Discover the 31 colleges of Cambridge University
Cambridge is world famous. However it would almost certainly not be so were it not for the presence of the esteemed University of Cambridge within the limits of the city.
The relationship between the university itself and the colleges can seem confusing at first and we will attempt to explain it in more detail later.
For now, we’ll just state that the university is made-up of 31 individual colleges, the fame of some of these arguably eclipsing that of the university itself.
Located all over the city but for the most part concentrated within the medieval city centre and the area along the banks of the river Cam, the Cambridge colleges are as much of an attraction for visitors to the city as they are for academics and potential students.
Cambridge University is made up of 31 individual colleges
Cambridge city is the administrative centre of the county of Cambridgeshire in England. However it started from far more humble origins, beginning life as a settlement in the 9th century, when the Viking conquerors of Denmark entered Eastern England.
The original founders burned their home in the 11th century; later the Normans and Saxons settled here and left behind their castles and churches, the latter of which are still to be seen in this ancient city (eg The Round Church, pictured below). The first educational building was built c. 1200 AD and was known as the School of Pythagoras (pictured above).
The first seeds of what we now know as Cambridge University began in 1209 with the help of, and under the guidance of some 300 scholars and academics of Oxford University (often referred to, half-jokingly, as ‘the other place’).
…the city lost more than a third of its population to the Black Death…
Cambridge history becomes ever more interesting throughout the centuries – in the middle of the 14th century the city lost more than a third of its population to the Black Death aka the bubonic plague. Fortunately, the population and the city revived and bounced back. The early part of the 15th century saw a number of colleges founded in Cambridge and a wool industry also came into being. The sixteenth century saw the emergence of the Cambridge University Press, which published its first book in 1584.
No visit to Cambridge university, would be complete without experiencing some of the constituent colleges. Perhaps the most famous and well known of the colleges being King’s College, Trinity College, Queen’s College (check out the Mathematical Bridge and Old Hall) all three of the former can be seen by taking a punt trip along the river Cam, and Corpus Christi College. The latter reputedly has the oldest courtyard in the entire university, dating back to the 1350s.
Other locations of interest include The Backs (the entirety of which can only really be seen from the river), the university Museum of Zoology (contains some specimens collected by Darwin himself), and the Museum of classical Archaeology.
Not everyone may be gifted enough to study in Cambridge, but that does not make it impossible to immerse oneself in the atmosphere of this glorious institution and the city that surrounds it, and perhaps draw some inspiration from it by doing so.
The relationship between the Colleges and the University
The relationship between the colleges and the university itself can be somewhat confusing. According to the Cambridge University website, the colleges are where the students live and socialise, and also have teaching sessions in small groups (called supervisions). Each of the Cambridge colleges is an institution in its own right with its own budget, but teaching is shared between the colleges and the university. Actual degrees are awarded by the university rather than the colleges. For a more detailed explanation, please refer to this wikipedia article on the subject, or this video from a student at the university, may go some way towards helping: