University Profile: University of Cambridge
League Table Ranking 2016: 1
Number of Students: 20,000, of which 60% are undergraduate and 40% postgraduate
Location: East of England, about 50 miles north of London
Founded in 1209, the University of Cambridge – formed of 31 constituent colleges and over 100 academic departments – is the second-oldest university in the English-speaking world. Regularly topping both UK and international league tables, the University has a global reputation for outstanding academic achievement and world-class original research. Indeed, 90 Nobel Prize winners have been educated at Cambridge – more than any other institution. As well as its academic prowess, Cambridge also boasts exceptional offerings in music, the arts and sport, with many well-renowned actors and athletes amongst its alumni.
The University of Cambridge offers both undergraduate and postgraduate study across a wide range of disciplines. Courses are academically rigorous across the board, with a strong emphasis on personalised teaching (known as supervisions) and formal assessment based largely on examinations. Though the terms are short, expectations are high: students are required to complete two-to-three essays (or pieces of work as their course dictates) per week, for discussion during supervisions. These sessions, which take place with a leading academic and one or two other peers, allow students to develop their understanding of their subject and consider concepts they may not previously have encountered.
All students – not just first year undergraduates – are guaranteed a place in college accommodation for the duration of their degree. All 31 colleges, which are spread throughout the city, have a diverse range of members — usually both undergraduates and graduates across a range of subjects, as well as teaching and administrative staff — and offer social and sporting facilities in addition to accommodation. But a college is not just a student’s home: it is also responsible for both their welfare and work, each autonomous college body being accountable for its students’ academic life and wellbeing.
The college system is special in that it offers students the benefits of belonging to a large internationally renowned institution, and also to a smaller interdisciplinary academic community. As such, students have access not only to their own college’s facilities (including libraries, IT suites, cafeterias, bars, sports fields, theatres and so forth), but also to the resources of the wider university. As well as the unmistakable beauty of many of these buildings – though not, it might be said, the austere University Library (which is nonetheless remarkable in that it is one of only five copyright libraries entitled by law to receive a copy of every book published in Britain) – the quality of resources on offer to students, including nine specialist museums and a state-of-the-art Sports Centre, is outstanding.
What Cambridge may lack in size it makes up for in substance. The city is beautiful and safe, and students can easily cycle from one side to the other to attend lectures or meet up with friends. There is a huge array of university societies and clubs, and the majority of students lead an active social life outside the lecture hall. It may be a cliché, but whilst students work hard, they play hard too, and it is unlikely that a week will go by without attending a Formal Hall (a three course dinner at which gowns are worn and wine flows!). The University year ends with the much-talked about May Week (which is actually in June), when students celebrate the end of exams with seven days of garden parties and balls. In fact, with St John’s May Ball being described by Time magazine as “the seventh best party in the world”, it can safely be said that the University of Cambridge does nothing by halves!
My Personal Statement Verdict: 5/5
Content was accurate at the time of compilation.