The 31 colleges presently associated with Cambridge, with their dates of founding, are Peterhouse, or St. Peter's (1284), Clare (1326), Pembroke (1347), Gonville (1348; refounded as Gonville and Caius, 1558), Trinity Hall (1350), Corpus Christi (1352), King's (1441), Queens' (1448), St. Catharine's (1473), Jesus (1496), Christ's (1505), St. John's (1511), Magdalene (1542; pronounced môd' lĭn), Trinity (1546), Emmanuel (1584), Sidney Sussex (1596), Downing (1800), Homerton (1824; for students of education), Girton (1869), Selwyn (1882), Hughes (founded 1885 as Cambridge Training College for Women; approved foundation 1968), St. Edmund's (1896), Churchill (1960), Fitzwilliam (founded 1869 as a noncollegiate society, became a college 1966), and Robinson (1977).
The women's colleges are Newnham (1871), New Hall (1954), and Lucy Cavendish (1965). Girton (formerly a women's college) and Newnham were pioneers in university education for women. Although women took university examinations in the 1880s and after 1921 were awarded degrees, their colleges were not admitted to full university status until 1948. Darwin College (1964), Wolfson College (1965; founded as University College, renamed 1973), and Clare Hall (1966) are graduate institutions.
Cambridge was a center of the new learning of the Renaissance and of the theology of the Reformation; in modern times it has excelled in science. It has faculties of classics, divinity, English, architecture and history of art, modern and medieval languages, Oriental studies, music, economics and politics, history, law, philosophy, education, engineering, earth sciences and geography, mathematics, biology, archaeology and anthropology, physics and chemistry, and medicine. There are also departments of veterinary medicine, chemical engineering, land economy, and the history and philosophy of science as well as a computer laboratory.
Cambridge's famous Cavendish Laboratory of experimental physics was opened in 1873; the Cavendish professors have been outstanding names in physics. The chapel of King's College (1446), the Fitzwilliam Museum, and the botanic gardens are notable features of the university. There are also centers for African, Latin American, Middle Eastern, and South Asian studies; international law; archaeological research; medical genetics; and superconduvtivity research. Instruction at Cambridge is similar to the system at Oxford, except that tutors are called supervisors and the degree examination is known as the tripos. Until 1948, Cambridge sent two representatives to Parliament. Cambridge Univ. Press dates from the 16th cent.
See E. Vale, Cambridge and Its Colleges (1959); F. A. Reeve, Cambridge (1964); C. R. Benstead, Portrait of Cambridge (1968).
The University of Cambridge (often Cambridge University), located in Cambridge, England, is the second-oldest university in the English-speaking world. It is regarded as one of the world's leading academic institutions and the leading such institution in the United Kingdom. The name is sometimes abbreviated as Cantab. in post-nominals, a shortened form of Cantabrigiensis (an adjective derived from Cantabrigia, the Latinised form of Cambridge). The University grew out of an association of scholars in the city of Cambridge that was formed, early records suggest, in 1209 by scholars leaving Oxford after a dispute with local townsfolk there. The universities of Oxford and Cambridge are often jointly referred to as Oxbridge. In addition to cultural and practical associations as a historic part of English society, the two universities also have a long history of rivalry with each other.
The University of Cambridge is a member of the Russell Group, a network of research-led British universities; the Coimbra Group, an association of leading European universities; the League of European Research Universities; and the International Alliance of Research Universities. It is also considered part of the "Golden Triangle", a geographical concentration of UK university research.
Academically, Cambridge has consistently ranked in the world's top five universities. It has traditionally been an academic institution of choice of the Royal Family (King Edward VII, King George VI and Prince Charles were all undergraduates) and has produced 82 Nobel Laureates to date, more than any other university according to some counts.
Cambridge is a collegiate university, meaning that it is made up of self-governing and independent colleges, each with its own property and income. Most colleges bring together academics and students from a broad range of disciplines (though certain colleges do have particular strengths e.g. Trinity Hall for Law), and within each faculty, school or department within the university, academics from many different colleges will be found.
The Faculties are responsible for ensuring that lectures are given, arranging seminars, performing research and determining the syllabi for teaching, overseen by the General Board. Together with the central administration headed by the Vice-Chancellor, they make up the entire Cambridge University. Facilities such as libraries are provided on all these levels: by the University (the Cambridge University Library), by the departments (departmental libraries such as the Squire Law Library), and by the individual colleges (all of which maintain a multi-discipline library, generally aimed mainly at their undergraduates).
All students and many of the academics are attached to colleges, where they live, eat and socialise. It is also the place where students receive small group teaching sessions, known as supervisions. Each college appoints its own teaching staff and fellows in each subject; decides which students to admit, in accordance with University regulations; provides small group teaching sessions, for undergraduates (though lectures are arranged and degrees are awarded by the university); and is responsible for the domestic arrangements and welfare of its own undergraduates, graduates, post-doctoral researchers, and staff in general.
The University of Cambridge currently has 31 colleges, of which three admit only women (Murray Edwards, Newnham and Lucy Cavendish). The remaining 28 are mixed, Magdalene being the last all-male college to begin admitting women in 1988. Two colleges admit only postgraduates (Clare Hall and Darwin), and four more admit mature students (i.e. 21 years or older on date of matriculation) or graduate students (Hughes Hall, Lucy Cavendish, St Edmund’s and Wolfson). The other 25 colleges admit both undergraduate and postgraduate students. Colleges are not required to admit students in all subjects, with some colleges choosing not to offer subjects such as architecture or history of art, but most offer close to the complete range. Some colleges maintain a bias towards certain subjects, for example with Churchill leaning towards the sciences and engineering, while others such as St Catharine's College aim for a balanced intake. Costs to students (accommodation and food prices) vary considerably from college to college. Others maintain much more informal reputations, such as for the students of Kings College to hold left-wing and Liberal political views, or Robinson College's attempts to minimise its environmental impact.
There are also several theological colleges in Cambridge, (for example Westminster College and Ridley Hall Theological College) that are loosely affiliated with the university through the Cambridge Theological Federation.
A 'School' in the University of Cambridge is a broad administrative grouping of related subjects, each covering a specified group of Faculties. Each has an elected supervisory body - The Council of the School - comprising representatives of the constituent Faculties and Departments in each School. There are six Schools:
Teaching and research in Cambridge is organised by Faculties. The Faculties have different organisational sub-structures which partly reflect their history and partly their operational needs, which may include a number of Departments and other institutions. In addition, a small number of bodies entitled Syndicates have responsibilities for teaching and research, exercising powers similar in effect to those of Faculty Boards. Examples are Cambridge Assessment, the University Press, and the University Library.
The Regent House is the University's governing body, a direct democracy comprising all resident senior members of the University and the Colleges, together with the Chancellor, the High Steward, the Deputy High Steward, and the Commissary.
The General Board of the Faculties is responsible for the academic and educational policy of the University, and is accountable to the Council for its management of these affairs.
Faculty Boards are responsible to the General Board; other Boards and Syndicates are responsible either to the General Board (if primarily for academic purposes) or to the Council. In this way, the various arms of the University are kept under the supervision of the central administration, and thus the Regent House.
If ranked on a US university endowment table using figures reported in 2006, Cambridge would rank sixth or seventh (depending on whether one includes the University of Texas System – which incorporates nine full scale universities and six health institutions), or fourth in a ranking compared with only the eight Ivy League institutions.
Comparisons between Cambridge's endowment and those of other top US universities are however inaccurate because being a state-funded public university, Cambridge receives a major portion of its income through education and research grants from the British Government. In 2006, it was reported that approximately one third of Cambridge’s income comes from UK government funding for teaching and research, with another third coming from other research grants. Endowment income contributes around 6%.
In 2000, Bill Gates of Microsoft donated US$210 million through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to endow the Gates Scholarships for students from outside the UK seeking postgraduate study at Cambridge. The University of Cambridge Computer Laboratory, which taught the world’s first computing course in 1953, is housed in a building partly funded by Gates and named after his grandfather, William Gates.
In 2005, the Cambridge 800th Anniversary Campaign was launched, aimed at raising £1 billion by 2012 – the first US-style university fundraising campaign in Europe. £663 million of funds have been secured to date.
Cambridge University has research departments and teaching faculties in most academic disciplines. Cambridge tends to have a slight bias towards scientific subjects, but it also has a number of strong humanities and social science faculties. All research and lectures are conducted by University Departments. The colleges are in charge of giving or arranging most supervisions, student accommodation, and funding most extracurricular activities. During the 1990s Cambridge added a substantial number of new specialist research laboratories on several University sites around the city, and major expansion continues on a number of sites.
The principal method of teaching at Cambridge colleges is the supervision. These are typically weekly hour-long sessions in which small groups of students - usually between one and three - meet with a member of the university's teaching staff or a doctoral student. Students are normally required to complete an essay or assignment in advance of the supervision, which they will discuss with the supervisor during the session, along with any concerns or difficulties they have had with the material presented in that week's lectures. Lectures at Cambridge are often described as being almost a mere 'bolt-on' to these supervisions. Students typically receive two or three supervisions per week. This pedagogical system is often cited as being unique to Cambridge and Oxford (where “supervisions” are known as “tutorials”)
The application system to Cambridge and Oxford often involves additional requirements, with candidates typically called to face-to-face interviews.
How applicants perform in the interview process best determines which candidates are accepted. Most applicants are expected to be predicted at least three A-grade A-level qualifications relevant to their chosen undergraduate course, or equivalent overseas qualifications. Due to a very high proportion of applicants receiving the highest school grades, the interview process is crucial for distinguishing between the most able candidates. In 2006, 5,228 students who were rejected went on to get 3 A levels or more at grade A, representing about 63% of all applicants rejected. The interview is performed by College Fellows, who evaluate candidates on unexamined factors such as potential for original thinking and creativity. For exceptional candidates, a Matriculation Offer is sometimes offered, requiring only two A-levels at grade E or above - Christ's College is unusual in making this offer to about one-third of successful candidates, in order to relieve very able candidates of some pressure in their final 'A level' year (or equivalent), although this is now quite uncommon.
In recent years, admissions tutors in certain subjects have required applicants to sit the more difficult STEP papers, tuition for which is not normally provided by British schools outside the private or independent sector, in addition to achieving top grades in their A-levels or International Baccalaureate diplomas. For example, almost every college requires 1,2, and a significant number requiring 1,1, or better in the 2 STEP Papers as well as A grades at A-levels including A-level Mathematics and Further Mathematics in order to be considered for entry for the Mathematical Tripos. Between one-half and two-thirds of those who apply with the required grades are given offers of a place.
Public debate in the United Kingdom continues over whether admissions processes at Oxford and Cambridge are entirely merit based and fair; whether enough students from state schools are encouraged to apply to Cambridge; and whether these students succeed in gaining entry. Almost half of all successful applicants come from independent schools. However, the average qualifications for successful applicants from state schools are slightly lower than the average qualification of successful applicants from private schools . Critics have argued that the lack of state school applicants with the required grades applying to Cambridge and Oxford has had a negative impact on Oxbridge’s reputation for many years, and the University has encouraged pupils from state schools to apply for Cambridge to help redress the imbalance. Others counter that government pressure to increase state school admissions constitutes inappropriate social engineering. The proportion of undergraduates drawn from independent schools has dropped over the years, and such applicants now form only a significant minority (42.1%) of the intake. In 2005, 32% of the 3599 applicants from independent schools were admitted to Cambridge, as opposed to 24% of the 6674 applications from state schools. In 2008 the University of Cambridge received a gift of £4m to improve its accessibility to candidates from maintained schools.
Graduate admission is first decided by the faculty or department relating to the applicant’s subject. This effectively guarantees admission to a college - though not necessarily the applicant’s preferred choice.
Cambridge maintains a long tradition of student participation in sport and recreation. Rowing is a particularly popular sport at Cambridge, and there are competitions between colleges, notably the bumps races, and against Oxford, the Boat Race. There are also Varsity matches against Oxford in many other sports, ranging from cricket and rugby, to chess and tiddlywinks. Athletes representing the university in certain sports entitle them to apply for a Cambridge Blue at the discretion of the Blues Committee, consisting of the captains of the thirteen most prestigious sports. There is also the self-described “unashamedly elite” Hawks’ Club, which is for men only, whose membership is usually restricted to Cambridge Full Blues and Half Blues.
The Cambridge Union serves as a focus for debating. Drama societies notably include the Amateur Dramatic Club (ADC) and the comedy club Footlights, which are known for producing well-known showbusiness personalities. Student newspapers include the long-established Varsity and its younger rival, The Cambridge Student. The student-run radio station, CUR1350, promotes broadcast journalism.
Two Oxford scholars were convicted of the murder or manslaughter of a woman and were hanged by the town authorities with the assent of the King. In protest at the hanging, the University of Oxford went into voluntary suspension, and scholars migrated to a number of other locations, including the pre-existing school at Cambridge (Cambridge had been recorded as a “school” rather than university when John Grim held the office of Master there in 1201). These exile Oxford scholars (post-graduate researchers by present day terminology) started Cambridge’s life as a university in 1209.
Cambridge’s status as a university is further confirmed by a decree in 1233 from Pope Gregory IX which awarded the ius non trahi extra (a form of legal protection) to the chancellor and universitas of scholars at Cambridge.
After Cambridge was described as a studium generale in a letter by Pope Nicholas IV in 1290, and confirmed as such in a bull by Pope John XXII in 1318, it became common for researchers from other European medieval universities to come and visit Cambridge to study or to give lecture courses.
Cambridge’s colleges were originally an incidental feature of the system. No college is as old as the university itself. The colleges were endowed fellowships of scholars. There were also institutions without endowments, called hostels. The hostels were gradually absorbed by the colleges over the centuries, but they have left some indicators of their time, such as the name of Garret Hostel Lane.
Hugh Balsham, Bishop of Ely, founded Peterhouse in 1284, Cambridge’s first college. Many colleges were founded during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, but colleges continued to be established throughout the centuries to modern times, although there was a gap of 204 years between the founding of Sidney Sussex in 1596 and Downing in 1800. The most recent college established is Robinson, built in the late 1970s. However, Hughes Hall only achieved full university college status in April 2007, making it the newest full college.
In medieval times, colleges were founded so that their students would pray for the souls of the founders. For that reason they were often associated with chapels or abbeys. A change in the colleges’ focus occurred in 1536 with the dissolution of the monasteries. King Henry VIII ordered the university to disband its Faculty of Canon Law and to stop teaching “scholastic philosophy”. In response, colleges changed their curricula away from canon law and towards the classics, the Bible, and mathematics.
Students awarded first-class honours after completing the mathematics Tripos were named wranglers. The Cambridge Mathematical Tripos was competitive and helped produce some of the most famous names in British science, including James Clerk Maxwell, Lord Kelvin, and Lord Rayleigh. However, some famous students, such as G. H. Hardy, disliked the system, feeling that people were too interested in accumulating marks in exams and not interested in the subject itself.
Although diversified in its research and teaching interests, Cambridge today maintains its strength in mathematics. The Isaac Newton Institute, part of the university, is widely regarded as the UK’s national research institute for mathematics and theoretical physics. Cambridge alumni have won eight Fields Medals and one Abel Prize for mathematics. The University also runs a special Certificate of Advanced Studies in Mathematics course.
Many of the most important scientific discoveries and revolutions were made by Cambridge alumni. These include:
As an institution with such a long history, the University has developed a large number of myths and legends. The vast majority of these are untrue, but have been propagated nonetheless by generations of students and tour guides.
A discontinued tradition is that of the wooden spoon, the ‘prize’ awarded to the student with the lowest passing grade in the final examinations of the Mathematical Tripos. The last of these spoons was awarded in 1909 to Cuthbert Lempriere Holthouse, an oarsman of the Lady Margaret Boat Club of St John’s College. It was over one metre in length and had an oar blade for a handle. It can now be seen outside the Senior Combination Room of St John's. Since 1909, results were published alphabetically within class rather than score order. This made it harder to ascertain who the winner of the spoon was (unless there was only one person in the third class), and so the practice was abandoned.
On the other hand, the legend of the Austin 7 delivery van that ended up on the apex of the Senate House is no myth at all. The Caius College website recounts in detail how this vehicle “went up in the world”.
Each Christmas Eve, BBC radio and television broadcasts The Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols by the Choir of King's College, Cambridge. The radio broadcast has been a national Christmas tradition since it was first transmitted in 1928 (though the festival has existed since 1918). The radio broadcast is carried worldwide by the BBC World Service and is also syndicated to hundreds of radio stations in the USA. The first television broadcast of the festival was in 1954.
Historically, Cambridge University has had an extremely strong reputation for both mathematics and the sciences.
According to UCAS, Cambridge and Oxford are the most academically selective universities in the United Kingdom there is a special national admissions process which sets Oxbridge apart from other British universities. Traditionally, Cambridge applicants have had to fill the Cambridge Application Form (CAF) in addition to UCAS although this will no longer be necessary for entry beginning 2009, being replaced with a more standard supplementary information form, in line with other universities in the UK.
In the most recent British Government Research Assessment Exercise in 2001, Cambridge was ranked first in the country. In 2005, it was reported that Cambridge produces more PhDs per year than any other British university (over 30% more than second placed Oxford). In 2006, a Thomson Scientific study showed that Cambridge has the highest research paper output of any British university, and is also the top research producer (as assessed by total paper citation count) in 10 out of 21 major British research fields analysed (Imperial College came second, leading in 3 fields). Another study published the same year by Evidence showed that Cambridge won a larger proportion (6.6%) of total British research grants and contracts than any other university (coming first in three out of four broad discipline fields).
The university is also closely linked with the development of the high-tech business cluster in and around Cambridge, which forms the area known as Silicon Fen or sometimes the “Cambridge Phenomenon”. In 2004, it was reported that Silicon Fen was the second largest venture capital market in the world, after Silicon Valley. Estimates reported in February 2006 suggest that there were about 250 active startup companies directly linked with the university, worth around US$6 billion.
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In the 2007 THES-QS rankings, Cambridge was ranked 2nd amongst world universities, right behind Harvard. It came in first in the international academic reputation peer review, first in the natural sciences, first in biomedicine, first in the arts & humanities, fourth in the social sciences, and sixth in technology. In the 2008 Academic Ranking of World Universities compiled by Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Cambridge was placed 4th amongst world universities, with its rival Oxford coming in at 10th place. A 2006 Newsweek ranking which combined elements of the THES-QS and ARWU rankings with other factors that purportedly evaluated an institution's global "openness and diversity" suggested that Cambridge was ranked 6th in the world overall. In all these surveys, Cambridge was the highest ranked non-US institution, and therefore the leading university in Europe.
In the 2008 Sunday Times University Guide, Cambridge was ranked first ahead of Oxford for the 10th straight year since the guide's first publication in 1998. In the 2008 Times Good University Guide, Cambridge topped 37 of the guide's 61 subject tables, including Law, Medicine, Economics, Mathematics, Engineering, Physics, and Chemistry (Oxford in comparison topped 4 subjects) and has the best record on research, entry standards and graduate destinations amongst UK universities. Cambridge was also awarded the University of the Year award in recognition of its 800 years of illustrious history and continued dominance amongst academic institutions in the world.
Cambridge University has over the course of its history built up a sizable number of alumni who are notable in their fields, both academic, and in the wider world. Officially, affiliates of Cambridge University have won a total of 82 Nobel Prizes, more than any other university according to some counts, as well as eight Fields Medals.
In addition to a long and distinguished tradition in mathematics and the sciences, Cambridge University has educated 15 British Prime Ministers, including Robert Walpole (First Prime Minister of Great Britain). At least twenty-three Heads of State or Heads of Government have attended Cambridge University, including three Prime Ministers of India, two Prime Ministers of Singapore, Stanley Bruce (Prime Minister of Australia) and Margrethe II of Denmark (Queen Regnant of Denmark).
Cambridge University has also been the academic institution of choice of the Royal Family traditionally (King Edward VII, King George VI, Prince Henry of Gloucester, Prince William of Gloucester and Edinburgh and Prince Charles were all undergraduates).