Accommodation: A home from home
At Cambridge, the Colleges provide student accommodation for most undergraduates for at least three years. Much more than just a hall of residence, your College is also where you do a lot of your studying and socialising.
The Cambridge Advantage: Accommodation guarantee
Unlike many universities, Cambridge guarantees most students College-owned accommodation for three years, and many Colleges provide for fourth-year students too.* This means that you don't have to find private accommodation after your first year.
- number one for good accommodation (Times Higher Education Student Experience Survey 2013)
- short contracts – most annual accommodation contracts are for 30-39 weeks, so you don't pay rent during the vacations unless you choose to stay in Cambridge, which can result in significant savings
- not far to travel – you won't have far to travel as College accommodation is close to the city centre and within walking or cycling distance of departments
* Accommodation guarantee applies to single undergraduates without children, and at all Colleges except St Edmund's. All single undergraduates are expected to live in College-owned accommodation where possible and 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).
Where is the accommodation?
Some Colleges have all their accommodation on their main College site. Others have some on their main site plus a range of College-owned flats/houses around the city. Either way, most accommodation is within easy walking or cycling distance of the University departments and facilities, and the city centre.
What's the accommodation like?
Colleges have a variety of accommodation available. For instance, you may find yourself in a purpose-built accommodation block on/near the main College site, or sharing a College-owned flat or house with friends.
The University of Cambridge Official Map shows the location of the main College sites within the city, and College websites offer more information about the accommodation they offer.
Rooms vary in style from medieval (with little arched windows), through spacious Victorian and Edwardian, to practical modern, and you often have a choice of en suite or shared bathroom facilities.
Whatever the style, you'll have a room of your own, and access to a shared kitchen and laundry room (so you don't have to take it all home with you at the end of term!). All Colleges provide a library and computer facilities too – see the facilities and resources page for further details about what’s available to our students.
Colleges usually allocate first-year students accommodation on the main College site but you typically have some choice in your second and third years – most Colleges operate a ballot system to ensure fair allocation of accommodation to all students during their time here.
Somewhere to eat
At Cambridge, you don’t have to choose between ‘catered’ or ‘self-catered’ accommodation. Basic self-catering facilities are available if you want to cook for yourself, and all Colleges provide dining facilities where you can buy cafeteria-style meals as well as more formal dinners (known as 'formal halls') at a reasonable price if you don't fancy shopping and cooking (and washing up!) for yourself.
The Colleges encourage communal dining – it's a chance to have a break, catch up with friends and meet new people.
A number of diets can be catered for but you should check in advance.
Some Colleges levy a charge towards the running costs of the College kitchens – the kitchen facilities charge – and then offer meals at lower prices. See Costs at Cambridge for more information about typical costs. A small number of Colleges require you to have a certain number of meals in the Buttery or dining hall each term (see College websites for details).
Somewhere to relax
The main social hub of every College is its common room and bar (also known as a JCR, or Junior Common/Combination Room). Here you can find TVs, newspapers, pool tables and computer games (what’s available varies between Colleges).
College bars are very popular as they're never far away and the student prices mean that they're generally cheaper than many of the pubs and bars in town. This relaxed, non-commercial setting also means that those who choose not to drink don't feel under pressure to buy alcohol.
Colleges have a wide range of sports facilities too, such as playing fields, courts, boathouses and gyms.
For the musically-inclined, most Colleges have practice rooms and many also have performance venues which are available for student use. Most Colleges have a choir and orchestra and put on one or more concerts each year; and many other musical ensembles, such as swing bands, gospel choirs and rock groups, flourish in collegiate Cambridge.
Every College has a team of Porters to maintain the safety and security of staff and students. One of the linchpins of College life, the Porters are often a first point of call about any problems in College or if you need any information.
How much does it cost?
The cost of accommodation varies from College to College, and depends on the type and style of your room (size, en suite etc) but the cost usually covers utilities (water, electricity, heating), cleaning, internet access and basic self-catering facilities.
Most Colleges offer accommodation in a range of price bands to suit different budgets, but as a rough guide (based on a 30-week year):
- most single study bedrooms with a shared bathroom cost £90-£120 per week
- most rooms with en suite cost £100-£140 per week
If you work out your rent on a termly or yearly basis, the costs compare favourably with regional and national average costs for university-provided accommodation, as shown in the table below.
|How does Cambridge compare?|
|Cambridge Colleges (shared facilities)*||£90-£120||£2,700-£3,600|
|East of England average**||£143.57||£6,604.22|
In some Colleges it's possible to rent a room for the full year (ie including vacations) with costs adjusted accordingly.
See Costs at Cambridge for more information about typical costs.
* Based on the typical College accommodation contract of 30 weeks.
** Figures taken from the NUS/Unipol Accommodation Costs Survey 2012-13. The average accommodation contract in the East of England is 46 weeks, and 41 weeks nationally. East of England excludes London.