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Cambridge University Colleges

Cambridge is renowned for its prestigious and historic colleges, which are part of the University of Cambridge. The collegial system at the University of Cambridge is a unique and integral part of its academic structure. The university is composed of 31 colleges, each with its own distinctive character, history, and traditions. While the university offers academic courses and awards degrees, it is within the colleges that students live, receive academic and pastoral support, and participate in a wide range of extracurricular activities.

Here are some key aspects of the collegial system at Cambridge:

College Affiliation: When students apply to the University of Cambridge, they must choose a college to which they will be affiliated. The college becomes their academic and social home throughout their undergraduate or graduate studies.

College Life: Colleges provide accommodation, dining facilities, libraries, and study spaces for their students. Students become part of a smaller, close-knit community within the larger university, fostering a sense of belonging and camaraderie.

Supervisions: One of the distinctive features of Cambridge’s teaching method is the supervision system. Students typically attend lectures and classes organized by the university but receive small-group tutorials, known as supervisions, from college-affiliated academics. Supervisions allow for in-depth discussion, critical thinking, and personalized feedback on coursework and academic progress.

College Identity and Rivalries: Each college has its own distinct identity, often reflected in college colors, crests, and traditions. Friendly rivalries and competitions between colleges, such as sports events or academic challenges, contribute to the vibrant and lively atmosphere on campus.

The most famous colleges in Cambridge are:

King’s College: King’s College is one of the most famous and visually striking colleges in Cambridge. It is known for its beautiful chapel, which is a prominent landmark in the city.

Trinity College: Trinity College is the largest college in Cambridge and has a rich history. Trinity College was founded by Henry VIII in 1546.  It boasts an extensive and picturesque campus, including the Great Court & the Wren Library. Isaac Newton, one of the greatest of all physical scientists, entered the College as an undergraduate in 1661 and remained at Trinity until 1696, by which time his most important mathematical and scientific work had been completed. The current King, Charles, graduated from Trinity College in 1970.

Jesus College: Jesus College was established between 1496 and 1516 on the site of the twelfth-century Benedictine nunnery. Jesus College is Cambridge’s third-wealthiest college. The college is known for its particularly expansive grounds which include its sporting fields and for its proximity to its boathouse. Three members of Jesus College have received a Nobel Prize. Two fellows of the college have been appointed to the International Court of Justice.

St. John’s College: St. John’s College is one of the wealthiest and largest colleges in Cambridge. Its notable architectural features include the Bridge of Sighs, the New Court, and the Chapel.

Christ’s College: Christ’s College has a reputation for its academic excellence and is particularly associated with the natural sciences. It has a beautiful garden and a unique sundial courtyard.

Pembroke College: Pembroke College is one of the older colleges in Cambridge, founded in 1347. It has a charming riverside location and notable alumni, including the poet, William Wordsworth.

Gonville & Caius College: Known as Caius College (pronounced “keys”), it is the fourth oldest college in Cambridge. Notable alumni include physicist Stephen Hawking and actor Sir Ian McKellen.

Clare College: Clare College is situated on the banks of the river Cam and is known for its picturesque gardens and bridge. It has a relaxed atmosphere and a strong musical tradition.

Queens’ College: Queens’ College is located on both sides of the river Cam and has a beautiful riverside setting and showcases the famous Mathematical Bridge. It is one of the oldest and largest colleges, with a mix of historic and modern buildings.

These are just a few examples of the many colleges in Cambridge. Each college has its own unique history, architecture, and traditions, contributing to the vibrant and scholarly atmosphere of the city.

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