University of Cambridge

Cambridge University
University of Cambridge

Cambridge is a collegiate university, with its main functions divided between the central departments of the university and a number of colleges. In general, the departments perform research and provide centralised lectures to students, while the colleges are responsible for the domestic arrangements and welfare of students and staff. Colleges provide teaching in the form of supervisions, and are where a student generally lives and socialises. (In Cambridge, “the university” often means the University as opposed to the Colleges.)

General Information

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  • Established: 1209
  • Location: Cambridge, UK
  • Address: The Old Schools, Trinity Lane, Cambridge CB2 1TN
  • Telephone: 01223 333308
  • Website:
  • SU/Guild website: CUSU
  • UCAS Code: C05
  • Type: Collegiate


  • Total students: 18,022
  • Undergrad: 11,729
  • Postgrad: 6,293
  • International: 13%
  • Mature: 4%
  • Male:Female: 48:52
  • Staff: 2000+
  • Typical offers: A*AA-A*A*A*A
  • Applicants per place: 4



(Those aged over 21 at matriculation are classified as mature students)

Choosing a College


Subjects and Guides

The subjects available at undergraduate level at Cambridge are:



  • Chemical Engineering
  • Computer Science
  • Engineering
  • Manufacturing Engineering
  • Mathematics
  • Medicine
  • Medicine Graduate Course
  • Natural Sciences
  • Psychological and Behavioural Sciences
  • Veterinary Medicine

Subjects and Guides Graduate Courses

Selection of Graduate level subjects that are available:

  • MPhil Sociology at Cambridge
  • MPhil Social Anthropology at Cambridge


The University Library - main university library web-page

The Cambridge library system is organised into three tiers. At the top, is the main university library. This is a copyright library, which means that it has a copy of every [yes, every, non-fiction AND fiction: basically every book with an ISBN number] book published in the UK. It also, of course, has an extensive back collection of books, periodicals and archival sources. As an undergraduate, you can borrow most books from the University Library, or the UL. Some books can only be consulted within the library, and some books are not available on the shelves directly.

From the outside, it looks like a power station. On the inside (once you get away from the big main reading room), it's a maze. As a student, you get in with your University card, after you have registered it on the first visit. You can pretty much guarantee that any book, or scientific paper, or whatever, that you are after will be in there somewhere. However, while some books can be taken directly from the shelves, others have to be requested, which can take an hour or more on a busy day. The only way of finding out which to do (that I've found so far) is to have a look on the Library Search.

Library Search is the online search facility for all the Cambridge University Libraries. It can be used to search as narrowly as the library of a particular college, or one can broaden the search to take in the holdings of all the libraries in Cambridge Uni. The website can be found here:

Aside from the main Uni library, there is a secondary tier of departmental libraries. For instance, the Geography department has its own library with a pretty good range - however I've found that key texts for common parts of the course are very hard to get hold of. Which leads us to the handy fact that by going and registering there, a student can actually borrow books from the libraries of any of the departments, rather than just their own.

The final level is the College libraries. These vary of course from College to College, but will generally offer a good range and less restrictive borrowing than the levels above them. However, unlike the university and department libraries, college libraries are usually only open to members of that particular college. There is also great variation in quality and extent of range, both between colleges and between individual subject areas within colleges.

All the libraries offer computing (PC and Mac) and multimedia facilities, and many will have PWF workstations.

The main university library webpage can be found here (, and from it one can get to the webpages of all the dependent libraries.

In summary, as a student at Cambridge, you can be confident that absolutely any book or article you might want (or have) to read will be available somewhere within the system. Its distributed nature, however, often means a fair amount of trekking back and forth to find a copy if other people are after it too. All the libraries, but in particular the college ones, also offer a quiet place to work, which can be very helpful if you find being in your room means that procrastination through TSR lures you inevitably away from your essay....

The University Library also has an extremely nice Tea Room....

IT and Computing


Cambridge University Computing Service run computing courses and have an extensive library of self-teach packs so that you can learn to use anything you need to. The Computing Service also maintain the University Computer Network (Public Workstation Facility or PWF). When you arrive you'll get a PWF username and password which thich you can log into any computer in your college or faculty. This gives you access to any software you could need.

The university will also give you a Hermes email account. You will have an email address made up of your initials plus a number You log on here. Once you leave the university you are given a Cantab email address for life which ends

See Choosing a college - by Facilities for more information about college-specific network access.

Cambridge Study Tips


Cambridge exams, called Tripos exams, take place over three weeks at the end of May and beginning of June. Most students will sit Tripos exams at the end of every year of their degree (and if a subject does not require tripos, there are usually 'prelim' exams instead). The exam term is a very intensive time as these exams are taken very seriously. Students are awarded a class mark on the basis of their performance (1* (rare), 1, 2.1, 2.2, 3 or fail) Very few students get 3rds and a 2.2 is generally regarded as disappointing. If students are awarded a first in their exams then they are elected to the title of scholar at their college, given book tokens and invited to exclusive scholars' dinners. There are also a number of named prizes for distinguished performance in particular subjects which vary from college to college. At the top end of the scale, a student gaining a first class result at Trinity College is awarded a prize to the value of £1,000! Get studying!

Weekly Essays

Tend to stress people more than they need to. Since they do not contribute to your results, the best thing to do with them is to practise writing succinct and clear prose, even to see them as potential revision notes. Remember that your supervisor probably reads through your essay quite quickly, and that it doesn't occupy the same portentious position in their consciousness as it might in yours. Putting yourself in their position should help reinforce the fact that it's not worth stressing too much over, and that a certain of lightness of touch will go down well. This isn't necessarily good practise for dissertation writing or research, but can set you up quite well for the exams themselves.

Cambridge Discussions

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Health and Welfare Facilities


Most colleges have a college nurse based on site, who sees all freshers early in the first term for an initial assessment, and is available for information and advice on any medical worries. They also usually have free condoms available. As well as registering with the college nurse, you will also need to register with a GP in Cambridge (often the college nurse will arrange this or the college will give you information about the nearest GPs when you arrive). Remember to bring your NHS card if you have one! There are a good number of central GPs and there are pharmacies in Boots and Superdrug for prescriptions. For your teeth, there is the University Dental Service located at number 3 Trumpington Road (near the intersection of Trumpington Street and Lensfield Road). They provide NHS dental treatment for students.

The local district hospital is Addenbrooke's Hospital which is a huge place on Hills Road. The good news is that Addenbrooke's is a very good hospital, receiving excellent ratings from the Healthcare Commission. It's quite easy to get to, and any local person (and medics) should be able to give you directions. The C1, C2, C4 and C7 buses all go there, as do the Park and Ride busses. If you cycle all the way down Hills Road you'll get to it eventually. This is where you will end up if you need A&E for any reason. It is a national and regional centre for cancer services, liver transplants, organ transplantation, neurosciences and genetics. You can also go down there to give blood if you want to (though there are lots of opportunities in town too).


Life at Cambridge, as at any other university, can be stressful. The pressure of essay deadlines, chaos of trying to make new friends and maintain relationships, and the whole new lifestyle that is living away from home, can lead to all sorts of problems. The good news is that Cambridge has an extensive welfare network. In your college you can talk to the college nurse, chaplain, the JCR women's officer/LBGT rep or your tutor (each student is assigned a tutor on arrival at the college who is an academic not normally in the subject you are studying who is responsible for your welfare during your time at the college). If you prefer to seek help out of college then Cambridge SU have an extensive welfare service, ranging from The Student Advice Service which offers free, confidential and independent support, to sexual health and lots in between. They also have a sabbatical officer who can be contacted on [email protected] who, as well as individual case work, is involved in improving services for all students and representing concerns to university authorities. They also train the college welfare officers - you'll meet them at the lovely sexual health talk in Freshers' week, who are usually the first port of call for any concerns. On top of Cambridge SU and the range of people available to help in college, there is also professional help available from the University Counselling Service. This is free and completely confidential.

International Students

Most colleges have an International rep on the JCR. They can answer your questions and provide you with any extra help you may need to settle in Cambridge. You might be interested in joining Welcome International Students of Cambridge, an organisation which can match you with an English family in Cambridge. Otherwise, there are plenty of societies for the different nationalities so that you can socialise with people from or interested in your culture. See for example CU Chinese Society, CU Dutch and Flemish Society, CU Italian Society or CU Australia and New Zealand Society. There's a long list of international societies here.

LGBT Students

Cambridge has a full support and social network both in colleges (through the LesBiGay JCR reps) and in the university as a whole through the Cambridge SU Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay and Transgender Campaign. Cambridge SU co-hosts a gay club night at Life (The Place) every Wednesday from 10pm-2am all year round and there's a termly magazine called no definition. At the start of Michaelmas term, Cambridge SU LGBT also run a parenting scheme, whereby incoming first years are matched with other freshers and allocated parents (older students), which can help them integrate. This makes the whole process a lot less daunting and is a great way to meet new people. Overall, Cambridge is very welcoming when it comes to LGBT students, and has a really great social life, with events ranging from club nights as mentioned above, to coffee socials, film nights, and swaps (where colleges go to other colleges' Formal Hall).

Disabled Students

The CU Disability Resource Centre on Trumpington Street provides a full range of information and services for disabled students including the Disability Access Guide. The staff are very friendly and you can speak to them in confidence. It is best to contact them as soon as possible when you're applying to find out what is available to help you.



  • the Sainsbury's on Sidney Street. It's small and gets very crowded as it's where all the students go! Avoid on Saturdays, at lunchtime, and rush hours, and if you want it a bit quieter try it in the hours before it closes at 23.00 or before 10.00 in the morning.
  • M&S on Market Square if you're rich.
  • Big Tesco, Sainsbury's and ASDA are all a bit of a trek from the centre.
  • For those on the Hill (New Hall, Churchill, Fitzwilliam, Trinity Hall's Wychfield Site and Girton), there's also an Aldi, Iceland and Co-Op. These can save you a small fortune compared to Sainsbury's.


  • Cambridge Market, Market Square Mon - Sat, 10am-4pm. CDs and DVDs, Fresh Fish, Fruit & Vegetables, Jewellery, Books, Bags, Second Hand Bikes, Health Foods, Garden Plants, Mobile Phones & Accessories etc.
  • Art and Craft Market, All Saints Garden, in Trinity Street, opposite Trinity College Gatehouse.

Book Shops in the City Centre:

  • Heffers (Trinity Street) - the famous Cambridge bookshop and the best place by far for academic books (but it does have a full range including popular fiction). There's a smaller non-academic Heffers in the Grafton Centre as well.
  • Cambridge University Press Bookshop (Trinity Street) You get a 20% discount if you show your university card.
  • Waterstones (Sidney Street)
  • Oxfam Bookshop (Sidney Street)

Shopping Centres/Roads:

  • The Grand Arcade on Regent Street has a large John Lewis and a range of expensive, fashionable clothes shops as well as an Apple Store where you can play with all the latest gadgets.
  • The Grafton Centre is pretty much your average town shopping centre with over 72 more reasonably priced high-street shops and department stores such as Debenhams, Boots, Clarks, The Early Learning Centre, a small food court and the Vue Cinema.
  • Mill Road has a very wide range of small independent shops and cafes and Chinese, Korean, Indian and Italian supermarkets. It's certainly worth exploring. Notable shops include Computer Resale which sells second-hand computers and equipment, Video Emporium which has a cool selection of DVDs from all eras and all over the world (much cooler than Blockbuster) and Al Amin which sells all sorts of African, Asian, Middle Eastern and Mediterranian foods.
  • The Beehive Centre (tucked away in the Mill Road/Coldham's Lane area) has some larger shops: an ASDA, Maplins, TK Maxx, Pets at Home, furniture and homeware shops, Babies R Us.

Charity Shops: Several in Burleigh Street (next to the Grafton Centre), seven on Mill Road, a couple on Regent Street and an Oxfam Book Shop on Sidney Street. It's worth noting that you can often get yourself black tie and ball dresses cheaply if you're willing to go on a charity shop crawl. There's also a large British Heart Foundation furniture shop between the Grafton Centre and Burleigh St. There's a lot of stuff on offer there, and at very reasonable prices, too.

The Fudge Kitchen on King's Parade is very popular with students because if you wander in you can have a free sample of their freshly-made fudge! Yum.


It is difficult to talk about restaurants, given that the student population tend to prefer to eat in college butteries, formal halls, and often from take-aways, so I'll discuss all of the places in which foodstuffs can be acquired. First and foremost is Gardies (the gardenia) on Rose Crescent. This is the hub of late-night Cambridge life. There is always a queue, the food is greasy but great, and if you're drunk enough they take a photo of you and put it on the wall (in exchange for a lollipop). The food is relatively pricey, but worth every penny. The competition for Gardies is the van of life and the van of death at night on Market Square. Both of which offer cruder food, but are popular given the lack of a queue. That's take-aways done. Other popular sources of culinary delight are sandwich shops. These come in the forms of Nadia's (great cakes), Peppercorns (great sandwiches), Sainsbury's (great big issue sellers), and the infamous UL tea room, which is possibly the greatest restaurant in the entirety of the Cambridge bubble. Also Sam Smileys deserves a mention, especially for those at Corpus or St Catharine's. These are all useful if you just want to pick up a snack, and usually the food is fresher than chains like Starbucks and Nero. A further category is the pizza restaurant. While Gardies sell pizza's they are not really worth it. If you really want a good Pizza then head to the cow (brb, by the corn exchange) on a Tuesday for two for one pizza. Also popular is pizza hut all you can eat 11am-3pm. The latter is particularly popular with science students given its proximity to Downing and New Museums sites. The final category is curry houses. There are two popular ones in town: Curry Mahal (on mill lane) and Curry King (by the baron of beef, just before Magdalene bridge). The King has an excellent meal offer for a tenner, and is very nice for larger parties. Oh yeah, one more place - Dojo's (also on Mill lane) is also a great studenty place, with nice cheap noodles based food.

La Galleria on Magdalene Bridge does an excellent range of food, both British and continental. It doesn't come cheaply but is not overpriced. Sit outside on the balcony on a summer evening for a specially lovely night. The Maharajah on Castle Hill is a slightly classier curry establishment than the normal student haunts, but is still reasonably priced and a meal will cost you less than £15. They also do takeaways. The Thanh Binh on Magdalene Street is a lovely Vietnamese restaurant. Fairly reasonable price and as it doesn't have a liquor license it's handily a bring your own wine place. Can get a starter, main and have your wine for less than £15 per person. Ask on Bridge Street, and Pizza Express on Jesus Lane both offer slightly higher quality pizza than Pizza Hut, as well as some nice pasta dishes and yummy desserts. Expect the same from them as you would of any of their other branches. Wagamama on St. Andrews Street is always a good bet, if a little expensive.


  • The Flying Wok - Chinese. Free Delivery.


There are banks everywhere, in the city centre, at least. HSBC, Barclays, NatWest, you name it, it's within two minutes of wherever you happen to be. Clearly the city wants students to have lots of money on them, always.



Cambridge is not really a large city, but for most people living in the centre, anything beyond Parker's Piece to the South or Castle Hill to the North might as well be a deserted wasteland. Most departments are within fairly easy walking distance from most colleges.


As lie-ins are always popular with students, the added time in bed that using a bike gives you means that 8:55am is a scary time to be on Trinity Street! A top of the range bike is by no means necessary. In fact, since bike theft remains a problem in the town it is better to have a less attractive bike. As long as it has two wheels and a functioning chain it will probably do. Also, get a good quality lock and always use it properly -- don't leave your bike unlocked even for a few minutes in college. MAKE SURE YOU USE BIKE LIGHTS WHEN IT GETS DARK (cyclists without lights are both dangerous and a pain in the neck. The local police are quite keen on fining people who don't have any). There is a one-way system in the centre of town, though watch out for pedestrians. Equally, pedestrians, learn to look for bikes, which are harder to see than cars!

Places to buy a bike:

  • Cambridge Station Cycles behind the train station (next to the car park) - new/second hand
  • Cycle King / Mike's Bikes / a couple of smaller bike shops - all on Mill Road
  • There's a bike shop on King's Street - new/second hand - also does repairs.
  • University Cycles (9 Victoria Avenue, CB4 1EG near where it joins Chesterton Road) - Sales and repairs. Very helpful owner.
  • Ucam adverts for sale University Newsgroup - people often sell second hand bikes.

Costs: A second-hand bike will be £40-£60, it may be cheaper to buy one in your hometown. New bikes start from around £100. Note that you'll also need at least a D lock (£20) and lights (around £15).

Cambridge is fairly good for cycling with a lot of cycling lanes in the city centre which take cyclists out of the main traffic. The city has received a grant from the governement to improve its cycling facilities too. Cambridge Cycling Campaign is the voice for cyclists in Cambridge, campaigning for ever better facilities and pointing out dangerous areas.

Car (forget it)

Undergraduate students are not normally allowed to keep a car; special permission must be sought from the University Proctor, and is unlikely to be granted unless there are special reasons for having one (such as being a driver for a sports team etc). Even so, parking is sparse and the one way systems/bollard systems mean town-centre driving is nearly impossible. Also, there are so many bikes around that driving is pretty unpleasant.


There are as have already been described, a range of local bus services which are all fairly regular. These are most popularly used for going to the train station and Addenbrooke's, though of course they do go to other places too! The bus station is sprawled over Parkside/Drummer Street/Emmanuel Street/St Andrew's Street and it can take some time to find the right stop if you're unfamiliar with it so allow yourself plenty of time if catching a bus there for the first time. Most of the local busses stop at either St Andrew's Street or Emmanuel Street.

Local busses (click on links for timetables):

  • Citi 1: Arbury - City Centre (Emmanuel Street) - rail station - Addenbrooke's - Cherry Hinton - Fulbourn
  • Citi 2: Milton - Chesterton High Street - City Centre (St Andrew's St) - Mill Road - Addenbrooke's Hospital
  • Citi 3: Cherry Hinton - rail station - City Centre (Emmanuel Street) - Newmarket Road - Fison Road
  • Citi 4: Cambourne - Hardwick -JJ Thompson Avenue (Cavendish Lab) - West Road (Sidgwick Site) - City Centre (Emmanuel Street) - King's Hedges
  • Citi 5 - City Centre (Emmanuel Street) - Girton corner - Bar Hill


The train station in Cambridge is to the south of the town, about a mile from the centre. It can be walked to in around twenty-five minutes, or can be travelled to by bus (such as the Citi 7) in around five. Fast trains to London King's Cross are regular and take 45 minutes, with some slower stopping ones taking longer. Trains to other destinations are less efficient. The CrossCountry Bimringham New Street - Stansted Airport service passes through Cambridge, offering direct connections to Peterborough (for trains to the North East, Leeds, and Scotland); Leicester (for services to Derby, Nottingham and Sheffield, and Nuneaton (for Virgin West Coast services to Liverpool and the north-west); and, of course Birmingham. Many services call at Ely, where one can change to board trains to places such as Ipswich, Norwich, and other areas of Norfolk. The station is run by National Express East Anglia (formerly "one"). A second railway station, Cambridge North, opened in 2017 and connects the Northern boroughs of Cambridge to the main station and all mainlines. Jesus College is the closest college, a brisk 2 mile walk away.


Cambridge Taxi Companies:

Otherwise, there are taxi ranks outside the train station and on St Andrew's Street.

Museums and Galleries

Some colleges have exhibitions and displays. For example, there is an outdoor exhibition of sculpture at Jesus College in the summer and the college has a permanent sculpture collection. Murray Edwards College has a collection of twentieth century art by distinguished women artists and also hosts regular exhibitions. Otherwise, Cambridge has a wide variety of museums and galleries which are often used by students:

Careers service

The Careers Service has a building on Mill Lane (note: Mill Lane not Mill Road) in the town centre where you can go to pick up booklets on writing a CV or focusing on specific careers, have a practice interview or a talk with a careers advisor. There is also a very useful Careers website which lists current vacancies. The service organises talks about specific careers, giving an overview of the industry, tips for getting a job and a chance to meet some employers. They also have a rather annoying habit of sending unsolicited emails. You can use the Careers Service for life, which is handy.

Part-time jobs

There are many part time jobs around Cambridge. To find out about them, try the Cambridge News jobfinder. Bear in mind, however, that it is almost completely forbidden to take a job during term-time (except for a very limited amount of work sanctioned by your Director of Studies, for example in a college library or archive, or a select few other locations; for no more than 10 hours per week). And even if it weren't, most people find that there simply isn't time to while away the hours in the 'Real World'. Save it for vacations. Having said that, if you're finding it financially necessary or desirable to consider taking part-time work, your college will probably help you out; they generally want nothing to stand in the way of your academic progress.

Religious societies and facilities

Cambridge is a great place to join with others and share your religion: you will be made very welcome by whichever religious group you'd like to join.

Buddhists There's an active university Buddhist Society and also the Cambridge Buddhist Centre at 38 Newmarket Road, behind the Grafton Shopping Centre

Christians Almost all colleges have an active chapel (mostly Anglican) and a chaplain with regular services (~ 3 x a week). Most colleges have a Christian Union bringing together Christian members for meetings and events. On top of this, there are a number of university societies to get involved with. University Christian Societies include CICCU (Cambridge Inter-Collegiate Christian Union) (evangelical Christians), CU Chinese Christian Fellowship, MethSoc (Methodists but open to anyone of any denomination or none), CU Christian Orthodox SocietyTaize Worship GroupChristian Graduate Society and Christians in unity (an umbrella group to foster communication, understanding and support between the different Christian groups). Students might also like to join Christian Chruches in the wider Cambridge community. There is Great St Mary's the university church next to Market Square, and a variety of friendly town churches of different denominations who will make you welcome if you'd like to join them. See for example Christ ChurchEden Baptist Chruch or Wesley Methodist Church.Your soul will never feel deprived of love and attention!

Hindus As well as the University Hindu Cultural Society, there's the Bharat Bhavan Hindu Shrine on Mill Road just before the railway Bridge.

Jews For Jews there is the Jewish Society and the The Chabad House.

Muslims The main university society for Muslims is Islamic Society (ISoc). The Sidgwick Site contains a reasonably-sized, easy to access Muslim prayer room and there's a building on the West Cambridge Site allocated as a chaplincy, prayer room and meeting space for all faiths. There's the Abu Bakr Jamia Mosque just off Mill Road and Muslims might like to look at the Cambridge Muslims Online Website for details of community prayers and events across Cambridge. .

Whatever your religion, you will find a welcoming society to join (the above list is not exhaustive),


Coffee/Tea Shops

You will find on-site sources of tea/coffee such as the Buttery on the Sidgwick site. Otherwise, there are plenty of places in town to grab a coffee with friends.

  • Indigo (8 St Edwards Passage, Cambridge, CB2 3PJ‎). Indigo is a small and quirky coffee shop on two floors - a great place to visit if you want something individual rather than the standard chains of coffee shops.
  • Clowns Cafe (54 King Street, CB1 1LN) Family-run frendly and popular cafe.
  • Savinos (3 Emmanuel Street, CB1 1NE) Italian Cafe.
  • Starbucks (13 Market St, CB2 3PA‎). You know the thing. They have wi-fi internet.
  • Cafe Nero (17 King's Parade, CB2 1SP)
  • Auntie's Tea Shop (1 St Mary's Passage). A bit touristy and expensive. Traditional.
  • Cafe Trockel, Ulmann & Freunde , 13 Pembrooke Street. A small, bright and cosy independent cafe - the best hot chocolate in Cambridge and you can get takeaway soup and a filled baguette for £2.80


People often drink in their college bar, partly because you can guarantee that you'll know people there, partly because it's conveniently on site and partly because the drinks are relatively cheap. However, Cambridge does have an unbelievable number of pubs if you fancy a change! Expensive but nice places like the Eagle; the Anchor and Granta have nice riverside locations; There's a huge Wetherspoons on Regent Street; King Street has the Champion and St Radegund; Maypole, &c. There's also a great quartet of pubs in a little area just the other side of Parker's Piece - the Clarendon, Free Press, Elm Tree, and Cricketers. Note that it's always worth carrying ID to prove your age as many of the pubs check this - it's not only a case of buying alcohol, you need to be 18 to even enter the pub in some cases.


It's true that Cambridge nightlife isn't as busy as what you'll find in London/Bristol/Manchester etc. HOWEVER, there is still lots going on and there are plenty of Cambridge students who know how to party. The college environment is perfectly set up for putting on great parties ('bops') and 'ents' with DJ's. Some of these attract people from all over the university. For example, on Friday nights there are Queens' ents and the Churchill Pav. On Saturday nights King's Ents and Clare Cellars are particularly popular.


Every college has a bar and with 31 colleges, that's plenty of bars to choose from! Although bear in mind that at many colleges visitors have to be signed in by a member of the college. The advantage of college bars is that prices are kept low - the colleges do not aim to make money from selling drinks. Otherwise, there are plenty more bars around town including:

  • Revolution (Downing Street, CB2 3DS) From their website: Set over four floors with five bars, Revolution Cambridge is the perfect place to have a party. Whether you're chilling out on the Vodka Terrace or dancing the night away in the Club Room you're guaranteed to have a great night. Open Monday-Saturday 11.30am-2am; Sunday 12pm-2am.
  • Light Bar (66 Regents Street, CB2 1DP)
  • La Raza (The Basement, 4,5,&6 Rose Crescent, CB2 3LL)
  • B Bar (8 Market Passage, Cambridge CB2 3PF) Set over 3 floors with mezzenine levels to add to the open feel, theres also a great outside terrace for the summer. Over 21's only.
  • Ta Bouche Cocktail Bar (10-15 Market Passage, CB2 3PF)


May Balls

The stuff of legends. Truly decadent - the biggest party you're likely to get the opportunity to attend. Most balls actually take place in June, as soon as everyone finishes exams. They are organised by students and you can get some fantastic experience by joining your college May Ball Committee and helping to organise a huge event with a massive budget. Black/white tie. Expect fairground rides, champagne, limitless food and drink to suit every taste, chocolate fountains, live music and general extravagance. At the end of the ball, usually around 6 am, everybody who is left gathers for the huge 'survivors photo', which you can buy after the ball from a local photography studio. Usually they're printed within a few days. Balls normally cost about £110 for a single non-dining ticket. If the ticket price is too expensive, there are plenty of opportunities to work at the balls. Often the deal is that you work for half the night and then get to enjoy the party for the rest of the time. Some colleges have smaller balls called 'events' which are cheaper, at around £70.

Formal Halls

Formal Halls are a LOT more fun than they sound! All colleges have formal halls, a formal meal where food is served to you in the college hall. These are very popular with students and are generally sold out. Colleges vary in how 'formal' the formal halls are - in some colleges you have to wear a gown, in others it is optional. Usually grace is said in Latin before the meal. Sometimes, for example at Trinity or Downing, the event is lit by candles on the tables. Prices vary from college to college but generally formals are more expensive than eating at the college canteen, but less expensive than a meal out. You can often bring in your own wine if you wish to do so.

Although formals are formal, they are also very sociable occasions. People often go to formal to celebrate birthdays and students enjoy going to formals with friends in different colleges. In addition various college societies organise 'swaps', when members of the society from one college attend a formal with their counterparts at another college; this is a great way to meet new people. You should be warned that pennying occurs - this is where someone puts a penny in your drink and you are supposed to down the whole thing. People are often a bit worse for wear afterwards as a result...

Clubs and societies

There are societies to cover just about any interest area. There are various rowing clubs, for each college and for the university as a whole, clubs for most sports, from rugby to lacrosse and ultimate frisbee, subject societies, music societies, theatre, political societies etc etc. Cambridge offers fantastic opportunities to try new sports and activities or to train and perfect those you already practice.

Cambridge Union (Debating Society)

One of the most famous societies is the Cambridge Union. The Cambridge Union is a debating society, and is the oldest in the world. It holds weekly debates such as "This House belives that God is dead" or "This House believes that gentlemen prefer blondes". These debates often have big names in them, such as politicians, comedians, jornalists, businessmen and so forth. They are preceeded by an emergency debate which is done by students. Students can take part in the debate by attending the debating workshops held on a weekly basis. People can get involved in the main debate when, after the first two speakers on both sides have finished, the debate is opened to the floor. There you can speak in favour of the proposal, against or in abstention. At the end of the debate you choose a door to leave from depending upon which side you fall. There is a door for ayes, nays and abstention.

The Cambridge Union also holds regular speaker events. Speakers are often big name politicians such as the president of Iraq, or people famous for other reasons such as activists or celebrities. These events are free to members.

Finally, the union holds events such as Ben and Jerry's night, Shut up and Dance club night, Cocktail nights, Wine tasting, Quiz nights, Movie nights, Pilates and Yoga classes and balls.

The union building has a large debating chamber with bacony, a library, a bar with Pool Table, Darts, Chess, Draughts, Cribbage, Backgammon, Dominoes and Card Games and a cafe. There are also full-size snooker tables available for use.

Membership is £120 for life, or £50 annual membership.

Student Theatre

Another Cambridge society which is well known outside Cambridge is the famous Footlights comedy club. Footlights put on a fortnightly one-night comedy revue called the Smoker, which invariably sells out, and which anybody can audition for a slot in. They also put on a number of full-length shows including a spring revue, a national summer tour show and a pantomime. Even though Footlights can have a reputation for being a little too unusual in their humour, they are well known for having kick-started the careers of many of today's well known names. Other groups exist to promote improvised comedy, the most exclusive of which being Alcock Improv.

For those who wish to pursue more serious drama, the Amateur Dramatic Club puts on several shows at a high standard each term, as do the many college drama societies. The Musical Theatre Society, Gilbert & Sullivan Society and Marlowe Society also put on a couple of (higher-budget) productions a year. Annual tours visit several venues in the UK, continental Europe, the USA and Japan and offer unique challenges for actors, directors and technicians alike.

The centre of student drama in Cambridge is the ADC Theatre, owned by the Amateur Dramatic Club but hired to (and run by) the university. Although small, the theatre boasts much of the lighting, sound and stage machinery normally found in professional theatres as well as a well equipped workshop for set building. The theatre has a packed programme with two student shows sharing the stage each week during term. Another busy student drama venue is the Corpus playroom, in St. Edmund's passage, which is jointly run by Corpus Christi college and the Arts Theatre. It is much smaller, being a converted house, and is unique in shape with seating on two sides of the stage. Smaller productions tend to play here, and the venue presents a number of directorial and technical challenges. In addition, most colleges have a venue that hosts a show or two each term, and some student shows manage to obtain slots at the Cambridge Arts Theatre, a fully professional venue.

As well as the university-wide societies, many colleges have their own dramatic society. College societies typically produce 3 or 4 plays over the Michealmas and Lent terms, and a May Week play which is usually performed in the college gardens. Students do not have to be a member of the college in order to take part in a college production; shows from all colleges advertise cast and production team roles on, from where any student can apply to be involved.

The Music Scene

Cambridge has a lot of talented musicians. The colleges have music rooms with pianos for student use and there are frequent college recitals where you can showcase your talent.

Most colleges have a choir and there are a number of choral scholarships available at some colleges. The choirs rehearse and perform throughout the year in the college chapel, often produce a CD and go on choir tours. Singing is a great way to socialise as well as being good for the music. There are also a number of university choirs catering for different musical tastes. These include Cambridge University Chamber Choir, CU Opera Society and Cambridge Revelation Rock Gospel Choir.

If you play a musical instrument, there are all manner of groups and ensembles to get involved with. At university level, there are a wide range of orchestras: CU Musical Society (with a chorus and three orchestras), University of Cambridge Philharmonic OrchestraCU Symphony OrchestraCU Chamber OrchestraCU Jazz OrchestraCambridge Master Players and CU Chinese Orchestra. Also a large number of bands and ensembles ranging from University of Cambridge Concert Band and CU Brass Band to CU Ceilidh Band and CU Baroque Ensemble. Even the piano and keyboard players aren't alone thanks to KeySoc, Cambridge's Piano Society. If you like Handel music you might like to join the Cambridge Handel Opera Group or alternatively there's Cambridge Society for World Music if you're interested in music from other cultures. Your college may well have music groups as well, though exactly what kind of band will depend on the college. Downing and Fitz (CU Fitz Swing) have Jazz bands, for example.

Music is a fantastic way to meet people and there'll be dinners and socials to help you bond with your fellow musicians. As well as the organised groups, smaller groups of students often get together informally to make music and the University Library has a fantastic collection of scores and arrangements to work with.


Many of the colleges have a film society and project weekly films for people to watch. Sometimes this is free, sometimes there's a small fee or suggested donation (but its much cheaper than going to the cinema). See for example Trinity Films, Catz Film or St John's regular screenings in the Fisher Building. A range of films are also screened by the Cambridge Union Society The French Department has a cine-club, projecting french films which are introduced by a member of the department and followed by discussion. Trinity College Cine-club screens two European Films a week (in the original, with English subtitles) at 8pm and 10pm on Tuesday Evenings in their Winstanley Theatre. Other film societies include Corpus South Asian Film Society and the Social Documentary Film Society.

In addition, Cambridge has a number of Cinemas.

  • Cambridge Arts Picturehouse which has three screens on Regent Street (above Weatherspoons).
  • Vue Cinema in the Grafton Centre
  • Cineworld a bit further out, in Cambridge Leisure Park.

As well as watching films, you might like to make them! Check out Cinecam which offers support, competitions and equipment or Corpus Christi Film Society for casting calls.

Student Dance

There's a very active dance community in Cambridge and opportunities for whatever kind of dancing at whatever level you are. The best dancers enter competitions and train for the Oxford vs. Cambridge Varsity Dancesport Match.

A selection of societies:


A huge range of sports are played at Cambridge, both at university and college level. The University Sport website has links to all the various university clubs. These involve a high amount of commitment and training; most teams will play in leagues of various descriptions each week and the culmination for each one is their own Varsity match against Oxford. For the more "mainstream" sports, such as men's rugby, men's rowing, hockey, football, women's netball, pre-university experience to a good standard is required, however for others it is possible to make the Blues team from starting as a complete novice (e.g. men's lacrosse, women's rugby, women's rowing).

Most team sports are also represented at a college level, although some smaller colleges have composite teams with another college. These play weekly in league matches, and also have an annual knockout tournament known as Cuppers. For many of these teams, enthusiasm is the main quality required, rather than a vast degree of skill! Check out most college JCR websites for information, or sign up at the Freshers' Fair.

If you want to participate in a sport or participate in some sort of fitness activity, but do not necessarily want to commit to the training and competition, then there are a small number of 'sports' which are classified as clubs or societies. Examples of these are activities include BalletGliding, or Hill walking. There are also a number of martial arts clubs on campus, for example: the CU Indonesian Martial Arts Society, Cambridge University Jiu-Jitsu club, CU Karate-Do Shotokai, CU Kick boxing societyCU Savate and Cane Fighting, Self-Defence Club, CU Tai Chi, and the Taekwondo Society

Student Journalism

There are plenty of opportunities to get involved in student journalism at Cambridge either just for fun or to get some training for a future career in the field. The university has two free weekly newspapers written and edited by student volunteers. These are Varsity (published every Friday in term time since 1947) and The Cambridge Student (which is also a weekly publication). Most colleges also have a student publication, some of them such as Clare's award-winning Clareification are published weekly, others are less frequent. There are also opportunites to get involved with radio broadcasting. Cambridge University has it's own radio station, CUR1350, which broadcasts from Churchill College. You can do anything from presenting a programme on-air to creating news bulletins, reviewing the music the station receives, looking after technical systems or managing the station in general.

The Literary Scene

Cambridge has strong literary traditions and continues to provide a thriving environment for writers of all kinds. English students can submit original creative work in both parts of their tripos and the colleges and university offer a wide range of writing competitions open to students of all disciplines to encourage and reward the best original work. There is plenty of opportunity to get pieces published, whether it be in a college magazine, a university newspaper or a literary anthology such as The Mays. There are serveral literary societies such as The Cambridge Writers' Guild, Cambridge University Literary Society, The Cambridge Tolkien Society or the CU Science Fiction Society. Or maybe you fancy the Pembroke College Winnie-the-Pooh Society! Throughout the university you will also find a wide range of lectures and author readings. Every year there is a Cambridge Word Festival.

Subject Societies

Depending on what college you go to and what subject you do, there may well be a college society for your subject. There will certainly be a university society for your subject. You don't have to join these societies - you are automatically a member if you do that subject. These societies organise talks and dinners to give you chance to socialise with course mates in your college and beyond. This gives you a good oportunity to get to know the people you sit in lectures with better and to share mutual interests. Examples of university societies include CU Law Society, CU Medical Society and CU Engineering Society. College Societies include The Danby Society (Downing College Scientific Society), The Adams Society (St John's Mathematical Society) and Selywn College Social Sciences Society.

Charity/Community Opportunities

Some students spend time helping others whilst studying at Cambridge. If you want to do any volunteer work in the local community, the best thing to do is to pop along to Student Community Action (10 Pembroke Street) which has a whole spectrum of volunteering opportunities on offer to suit your interests and availability. Or, there's the Cambridge Hub, a website designed to put you in touch with causes to help tackle today's social and environmental challenges. There are a variety of societies dedicated to good causes. See for example CU Amnesty InternationalCU Environmental Consulting Society or Cambridge Student Stop AIDS Campaign. Each year Cambridge RAG raises and gives around £150,000 to local, national and international charities by organising university-wide and college-based events.

If you want to get involved in the community, you might want to volunteer with The Cafe Project, a non-profit, volunteer-run cafe with a whole range of activities providing an alternative to college bars. CU First Aid Society, a division of St John Ambulance, provides first aid support at local events. Science students might be interested in Cambridge Hands-On Science (CHaOS) which gives them an opportunity to share their enthusiasm for science with the public.

Drinking Societies

People either love them or hate them, but each college has a drinking society, often two, one for the women and one for the men. They have drunken initiations and organise formal swaps (with plenty of pennying) with other college drinking societies and cocktail nights etc. The colleges tend to turn a blind eye as long as there's no trouble. You won't find websites for these societies as they don't advertise themselves too much, but you'll find out about them when you're at Cambridge. They can be a bit cliquey as you have to be invited and they can quite often dominate the social lives of their members to the detriment of their socialising more widely, and many of the more traditional ones only initiate freshers at the end of first year. Because of this, there are also temporary freshers' drinking societies which are quickly formed amongst first years, which are usually a bit more open and relaxed.

Weird and Wonderful Societies

As well as the more traditional societies there are a number of quirkier things you can get involved with at Cambridge. Take, for example, the CU Assassins' Guild. Each term they have a game in which each player is assigned three people to mock assassinate whilst trying to stay 'alive' themselves. A very sociable bunch, they have parties, formal halls and pub-meets as well as their ongoing assassination game (though apparently you're not allowed to kill people on socials...). Or, if you're brave, there's the Cambridge University Fire Troupe who will teach you the fiery arts. Less risky is the Cambridge University Tiddlywinks Club, once more a very sociable group, they'll show you that there's much more involved in tiddlywinks than you ever imagined! You could get into bell ringing with the Cambridge University Guild of Change Ringers. Robinson Cheese Society will satisfy all your cheese desires, for those with a sweeter tooth there's Emmanuel Real Ice Cream Society and there are a couple of societies which specialise in reading childrens' books and related silliness: Sheila and her dog and Pembroke College Winnie-the-Pooh Society. Enjoy!

Student union

Cambridge University Students' Union supports and represents all the college unions and all the students in Cambridge. Unlike other universities, there is no big central union building with a union bar - students go to their college bars instead. However it does provide a wide range of services to students and societies ranging from giving out free condoms to providing vehicle and equipment hire. Cambridge SU produces a number of useful publications including the fresher's guide, the Alternative Prospectus and the Cambridge SU Academic Year Planner. It is also active in university Access schemes, for example it organises Open Days, School visits and the shadowing scheme in which 6th formers with little or no school or family university tradition can come and spend three days 'shadowing' a student in the subject they are interested in. Cambridge SU also runs a Twitter-based outreach scheme, CambTweet, with one account per subject, and tweeters documenting their lives and answering prospective applicants’ questions in regular Q&As. The student union should not be confused with The Union, the university's debating society.


Cambridge is not as expensive as you might think. For a start, you only pay rent for the time you are at the university. You have long vacations where you are not paying rent whereas at a lot of unis you'd be paying rent all year round. Also, college rent is cheaper than renting private accomodation would be (Cambridge is expensive to rent privately). However, accomodation costs do vary by college and, of course, according to the quality/facilities of your room (ensuits being more expensive).

Cambridge provides more info on living costs.

College food and drinks at your college bar are very reasonable and cheaper than you'll find in a pub. They don't aim to make money from food and drink so you're just paying for the cost of it.

Cambridge is small so you walk or cycle everywhere and don't have much transport expense.

Some things are expensive, however. May Balls the law ball and dinners. Though these are generally worth the money. (Tip - you can often work at a May Ball for half the time and get to enjoy the party for the rest)

There are also a whole range of bursaries available - Cambridge is one of the best universities to be at for financial support.


Cambridge and the surrounding area is very flat. The only 'hills' are Castle Hill and odd bridges. This is very good for cycling but not so good if you like your hills. The river Cam runs through the town providing somewhere to punt and row. There are punts available to hire and you can choose to punt yourself or experience a guided punting tour on the river. Guided walking tours are also available all year round with a range of walking tours to choose from. These tours can be tailored to suit group interest with the Cambridge Tourist Information office a good place to start. There is also the option to experience Cambridge virtually with some University Colleges providing their own tours. These include King's College and St John's College with a city virtual tour also available. There are many areas of natural beauty in Cambridge with quite a few open expanses of grass such as Parkers Piece and Jesus Green which provide a nice community setting where people kick a football about, picnic and chat. The great thing about the city is that you don't have to go far to get to open countryside. Many students enjoy going to Grantchester which you can get to by walking (or punting) through Grantchester Meadows along the river. When you get there it's a tiny village but has several good pubs such as the Blue Ball and the Green Man, as well as The Orchard Tea Garden which is expensive but very nice and steeped in tradition. If you ever get really stressed, taking an afternoon out and going to Grantchester can be good therapy!


The architecture is brilliant, of course. It ranges from bits of Peterhouse built in 1284, totally over-the-top pieces like King's College Chapel and beautiful old colleges in the town centre, neo-classical Downing and less-nice newer colleges on the outskirts. Some people like historical old buildings and impressive courts. Others prefer a more modern feel. Whatever you like you'll find a college to suit your tastes.

Local area

For most Cantabrigians, the notice stuck to the lamppost on Parker's Piece saying "Reality Checkpoint" is all too pertinent. Many students will go an entire term without travelling outside the city centre. There are, however a few nice villages such as Grantchester, and most students make the 20 minute train journey to see Ely cathedral at least once in their uni career.

Teaching quality

There is extremely high competition for academics to become lecturers at the university and as a result you can expect very high teaching standards. Also, Cambridge lecturers get very good research conditions at the university (they can apply for more research leave than in most places and have longer periods out of term). This means that the people who teach are active researchers - they really know their stuff and the latest developments in the field and this makes them exciting people to work with.

Pros and Cons of the University


  • You meet other students and academics who are really passionate about the same subject as you.
  • You are constantly challenged and kept interested.
  • You have a college environment which gets you socialising with people from all subjects and provides a set of people you are familiar with so that you don't feel lost in the huge university.
  • You get really good at working efficiently and producing quality work to tight deadlines, a skill which will serve you for life.
  • You get lots of individual attention.
  • The teaching is, on the whole, excellent. Most of the departments get top scores or thereabouts in assessments and competition for jobs as academics at Oxbridge is such that those who are selected have to be something special.
  • Excellent library resources. The University Library is a copyright library with over 7 million books, plus there are college and departmental libraries. And they will order books for you if they don't already have them.
  • There are very good welfare provisions - you have access to a tutor, college nurse, welfare reps in your JCR, chaplain, free counselling by professionals at the University Counselling Service etc.
  • Excellent job prospects and lifelong access to the university careers service to help you choose, get or change jobs.
  • There's a lot of money available through bursaries of all kinds as well as travel grants, book grants, college prizes if you do well in your exams etc.
  • Your college provides everything you could need in practical terms - meals, cleaning, maintenance, fantastic computer support etc. Everything is designed so that you can get on with your work and social life and don't have to faff with getting the boiler serviced etc.
  • You get a JCR bar which is non-profit, so prices are low.
  • Whatever your extra-curricular interests, there will probably be a society or sports team to join or an event to get involved in and there are fantastic opportunities to try new things and meet people. Some of these activities can be excellent training grounds for careers e.g. editing a newspaper or getting involved in debating or university acting.
  • There's loads on - every night you could go to a different play/debate/speaker evening/comedy night/concert/party etc.
  • Opportunities to organise/go to college balls - most people are unlikely to get parties this big once they've left Oxbridge.
  • Everywhere is walkable or cyclable - it doesn't take long to get to places, all your friends are nearby and you don't spend loads of time and money on public transport.
  • It's damn pretty! Excellent architecture and something to suit everyone's taste.
  • One of the best choral scenes in the world for any university, with opportunities for quite a range of talents sustained at historic and beautiful chapels.
  • Chance to be in the world-renowed debating society
  • Amazing history all around you. Some buildings and traditions date back centuries.
  • The university is on a river, giving opportunities for rowing, kayaking and punting.


  • Intensive terms and a heavy workload: if you don't genuinely enjoy studying your subject then it's not for you.
  • Being around so many highly successful, intelligent people can bring its own pressures.
  • There's quite a bit of grass that you're not allowed to walk on.
  • Colleges can be quite gossipy
  • If you meet someone special at Cambridge it can be difficult to form and maintain a relationship over the long vacations.


Cambridge takes the admissions process very seriously and does its best firstly to attract applications from bright students whatever their background, and then to select the best candidates out of these students. Applications are considered on a number of different factors (depending on the subject): grades, reference, written work sent in, any tests either before or at the interview and finally the interview itself. The colleges take account of the whole picture and will look at your grades in the context of your school's average performance and make sure that students who are disadvantaged by interruptions to their studies or a non-university background are given a fair chance. Candidates are assessed by a number of different people who then come to a decision together to make the whole process as fair as possible. Whatever happens, therefore, you can be sure that your application will be considered very carefully and fairly.

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