What is a College?
Cambridge is a 'collegiate' university that comprises various faculties and departments and a number of Colleges.
The Colleges are responsible for admitting students to the University and your College is your base while you're studying at Cambridge (the key functions that the University and Colleges are responsible for are outlined in Cambridge Explained). However, your College is much more than a hall of residence — it's also where you eat, do a lot of socialising, receive academic and pastoral support, and where you often (though not always) have your supervisions.
Your home in Cambridge
- The Cambridge Colleges guarantee you College-owned accommodation for three years,* and many provide for fourth-year students too. As such, all single undergraduates are expected to live in College-owned accommodation where possible.
- If you need or want any medical or personal support, the Colleges have a number of staff (such as a College nurse, welfare officer, chaplain or a College-based counsellor) who can offer you advice and help.
- The cost of College accommodation compares favourably to that at other UK universities, but the shorter annual accommodation contracts (typically 30-39 weeks) mean that significant savings can be made on living costs.
*Accommodation guarantee applies to single undergraduates without children, and at all Colleges except St Edmund's. All students must ordinarily be available to study in Cambridge for the full duration of their course (with the exception of a year abroad where part of the course).
The more personal, small-group teaching (supervisions) that the Cambridge Colleges organise (in addition to the University teaching delivered in the academic faculties and departments) is the most distinctive feature of the collegiate system. For further information about the support provided to students by the Colleges, see the College Welfare page.
Your College also provides library and computing facilities.
- 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 internet and University network if you have your own computer.
- All Colleges have a library which contains the standard texts needed for your undergraduate course, as well as other materials, and provide a quiet and comfortable place to work.
Entertainment and other facilities
A lot of entertainment (or 'ents') and social activities are organised by the students in each College, such as regular film nights and discos (also known as 'Bops') which are open to members of other Colleges, in addition to everything offered by the 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 the College common room — with TV, newspapers, pool table, bar and which provides the focus for informal socialising and events — and the College’s own students’ union committee.
- All Colleges offer certain sports facilities such as playing fields, tennis courts and a boathouse, and many have additional facilities as well such as a gym and/or squash and badminton courts.
- College music facilities include practice rooms with pianos and perhaps a keyboard, drum kit or a harpsichord, and performance venues. Most Colleges have a choir and orchestra as well as numerous other groups and bands to suit a range of musical tastes and levels of experience.
- College rooms can be booked for clubs and societies, meetings and events.