University of Cambridge




Classics at Cambridge isn't just studied as a period in the past, but looks at how classical culture, language and philosophy have affected the history of Western civilisation right up to the present day.

UCAS code Three-year course Q800 BA/CGL
Four-year course Q801 BA/CGL4

Duration Three or four years

Colleges Available at all Colleges

2013 entry Applications per place: 2
Number accepted: 88

Open days and events 2015 Oxford and Cambridge Classics open day in Cambridge booking required, see the Faculty website
College open days (arts)
Cambridge Open Days

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Contact details 01223 335151 / 335960


Classics at Cambridge

The Faculty of Classics is one of the most dynamic of its kind, with an exceptional reputation for teaching and research.

Our course encompasses the history, culture, archaeology, art, philosophy and linguistics of classical antiquity and the study of original texts and artefacts. You can either specialise in a particular field or retain the breadth with which the course starts.

Facilities and resources

The Faculty's facilities include a well-stocked library and our own Museum of Classical Archaeology. In addition, you have access to the holdings of the Fitzwilliam Museum, where some classes take place.

There's a thriving student society and the renowned Cambridge Greek Play, produced in the original language, is regularly staged by a professional director. We also offer various undergraduate prizes, bursaries and travel grants.

The courses

The three-year course is usually for students with A Level/IB Higher Level Latin (regardless of whether they have Greek). We offer an Intensive Greek Programme for those with little/no Greek.

The four-year course is for those with little or no Latin and offers a preliminary year which focuses on Latin language and Roman culture. Years 2, 3 and 4 are identical to the three years of the three-year degree.

If you have A Level/IB Higher Level Greek but not Latin, you may be advised to take the four-year degree (depending on individual circumstances, please contact the Faculty or a College admissions office for guidance).

Changing course

Although it's possible to change course after Part I, in practice most of our students appreciate the breadth of the subjects offered and the opportunity to define their own course of study.

Likewise, the broad scope of papers available makes Classics Part II an attractive option after Part I of another course (certain combinations of Part II papers may be taken without knowledge of Greek and Latin).

Several other options are available, including combining Classical Greek or Classical Latin with a modern language (see Modern and Medieval Languages).


Employers have a high opinion of Classicists as potential employees because they're hard-working, articulate, accurate and efficient, take new tasks in their stride and can master situations intelligently.

Some graduates take advantage of the specialist opportunities open to them and do research and teaching in schools and universities, or work in archives, libraries and museums. But most go into other careers - in law, the media, accountancy, the Civil Service, industry and business.

Course outline

During Part I, you have an average of 12 lectures a week, and two or more language classes (as needed).

You also have at least two supervisions a week in which you discuss your work.

In Part II, you may have Faculty seminars as well as lectures, while your College supervisions give you the opportunity to research essay topics of your choice in depth.

Assessment is by end of year exams.

Preliminary Year (four-year course)

You learn to read Latin confidently through language study and the reading of literature and texts from the Roman world. You also study Roman culture, submit essays for assessment, and undertake some preparatory work for taking up Ancient Greek at the beginning of the next year.

Year 1

Written texts are a major source of evidence for classical antiquity, so you study texts in the original Greek and Latin from the most familiar periods of ancient literature by central authors such as Homer, Euripides, Plato, Virgil, Ovid and Cicero.

You also study elements of ancient history, archaeology, art, philosophy, philology and linguistics to build the broadest possible understanding of the ancient world and our relationship to it. Reading and language classes directed by specialist language teachers continue, as required, to extend your knowledge of the ancient languages. End of year exams test your linguistic and literary comprehension and essay writing skills.

Year 2

You take six papers, including a paper from each of the following four compulsory groups:

  • Greek translation
  • Latin translation
  • Greek literature, eg Athens on Stage
  • Latin literature, eg Past and Present in Trajanic Rome

The remaining two papers are chosen from four other subjects:

  • history
  • philosophy
  • art and archaeology
  • philology

Further optional papers on prose or verse composition in both languages are available if you wish to develop your confidence and creativity in manipulating language.

Year 3

You can specialise within one discipline (eg archaeology) or construct a wide-ranging course particular to your individual strengths and interests. You choose four papers from a broad range of options, including:

  • literature, eg Apollo and Dionysus
  • philosophy, eg Aristotle's Moral and Political Thought
  • history, eg Popular Culture in the Roman Empire
  • archaeology, eg The Poetics of Classical Art
  • language, eg Greek from Mycenae to Homer
  • a multidisciplinary paper, eg The Art of Care: the Body and the Self
  • papers from another degree course

At the end of the year, you take exams in these subjects or you can substitute one paper with a dissertation on a subject of your choice within the field of Classics. Past dissertations have covered:

  • cross-dressing in antiquity
  • the phenomenon of Asterix
  • classical influences on contemporary American poetry
  • Homer and Virgil
  • Greek tragedy and politics
  • comparative linguistics
  • the nature and role of pleasure in human life
  • art and archaeology in Roman Egypt

Entry requirements

Typical offers require
A Level:
IB: 40-41 points, with 776 at Higher Level
For other qualifications, see our main Entrance requirements pages.

Course requirements

Classics (three-year) course

Essential A Level/IB Higher Level Latin
(If you have Greek but not Latin contact

Subjects that offer a grounding in the skills required for the course, such as languages, essay-based subjects, history, history of art and literary criticism, are useful. Students with a science-based background are also regularly admitted.

Classics (four-year) course

Essential No specific subjects
Useful An A Level/IB Higher Level language, GCSE Latin and/or Greek

Students with a very wide range of subjects at A Level/IB Higher Level (or equivalent) are admitted. Subjects that offer a grounding in the skills required for the course, such as languages, essay-based subjects, history, history of art and literary criticism, are particularly useful.

Check College websites for College-specific requirements. See also Entrance requirements and our Subject Matters leaflet for additional advice about general requirements for entry, qualifications and offers.

Admissions tests and written work

All applicants have one or two interviews at their chosen/allocated College and a further interview at a second College.  Those applying for the four-year course also have a language or language aptitude-based interview in the Faculty. The table below sets out the ways in which each chosen/allocated College assesses applicants for this subject. For more information about these methods of assessment and why we use them, see the main Admissions tests and written work page.

College Assessment of applicant for this subject
Christ's School/college essays; Latin test, with help, at interview (3-year course only)
Churchill School/college essays
Clare School/college essays; Test at interview
Corpus Christi School/college essay; Test at interview
Downing School/college essay; Preparatory reading at interview
Emmanuel School/college essay; Preparatory reading at interview
Fitzwilliam School/college essay; Test at interview
Girton School/college essay; Test at interview
Gonville & Caius School/college essays
Homerton School/college essays; Test at interview
Hughes Hall Test at interview

School/college essays; Preparatory study at interview

King's School/college essay
Lucy Cavendish School/college essays; Test at interview
Magdalene School/college essays; Preparatory reading before interview
Murray Edwards School/college essay; Preparatory study at interview
Newnham School/college essays; Preparatory study at interview
Pembroke School/college essays; Test at interview
Peterhouse School/college essays; Preparatory reading at interview (3 year course only)
Queens' School/college essays
Robinson School/college essays
St Catharine's School/college essay; Test at interview
St Edmund's School/college essay; Test at interview
St John's School/college essay; Test at interview
Selwyn School/college essay
Sidney Sussex School/college essays; Preparatory study at interview
Trinity School/college essay
Trinity Hall School/college essays; Preparatory reading at interview
Wolfson School/college essay; Test at interview
How to apply

If you are interested in applying for this course, please see our Applying section for more details.

Further Resources

Find out more about Classics at Cambridge

  • Course website - Explore Classics in more detail on the course website.
  • 4-year course guide - A guide to the four-year Classics course, for those with neither Greek nor Latin at A level.
  • 3-year course guide - A guide to the three-year Classics course, for applicants with A-level Greek and/or Latin
  • Course FAQ - Frequently Asked Questions about the Classics course.

The student experience

  • What students say - A few of our students describe their experiences of studying Classics at Cambridge.

Unistats info

Contextual Information

From September 2012, every undergraduate course of more than one year's duration will have a Key Information Set (KIS). The KIS allows you to compare 17 pieces of information about individual courses at different higher education institutions.

However, please note that superficially similar courses often have very different structures and objectives, and that the teaching, support and learning environment that best suits you can only be determined by identifying your own interests, needs, expectations and goals, and comparing them with detailed institution- and course-specific information.

We recommend that you look thoroughly at the course and University information contained on these webpages and consider coming to visit us on an Open Day, rather than relying solely on statistical comparison.

You may find the following notes helpful when considering information presented by the KIS.

  1. The KIS relies on superficially similar courses being coded in the same way. Whilst this works on one level, it leads to some anomalies. For example, Music courses and Music Technology courses can have exactly the same code despite being very different programmes with quite distinct educational and career outcomes.

    Any course which combines several disciplines (as many courses at Cambridge do) tends to be compared nationally with courses in just one of those disciplines, and in such cases a KIS comparison may not be an accurate or fair reflection of the reality of either. For example, you may find that when considering a degree which embraces a range of disciplines such as biology, physics, chemistry and geology (for instance, Natural Sciences at Cambridge), the comparison provided is with courses at other institutions that primarily focus on just one (or a smaller combination) of those subjects.

  2. Whilst the KIS makes reference to some broad types of financial support offered by institutions, it cannot compare packages offered by different institutions. Different students have different circumstances and requirements, and you should weigh up what matters to you most: level of fee; fee waivers; means-tested support such as bursaries; non-means-tested support such as academic scholarships and study grants; and living costs such as accommodation, travel.

  3. The KIS provides a typical cost of private (ie non-university) accommodation. This is very difficult to estimate as prices and properties vary. University accommodation can be substantially cheaper, and if you are likely to live in College for much or all of the duration of your course (as is the case at Cambridge), then the cost of private accommodation will be of less or no relevance for you. The KIS also provides the typical annual cost of university accommodation and the number of beds available. Note that since most universities offer a range of residential accommodation, you should check with institutions about the likelihood of securing a room at a price that suits your budget. Knowing the number of beds available is not necessarily useful: it may be much more important to find out if all students are guaranteed accommodation.

  4. Time in lectures, seminars and similar can vary enormously by institution depending on the structure of the course, and the quality of such contact time should be the primary consideration.

  5. Whilst starting salaries can be a useful measure, they do not give any sense of career trajectory or take account of the voluntary/low paid work that many graduates undertake initially in order to gain valuable experience necessary/advantageous for later career progression.

The above list is not exhaustive and there may be other important factors that are relevant to the choices that you are making, but we hope that this will be a useful starting point to help you delve deeper than the face value of the KIS data.