Peterhouse, Cambridge

University of Cambridge: Guide & Discussion Forum

As well as the Cambridge Uni Guide we have a page on Cambridge Slang. Also see Standard IB offers for Cambridge.

Courses: for more information on courses, click here

Colleges: for more information on colleges, click here







Established:          1284

University:             University of Cambridge

Address:                Trumpington Street, CB2 1RD

Telephone:             01223 338200


Student Union/JCR website:                                                    Visit our discussion forum

Graduate/MCR website:

Admittance:Undergraduates and postgraduates (men and women)


Peterhouse is the smallest and oldest college in Cambridge, founded in 1284 by the Bishop of Ely. It has an undergraduate population of 250 and postgraduate population of about 120, with an approximate male/female ratio of about 60/40.

Peterhouse has an established reputation for History, although it performs well in all subjects, as attested by its long and varied list of famous alumni, most famous probably being Henry Cavendish, Lord Kelvin, Charles Babbage, Colin Greenwood (from Radiohead), Frank Whittle, Michael Portillo, and comedian David Mitchell.

Student Statistics

In 2011, Peterhouse had the highest rate of admissions from state schools at 74% ([1]). The college is working hard to increase its outreach, with Essay Competitions designed to encourage students from all over the country.

Peterhouse Application Statistics See College applications and admissions statistics

Peterhouse Application Statistics per subject See Appplication Statistics

A typical year at Peterhouse consists of around 80 freshers, although exact numbers vary.


Peterhouse is located centrally on Trumpington Street, two minutes from the main site for Sciences and less than a 10-minute walk from most of the major university faculties. It's also only a couple of minutes walk away from town yet far enough away not to be bothered by hordes of tourists. As such, its pretty courts and spacious gardens are enjoyed almost solely by its students. It is also right next door to the Engineering Department. The record for an Engineer to get from "in bed" to "in lectures" is under a minute.


Peterhouse has some of the best accommodation in Cambridge. In addition Varsity recently reported that Peterhouse has the cheapest average rents in Cambridge, ranging from £59 to £160 per week. Peterhouse can also claim the honour of being able to house all its students during all their years of study, either within its walls or directly opposite the main site. On top of good pricing, almost all of Peterhouse's facilities are very well maintained with fresh fittings, paint and prompt repair. It stands out in comparison to accommodation elsewhere which can be quite shabby in appearance.

1st Year

Most first years live in St Peter's Terrace, a row of Georgian town houses at the end of the college gardens. The kitchen facilities are minimalist but recent renovation has meant the rooms are some of the best quality in Cambridge (especially so for first year accommodation). The terrace also acts as a hub for first years where everyone gets to know each other really quickly. The rooms are not en-suite, but there are bathrooms on most floors and many rooms have sinks. Kitchens will normally have a fridge, kettle, microwave and toaster.

Some first years will be housed in the William Stone Building, right by St Peter’s Terrace. All rooms in this building are en-suite, and have beautiful views over the college grounds and the fens. These rooms were refurbished in 2008, and are some of the nicest in Peterhouse.

Beyond the first year, students pick their own rooms in an order decided by our room-points system, which awards credit both for academic achievement and extra-curricular activities. Peterhouse is the only college to acknowledge non-academic achievements in such a way, which is both a nice reminder that academia isn’t everything in life, and a way of keeping societies and sports going in such a small college! All the rooms are nice and there's usually a mix of students who want large/en-suite rooms and those who want cheap rooms; so even at the bottom of the ballot you're likely to find a room you like!

2nd Year

2nd years pick after the 3rd and 4th years, usually being left with a row of houses opposite the college in Fitzwilliam Street (including one that Darwin used to live in). These houses are much the same as SPT, but with noticeably fewer sinks around. Other 2nd years may take up remaining rooms in the William Stone Building and Tennis Court Terrace (parallel to Fitzwilliam Street but with slightly bigger rooms). Some second years will also perhaps live in the Hostel depending on whether or not it is entirely taken by 3rd- and 4th-years, which is directly across the road from Old Court and consists of 'single sets'--which feature conjoined study- and bed-rooms.

A few students live within college, in some of the rooms not taken by the third and fourth years. Some live in 'double sets' which are living areas shared by two students, with two seperate bedrooms and a joint living room. Some others live the rooms in the newly built Whittle building (in Gisborne court), which are all ensuite.

3rd/4th Year

Third and Fourth year rooms are also chosen through the room-points system, but ballot before and take preference over the second years. Third years get first pick of all rooms in room point order, with fourth years following suit.

3rd years usually get to live in college itself, either in Old Court or Gisborne Court, and as such have beautiful views. Being very old, these rooms can vary massively in size and decor (some have chandeliers and oak panelling), but are all provided with necessary mod cons such as kitchens and adequate heating. Others may live in WSB, or in several buildings on the road opposite - The Hostel, 35 or 39 Trumpington Street, and Little St Mary’s. Fen Court, tucked behind Gisborne Court, is an art-deco building that also tends to house third-years.

4th years generally take any rooms left in these locations.


Post-grads mostly live in separate accommodation in the new-ish Cosin Court. These are flats with a shared living room and proper kitchen between several students. There is also a car park if you have permission to keep your car in Cambridge. There are also a couple of basement flats in St Peter's Terrace for married couples, and some live in Parkside or Warkworth Street, which are about 10 minutes from college, and have facilities like washing machines and ovens.

Social Spaces


Peterhouse has two gardens; the Scholars Garden and the Deer Park. Both are very large and students can walk all over them (a rarity in Cambridge). In Spring the gardens really come into their own; brimming with daffodils. They are a fantastic place to relax, eat your dinner, or host a garden party. It really takes the pressure off when you can just take a stroll through such lovely gardens for a few minutes, and helps to give the college a nice, relaxed atmosphere.


Peterhouse's Dining Hall is the one of the oldest buildings in Cambridge at over 700 years old (built in 1284). All meals are eaten here by candlelight which gives the Hall a unique atmosphere (think Hogwarts). The Hall was recently refurbished, so is in great condition with wonderful wood panelling and intricately carved beams in the roof. We eat on long tables with benches rather than chairs, which adds to the old feeling, and the hall is candlelit rather than electric. I’d say it’s one of the nicest, and certainly the most atmospheric, dining hall in Cambridge. In summer we sometimes take our meals and sit in the Deer Park instead. A select few like to take their meals to the JCR or bar and watch tv while eating, but most go to the hall. Generally laughter and conversation is so loud in hall that you have to shout to be heard.

All students are charged Kitchen Fixed Charge (around £170) to subsidise the college food. The food itself is charged onto your cambridge card and paid by bill at the end of each term. Breakfast and Lunch are served Mon-Fri and Dinner is served daily. Some days the food can be really quite good, and on other days it can be a bit bland, but it’s always edible and better/quicker than cooking for yourself. There are usually two main options and a further vegetarian option with sandwiches and a salad bar serving as an alternative. On Saturdays, Hall serves Brunch, which is both very good quality and a good social occasion as everyone can have a lie-in and meet up in Hall.

We have to eat 35 lunches or dinners per term term, anything above £2.70. If not we pay a fine to make up for the number of evenings we missed. I find a dinner usually costs around £4 (main + side + vegetable).


There is also the option to go to Formal Hall every day for £6.15 as long as you've signed up by 1:30pm that day. It consists of a 3 course waiter served meal with the option to bring in wine. Starters are usually fairly insignificant but nice, and mains and desserts are usually good. You have to wear your gown, but there is no other dress requirement, so jeans and a t-shirt are fine. Formals have a great atmosphere and they’re an easy way of celebrating an occasion (eg. birthday) with a lot of friends without paying a fortune. You can also bring friends from other colleges (a popular option, as ours is the most frequent and one of the cheapest formal halls in Cambridge).

Superhall is put on once or twice a term. This is basically a formal hall with much better food and a higher ticket price (about £18).


Peterhouse's bar is located in basement of the newly built Whittle building. It is also the location for bops which are generally hit-or-miss. It is quite cheap, and there are lots of sofas to sit and chat with friends. The bar is often quiet in the early evening before formal hall ends and attendants stumble in. Quizzes and other social events are often held here.


The JCR is generally a place to chill out and relax anytime of the day. It's in the Whittle building and so is very new, and has lots of leather sofas, one of the University's three free pool tables and lots of games. There is also a function room in the Whittle building which can be booked for events.

Library and Computing


We actually have two libraries in Peterhouse; The original Perne Library and the newer Ward Library.

The Ward Library is the main library and one of the best college libraries in Cambridge. The library is massive, being able to fit at least half the college in it, and has most of the books anyone needs for their course. In addition the college is open to suggestions for new books, which are usually bought in within a week. The library also has computers, printers, a photocopier, and very fast WiFi.

The Perne library is smaller and much less used, partly because you need special permission to get access! It's full of orignal sources, manuscripts, books and such and can be handy if you're doing a subject like History or ASNAC.

Computer Suite

The computer room has 4 PCs and 2 Macs, several scanners, an A4 printer and an A3 printer. There is an additional 4 PCs in the Ward library.

Room Connection

All rooms have a broadband connection. It's pretty fast and rarely goes down.

Academic Performance

Peterhouse is generally a mid-performing College, but being small means our position in the Tompkins Table, which ranks colleges by their exam results, can vary wildly. Our most recent rankings have been: 8th (2016), 6th (2015)

Sports & Societies

Peterhouse has teams in most sports. Rowing is particularly strong, with Men’s and Women’s boats in the top divisions. The Peterhouse Bot Club offers a lot of training in your first term if you’re interested in learning to row, even if you don’t take it any further. Athletics is also a strength, with Peterhouse regularly finishing in the top 5 of the inter-college competition. However, most sports teams are largely social events, with enthusiasm prized more than skill.

Peterhouse has many societies, and has ample funding if you wish to set one up (recent success stories including the baking society and Bad Film Society). The Peterhouse Politics Society is probably the best college Politics society in Cambridge; recent speakers have included Tony Benn, Shami Chakrabarti, and Sir Richard Dearlove. The Heywood Society, the college drama society, also puts on a play once per term.


Tutors are generally friendly and approachable, and being a small college, they can be very flexible if you're having trouble with anything. The JCR has two welfare officers as well as a LGBT+ rep and a Women's rep.


Being a small college, you quickly get to know everyone, which means that you meet a wide range of people, not just those doing your subject or on your staircase. You can just turn up to hall, the bar, or JCR and be sure of finding someone to talk to. In that sense, you may well find that you can make more friends here than in a larger college.


Sports-wise we have a gym and Squash court onsite. We share our main sports ground, Bentley Road, with Clare and its about 10 min walk away from the main college. The Boathouse has rowing machines as well as all the usual boats. There are two music practice rooms, both equiped with pianos. The theatre is fairly newly-refurbished, and there are regular musical recitals in there and the adjacent Lubbock Room.

Student-eye view

Peterhouse is small, old (the oldest, actually) and friendly. It’s lovely to know everybody around you, and everything you could want is yours to enjoy.


peterhouse map


Official Website

An alternative Prospectus written by Peterhouse Students

Peterhouse Undergraduate Prospectus Entry

Peterhouse Wikipedia Entry

Youtube clip - exploring Peterhouse

Peterhouse students on instagram

Peterhouse JCR facebook page

Peterhouse on the Cambridge Alternative Prospectus


Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic
Modern and Medieval Languages
Natural Sciences
Politics, Psychology and Sociology


Clare Hall
Corpus Christi
Gonville and Caius
Hughes Hall
Lucy Cavendish
Murray Edwards
St Catherine's
St Edmund's
St John's
Sidney Sussex
Trinity Hall