Role of the Colleges

Colleges are responsible for admitting students to Cambridge. A Cambridge College is more than just a hall of residence: it’s a place where you’ll do a lot of living, studying and socialising. Your College community will include undergraduate and research students, teachers and lecturers. But you’ll also make friends with students from other Colleges in Cambridge!

All Colleges provide you with...

Your home in Cambridge

Cambridge Colleges guarantee you College-owned accommodation for three years, and most provide for fourth-year students too. The style of Cambridge rooms varies a lot, from the medieval, with little arched windows, through spacious Victorian and Edwardian to practical modern, but you will have a room of your own (unless you choose one of the specially-designed shared options). Colleges have a variety of accommodation, and you’ll have some choice in your second and third years. For instance, you may find yourself in a purpose-built block outside the main College, or sharing a College house. (Check the University map for the main College sites.) Your room will be cleaned for you (College cleaners are often still called ‘bedders’), but it’s up to you to keep it tidy. Colleges also have laundry rooms, so you can easily get your own washing done, without taking it home at the end of term!

Meals are provided in the College hall and (sometimes) in additional cafeterias, so you don’t have to worry about shopping and cooking unless you really want to. A number of diets can be catered for but you should check in advance. Most meals are self-service; however, if you fancy splashing out on something more stylish, there are regular formal ‘halls’ (served dinners), which are still extremely good value at around £6. Limited self-catering facilities are also usually available, if you‘d like to make the occasional snack for yourself.

If it happens that you need medical or personal support, the College nurse, welfare officer, chaplain or a College-based counsellor are there to help you with any problems you might have.

The cost of board and lodging charged by Cambridge Colleges is comparable to that at other British universities. More information about the costs involved can be found in the fees and finance section.

Educational support

The personal teaching and support available within the Cambridge Colleges is the most distinctive feature of the collegiate system. The following people will be important in supporting you through your time at Cambridge:

  • Your Director of Studies will usually be a Fellow of your College (or sometimes a Fellow of another College), appointed by the College to look after your academic welfare. He/she will advise you on your subject generally (including which options you might consider taking), arrange your weekly supervisions, monitor your progress and help you with any problems arising from your studies. He/she is also involved with the admissions process and will almost certainly be one of the people to interview you if you apply. In the individual College profiles you will find a list of Directors of Studies. Colleges list all their teaching officers and other Fellows on their own websites.
  • Your Tutor will also be an academic but normally in a different subject from the one you are studying. He/she is there to protect your interests, to help you in domestic College matters such as rooms, book and travel grants and so on, and to offer you specific personal advice if you want it. Tutors also have access to hardship funds and other bursaries which can be used to help anyone in financial difficulties.

Your College also provides a library and computing support. Every College has a computer suite, linked to the University network and available (usually round the clock) for work and email. Most student rooms are also linked to the network and you may if you wish bring your own computer to take advantage of this throughout your course. Your College library will contain the standard texts needed for your undergraduate course, as well as other materials, and most libraries provide a modern, quiet and comfortable place to work.

Entertainment and other resources

  • Much entertainment is organised in the Colleges by students, with regular film nights and discos (which are open to members of other Colleges), as well as the activities run by clubs and societies. There’s usually far more for you to do than can be packed into the short Cambridge terms.
  • The Junior Combination Room (JCR) is both a common room, with TV, newspapers, bar, etc, and the organisation of undergraduates in the College. This provides the focus for informal socialising, discos and other events. Student representatives are elected each year to deal with student affairs.
  • Sports facilities include playing fields, courts, boathouses and often additional facilities such as multi-gyms.
  • Music facilities include practice rooms with pianos and perhaps a keyboard or a harpsichord, and performance venues. Most Colleges have a choir and orchestra and put on one or more concerts each year.
  • College rooms can be booked for clubs and societies, meetings and events.

How much time you spend in College is up to you. For some students, their College may simply be the place where they sleep and attend supervisions. For most, though, it is likely to provide experiences and friendships that will last a lifetime.