195, oxo £2746-3097. Kitchen charge £126 per term, internet £32 per term, utilities maybe £400 for the year. Pictures here

2nd and 3rd year

Most 2nd and 3rd years live at the Colony site, but some stay in Mem court, and some get to live in Old Court.

All accommodation at Clare is chosen by random ballot, there are no scholars' rooms. The random numbers are allocated for choosing 2nd year accommodation and reverse for the 3rd year, so anyone with a bad 2nd year choice could end up with an Old Court palace for their 3rd year if they should so desire. Of course most of their friends are likely to still be in the Colony

There is a range of shared accommodation, mostly at the Colony, which can be balloted for in groups of varying sizes (between 4 and 6). There are also some shared sets in Old Court. If you don't wish to go for shared accommodation, or your group is unsuccessful, you can ballot individually. Both group and individual ballot have their share of nice and nasty rooms. Rents are on the increase but remain reasonable compared with other colleges.

The Colony is only used in the summer for conferences, so it is possible to pay for a 9 month lease and stay in your room from October to June. Even if you don't have a 9 month lease, you can usually leave things in your room over the holidays. Your room is likely to have a lockable blanket box - but unlike Mem it may have no internet cable and no coathangars in your wardrobe!

Graduate Accommodation

Most graduate accommodation is on Newnham Road or near Chesterton Road, either in St Regis House or in houses nearby. The exception is for clinical medics, who get special houses on Queen Edith's Way (near Addenbrooke's) to keep them out of the way of everyone else. Unfortunately graduate accommodation is not available to undergraduates on 4 year courses, who have to find their own place. Since the extra rooms in Lerner court have been added, many 4th year masters and PhD students live in Mem court. If you do choose to live out (or in the case of 4th years, have to) college pays a rent subsidy of half the difference between your rent and an average college rent, up to a maximum of £50 a month.

Social Spaces


Clare gardens are well known for being beautiful and well-kept. We even grew bananas in them recently! The Scholars' Garden, immediately on the left after leaving Old Court, is small but lovely for eating lunch in during the summer, and is not open to the public. The Fellows' Garden is open to the general public in the summer, is the main display garden, and is perfect for relaxing on the riverbanks while failing to revise.

The lawns within and to the front of Memorial court are also usable in summer, and can be hired for garden parties.


Clare charges all students a Kitchen Fixed Charge (£126 per term in 2013-14) which subsidises food in the Buttery and pays for the small gyp rooms on each staircase. Normal meals are served in the Buttery, below the Hall, are paid for using your swipe card and added to your bill at the end of term. The cost of a main meal is around £3, although prices have just gone up. Quality of food is...interesting. Mostly edible but quite often less than healthy (large amounts of oil/grease) and with limited vegetarian options. The buttery staff seem to have an obsession with fried potatoes, and various types are availble every day. As a result, the lunch served in the Hall above (soup, salad, sandwiches) tends to be more popular on weekdays. The hot puddings are particularly nice. The salads are really really really weird like spinach and raspberry.

Formal Hall is on Monday to Thursday for undergraduates and currently (2013-4) costs £7.30 for Clare students and £10.00 for guests, payable using your buttery card. There is a wine limit of half a bottle which means that there are few total disasters in hall itself. Pennying and five pennying has recently been banned, students being told of this only after the ban was enforced. Students will often book formal for birthdays, or prior to nights out drinking. The food is variable in quality, vegetarian options often unimaginative - veggies will probably find themselves receiving the same salad starter and mushroom filo parcel several times a term (not that I'm bitter or anything) - and those with food allergies can expect a lot of fruit salad. A Latin Grace is always said by one of the Fellows at the start of the meal, but don't let this put you off - we are encouraged to view it as part of studying at a place with traditions, rather than an overtly religious move on the part of the college staff! No one understands the Latin, anyway... A popular translation is, "may you leave knowing a little bit more than when you arrived".

Small Hall is, as the name suggests, a smaller version of hall just opposite the main one. It can be hired out for private dinners for special occasions or society annual dinners, which usually cost around £20 a head depending on the menu.


Clare Bar is student run, and has some of the lowest prices in Cambridge. It is situated in the crypt underneath the chapel and is wonderfully atmospheric as well as being (like the rest of the college) very friendly. Pool is free, though the table is dodgy at best. Cues have to be collected from behind the bar.


The JCR (Junior Combination Room) is attached to the bar, and is mostly known as Clare Cellars. On weeknights, it is mainly used for socialising and drinking before going out, or relaxing after a hard day's work. There is a large screen TV put up for important matches or sometimes just for TV. There is a smaller TV next to the bar itself. On the weekends, Clare Cellars is used for ents, featuring a range of acts and DJs, and attended by students from the whole university. As well as normal ents, there are also Jazz, Comedy and Open mic nights throughout the term. Of these, Clare Jazz has established a great reputation on the circuit. Clare Comedy is perhaps the highlight of events. Typically compered by Matt Kirshen, professional stand-up comic and Clare Alum, it features students in the first half and a pro comedian in the second: recent headliners have included Paul Sinha and Ed Gamble.


This is a small room within the library building, where there are coffee and tea making facilities, an email checkpoint, daily papers, a TV, and vending machines. The latter two function somewhat sporadically, but in exam term there is usually a large crowd of people who gather every day to watch Neighbours before scurrying back to revision. Aside from that it's just a nice place to take a break from work and chill for a bit. There is also a growing collection of light fiction books, for something altogether lighter to read.

Oh, and the chairs are probably comfortable enough to fall asleep in.


The Middle Combination Room is for graduate students, though undergraduate 4th years such as medics, vets, linguists, engineers and part III natscis are also allowed in. It is located in Old Court, at the bottom of E staircase (opposite the entrance to the Hall). There is a daily selection of papers and magazines, a small computer room and comfy sofas. The bar is open every Wednesday and Friday after MCR formal hall. The MCR bar has an excellent selection of single malt whiskies costing about £3 a dram.

MCR formal usually has slightly better food than undergrad hall, has 2 glasses of wine provided with dinner and there is no wine limit. Despite this, it remains mostly civilised. Clare member tickets cost around £10.50 and a guest ticket is £15.50

Colony Common Room

This is a larger room in the rather unlovely Castle End building. It has a TV and DVD player as well as a chocolate machine (essential for exam term!)

Other Rooms in Clare

There are a few other rooms in college which, while not used for everyday undergraduate activities, can be booked for parties or society events such as rehearsals for plays or concerts. These include the Blythe Room, the Latimer room and the Gatehouse. The Hepple Room in Old Court D staircase contains a PC and a Mac, as well as a small fiction library, the daily and weekly papers, and lots of comfy armchairs for students waiting to go to a supervision, or who just generally want to chill somewhere that's quiet.

Library and Computing


The Forbes Mellon Library is, as already mentioned, in Mem Court. Open from 7:00am to midnight (2:00am during exam term) seven days a week, it is well-stocked for science students, with multiple copies of most major texts, and able to get most requests quite quickly. Arts students, particularly those in their final year, may have to spend more time in their departments or the UL - although there is a significant number of books, that lot can just never get enough! The FML also has a surprisingly good DVD section, with a large amount of comedy stuff donated, very kindly, by Clare Comedy, but there are also artsy and foreign films for the more serious-minded. There are a variety of other services offered too, such as comb-binding for dissertations and recordable CDs for sale. Outside office hours, the FML is looked after by a team of (very nice) graduate students, who are all really helpful (always nice when it's 11:30pm and that book you're trying to take out sets off the alarms by accident).

Lawyers have their own special library (access by University Card only) in J staircase of Ashby (Memorial) Court, donated by the late Professor Lipstein (who unfortunately died recently, still supervising and teaching at the age of 97) and eponymously named the Lipstein Room.

Computer Suite

There are several computer rooms around the college. There is a small room within the FML itself, where the photocopier also lives (used by putting money on your University Card to gain photocopying "units"). Outside the FML is the Neild Room (since incorporated into the FML) with another 7 or so machines, a mixture of Macs and PCs which can run Windows or Linux. K staircase in Mem Court also has its own computer suite on the ground floor and first floor. There is also a new computer room in Lerner Court, on the ground floor. The Colony has a larger computer room under the Blythe Room in Castle House.

Room Connection

All rooms on all sites have an optional Ethernet connection which costs around £32 (2014) a term, and also covers Lapwing / Eduroam (public wireless). Almost everybody pays this, since you get super-fast connections; however, the PWF machines (although not any public wireless facilities) are free for all Clare members to use, regardless of whether or not you pay the computer connection charge.

Academic Performance

Clare's ranking in the Tompkins Table (which ranks 29 colleges by their Tripos results): 18th (2016), 15th (2015), 8th (2014), 11th (2013), 11th (2012), 4th (2011), 8th (2010), 18th (2009), 13th (2008), 17th (2007), 12th (2006), 9th (2005), 4th (2004), 6th (2003), 3rd (2002), 6th (2001), 9th (2000).

We were 3rd on Arts subjects alone in 2011. Clare has a reputation of being slightly better at arts students, but the science results have improved in recent years.


Clare looks after its students very well, and has lots of established welfare systems. Each student is allocated a Tutor, who is a Fellow from a different subject, who they can contact about any worries they may have. They are very useful for sorting out financial or academic problems. However, much more commonly used is the lovely College Nurse and the UCS (Union of Clare Students) Welfare Officer. Both pregnancy tests available and there are free condoms available in the Nurse's office, as well as lots of information about all sorts of situations.

All Freshers are also allocated college parents, who look after them in their first few weeks, cooking dinner for them on the first night and generally minding them. You'll usually have one parent from your subject. You also get a college sibling and grandparents. Some Freshers barely see their parents after Freshers Week, others become great friends or even more...

The Union of Clare Students (UCS)

Clare's own student body elect the UCS committee to represent their interests to the college. The UCS run the Fresher's Event (it's not even a week long, unfortunately- this says something about Cambridge...) and the several college-only bops (themed cheesy discos) of each term, as well as providing support for academic, social and other aspects of college life. They finance societies and have a number of elected representatives and campaigns, from the Access campaign to the Womens', LBGT and Green representatives. They effectively handle the everyday student representation for you, with a far bigger role in students' lives than CUSU, the university's union of students.

The UCS is also nominally responsible for running the college's weekly newspaper, 'Clareification'- although a "gossip ridden scandal rag run off on a photocopier", or "an unholy cross between 'Private Eye' and 'The Sun' on a bad day" are perhaps more fitting descriptions. Full of gossip, amusing quotes, satirical articles and jokes, it is "eagerly" awaited by students every Friday- if only to ensure that their names don't appear in Clareifornication, the (lighthearted) gossip column.

It also has a (recently updated) website.


Studying at Cambridge need not be any more expensive than studying anywhere else. A major bonus of the collegiate system is the availability of financial help for those in need. Whilst Clare isn't the richest college (Trinity scoops that dubious honour) the highly approachable and friendly tutorial Bursar will enable you to gain whatever financial support you need, whether travel grants, a short-term loan, or a non-repayable bursary. All such conferences are fully confidential. Some undergraduates have found Clare to be more liberal and generous with the financial support than other colleges with similar levels of wealth.

Books Clare refunds part of the money you may spend on books (or audio visual material/computer software, or architects' materials) in any academic year. Currently (2014) you get £50 back if you spend £65-90, £70 if you spend more than £90 and about £50% back if your purchases come to at least £40. However as Clare has an excellent library and Mem Court is right next to the university library you don't really need to buy books.


Clare is a really unpretentious and friendly college, and there isn't a typical "Clare Student" - people just enjoy being themselves! It is a genuinely nice place to work and live, not merely because the students are 'nice', but because it is fairly mixed. There is a good balance of state to private school students. Students are encouraged to work hard, but we are not hot-housed - and students who struggle with personal or academic issues have a wonderful pastoral system to look out for them (the college nurse in particular is a legend!). The pretty buildings and quality of accommodation too helps make sure your time here will be comfortable.


Clare's performance and participation in sports is between average and poor (except for mixed lacrosse, which we seem to be very good at!). Last year the football team scored only one goal in the entire season! Unlike, for example, Jesus, there are no sports pitches on site (save the croquet set in Memorial Court- sometimes it is fun to live up to the stereotype...) but that does not limit participation. Many sports clubs are active at college level, from rugby (mens' and womens'), football, hockey, lacrosse, rowing, and many others. Clare's playing fields are a short cycle ride away in the south of town, and the boathouse is, as expected, on the river. Sports can be played at any level, from absolute beginner to college, BUSA and Blues (university) level. Taking rowing as an example, the college is performing well and has a full training programme in place for those who have never rowed before but who wish to take up the sport, whether for a summer term's fun, for fitness, or for serious competition. Our second Men's VIII won blades in last year's May Bumps! Generally, the college sports teams aim to compete in "Cuppers", against other colleges.

Clare was declared the 18th sportiest Cambridge College in Michealmas 2009 by The Tab. See The Tab article: The College Cup revealed


Clare has a very active music scene, and caters extremely well for all types of instrumentalist. Perhaps the best-known Clare music group is the Chapel Choir, an extremely high-standard group which performs at several services per week and has also released recordings of its work. The Clare College Music Society, the College's orchestra is also well-known: at its most recent concert it joined with the Choir to perform Vaughan Williams' Serenade to Music and Holst's Choral Symphony.

Clare also has its own jazz band, Colonel Spanky's Love Ensemble, whose repertoire includes everything from Santana to Beyoncé, and everything in between. It is also home to the popular folk band What the Folk?!


  • Chapel (Old Court) (image)
  • Buttery (Canteen, Old Court) and dining hall (image 1image 2)
  • College Bar (Old Court)
  • Laundry facilities (3 washing machines and 3 tumble driers in both Memorial Court and Lerner Court)

Library/Reading Rooms

  • Forbes Mellon Library (Memorial Court) with 30,000 items, a small computer room and a good DVD collection. (image)
  • Lipstein Law Reading Room
  • Hepple Room (Old Court) with sofas, fiction library and newspapers and 2 computers.

Computer Rooms

  • Computer Rooms in the library, above the library, 2 in K staircase, one in the Colony.

Common Rooms

  • JCR (Undergraduate Common room)
  • MCR (Graduate Common Room)
  • Library Common Room (Memorial Court) with leather armchairs, newspapers, tea/coffee/hot chocolate and TV.
  • Colony Common Room with TV, vending machine and sofas

Music Rooms

  • Memorial Court Music Rooms (inc. Bennett Room)


A new gym has been installed in Clare Colony, Castle End (where most second years live, not on the main site)

Student-eye view

Look up Clare in the CUSU Alternative Prospectus


Cambridge Clare College map



Choir of Clare College

Other clips


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Natural Sciences
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