Cambridge University: History, Faculties, Cost, Alumni and Facts


The Cambridge University is a top English university and one of the most prestigious universities in the world. Teenagers and their parents all over the world dream of entering the University of Cambridge. What is so special about Cambridge? Today we will make a short excursion to this well-known academic mecca and get to know the university better.

Located in the eponymous city of Cambridge (Cambridgeshire, UK), the University of Cambridge is a center of attraction for ambitious students from all over the globe. In addition to the British, representatives of 150 different countries of the world are educated at the university! For most Britons, getting a child into Cambridge is as unattainable a dream as buying a villa in the Maldives or winning the Eurovision Song Contest.

Cambridge is for the best. This is a prestigious high-quality and expensive education, which you need to consciously go to literally from elementary school. Almost every parents certainly dream of Cambridge too. To see the boys in graduation gowns on the Cambridge lawn – after that, you can retire to a well-deserved rest!


Cambridge University students in graduation gown

Today we are talking about the University of Cambridge – one of the most prestigious universities in the world!

History of the University of Cambridge

The University of Cambridge came into being in the early 13th century. It is believed that Cambridge was founded by people from the University of Oxford. According to legend, in 1209 a woman was killed in Oxford, and a student accused of murder was expelled from the university.

The Oxford university community did not agree with this decision, so some of the teachers and students moved to Cambridge to create a new university here. Thus, the official founding year of the University of Cambridge is 1209. Cambridge University owes its appearance to the conflict in Oxford, and the opposition and rivalry of these two universities continues to this day!

Universities in the Middle Ages enjoyed royal favor, so in 1231 King Henry III issued a Charter, according to which educational institutions were partially exempted from taxation.

Cambridge was also supported by the Christian Catholic world – in 1233, Pope Gregory IX issued a “bull” that allowed Cambridge graduates to engage in teaching activities.

Education at the university was conducted according to the methodology adopted at Oxford – students studied the so-called “basic course” in the arts – grammar, logic and rhetoric, and then moved on to geometry, arithmetic, music and astronomy, resulting in bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

In the Middle Ages, there were no professors in Cambridge, teaching was carried out by the so-called “masters”, who themselves had taken a course at the university and were “licensed” by colleagues.

Already in 1290, the University of Cambridge received international status (Stadium General, lat.), It was granted to Cambridge by Pope Nicholas IV. From that moment on, the university could officially accept students from all over the world.

At the end of the 13th century, “Peterhouse College – St. Peter’s College” emerged – the first of the many colleges that make up the university. The founder of Peterhouse was Hugh Balsham, Bishop of Ely. The point of the college system was that students could pray for the souls of the founders of the schools.

For these purposes, small chapels, temples or abbeys were usually located near the colleges. The “youngest” college at the moment is Homerton College (2010).

Colleges played an important role in university life. Proctors chosen by each college served alongside the vice-chancellor and senior doctors on the university’s advisory board (Caput Senatus).

It is important to understand that most of the scientists of the university were clergy in one or another rank.

By the 16th century, the University of Cambridge had become more secular. This is primarily due to the abolition of the monasteries in 1536 by Henry VIII. Of course, this decision of the monarch also influenced the activities of colleges. Scholastic philosophy was no longer taught at Cambridge, while new subjects such as mathematics, classics, and Bible studies appeared.

The first private premises appeared at the University of Cambridge in the 14th century. It is authentically known that the beginning of the construction of campuses was marked by the construction of the Theological School on Senate House Hill.

Lectures and debates were held there, the library and the treasury of the university were located. Not only did Cambridge acquire properties, many of the buildings were obtained from donors who expected students to honor them and pray for their souls during worship services.

In the 17th century, the University of Cambridge became the center of the Nonconformist movement. Calls were made from the pulpits of monasteries and abbeys against the limitation of the powers of the counties and the usurpation of power by the king.

The academic focus of the university gradually shifted to the study of applied mathematics and mathematical physics. These subjects became compulsory for all students. At the beginning of the 18th century, Isaac Newton (1643 – 1727) conducted numerous studies in Cambridge.

In 1847, Prince Consort Albert was appointed chancellor, by whose decree the Royal Commission of Oxford and Cambridge Universities was held in 1850. According to the updated Charter of Cambridge promulgated in 1856, the Senate, headed by the chancellor and vice-chancellor, as well as university graduates and doctoral studies, became the supreme authority of the University.

The General Council of Faculties was now responsible for the educational part, and the Financial Council was in charge of accounting and property management. At the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, the number of students at the University of Cambridge more than doubled (from 441 in 1850 to 1,191 in 1910).


Cambridge University

During the First World War, the University of Cambridge began to receive funds for maintenance from the state treasury. At the same time, the university produced the first doctors of science.

After the Second World War, Cambridge actively developed in all directions. Educational facilities were expanded, a new hospital appeared to replace the outdated Addenbrook Hospital. This enabled the opening of a wide range of medical departments and institutes, including a modern school of clinical medicine.

A University Center, a student theater and a music school appeared. The University of Cambridge admitted both men and women to study, special “women’s colleges” were opened for the latter.


In 2009 the University of Cambridge celebrated its 800th anniversary! The large-scale event gathered more than 10,000 visitors! HRH The Prince of Wales attended a concert featuring Cambridge composers, musicians and singers from 16 colleges at the BBC Proms.

University structure. Faculties and colleges in Cambridge

Currently, more than 20,000 students study at the University of Cambridge. The staff is about 11,000 people.

The structure of the university includes 31 colleges and 6 academic schools.

Each College is governed by its Charter and rules, while being an integral part of the university. University colleges provide students and teachers with accommodation, provide social guarantees, organize the educational process and provide a variety of support, including financial support in the form of grants and scholarships (scholarship).



Each of the six schools forms an administrative group of faculties and other institutions (there are more than 150 in total!) These groups include:

  • Arts and humanities
  • Biological sciences
  • Clinical medicine
  • Humanities and social sciences (social sciences)
  • Physical sciences and technology.

Each school forms a council, which includes representatives of faculties and departments. Schools are represented on the General Council of the university.

The faculties of Cambridge organize teaching and research in individual disciplines or groups of subjects. The divisions of the faculties are called departments.

One of the divisions of the University of Cambridge – Cambridge Assessment International Education – is an organization dedicated to the global standardization of international education. CAIE develops curricula and conducts inspections and audits of Cambridge schools around the world.

The academic qualifications that students receive based on the results of the Cambridge exams are recognized around the world. Almost a million students around the world prepare for the Cambridge Exams every year. 

Admission procedure

Not only British applicants, but also foreigners strive to become students of the University of Cambridge.

The process of admission to the undergraduate programs is generally similar to the standard procedure for enrolling in an English university, but there are a number of features.

The first step in applying is to fill out the form on the ucas portal. The applicant must not only choose a course, but also decide on the desired college for study. Unlike other universities, Cambridge has an earlier deadline for applying – this is October 15th. For some specialties, as well as for international students, the deadlines may differ.

Interestingly, it is forbidden to apply to Cambridge and Oxford at the same time (the confrontation between universities continues to this day!).

After formally submitting an application, additional questionnaires are required to be filled out and information is required that is not provided for in the ucas forms. The next stage is a written assessment and a preliminary interview.

Successful candidates (according to the admissions committee – admissions) are invited to the final selection – an interview, the format of which can be found on the university website. Interviews in Cambridge are held in December. For international students, the university organizes field interviews, the locations for which change annually. Previously, interviews were conducted in the USA, Canada, China, Singapore and other countries.

Foreigners applying to Cambridge, in addition to academic transcripts (transcripts or a certificate), are required to provide proof of English proficiency, namely, the result of the IELTS exam. The minimum required score is 7.5 overall with marks not lower than 7.0 for each component.

Entry requirements – British A-Levels qualification, IB international course or American AP program (at least 5 subjects). Alternatively, you can complete the first year university and apply to Cambridge with an extract from the university.

The procedure for admission to the master’s and Phd (Post graduate) at the University of Cambridge begins with the application through the internal portal. Students must select from a list of programs and courses they are interested in, provide academic references, and indicate 2 priority colleges where they would like to study.

After the formal submission of documents, candidates are invited for an interview. Due to the fact that postgraduate tuition is often paid for by various funds, the student is required to confirm the source of funding after actual enrollment.

The cost of studying in Cambridge

Despite the fact that the University of Cambridge is among the 5 most prestigious English universities, the cost of education for local students (UK citizens) is not much higher here than in other, less famous universities.

So studying for an undergraduate program will cost the student £9,250 per year. Tuition fees are regulated by the United Kingdom government.

For foreigners, different rates apply. Depending on the chosen program, you will have to pay from 22,227 to 58,038 British pounds for a year of undergraduate studies! The most expensive specialization is Medicine and Veterinary Science.

Postgraduate and graduate studies are often sponsored by various foundations. One way or another, the cost for local British students ranges from 8,000 to 13,000 pounds per year, and for foreigners, on average, from 27,000 to 36,000 pounds per year. The most expensive program – Doctorate in Business, 1 year of study – 80,000 pounds!

In addition to tuition fees, it is important to keep in mind that there are compulsory college fees, which range from 5-6 thousand pounds annually.

Living in Cambridge costs a student an average of a thousand pounds a month.

Notable Cambridge Alumni

The University of Cambridge has become the Alma Mater for a huge number of distinguished alumni. More than 100 Nobel laureates, 15 British Prime Ministers, 6 Turing Prize winners and many more enlightened minds in all fields of science have come out of the university!

Among the most famous graduates are the following:

  • Sir Isaac Newton, great physicist, mathematician, theologian and astronomer;
  • Charles Darwin, “father of biology”, naturalist, biologist and geologist;
  • Sir Francis Bacon, philosopher, statesman, orator, scientist and jurist;
  • Steve Hawkings, acclaimed theoretical physicist;
  • Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington, English astronomer, physicist and mathematician.

Royal people also studied at Cambridge, in particular:

  • Sir Ranjitsinhji Vibhaji Jadeja, Prince of Nawanagar in India;
  • Prince Charles Philip Arthur George, eldest son of Queen Elizabeth II.


Among the artists who were educated at Cambridge, the most famous are:

  • Sacha Noam Baron Cohen – British actor, screenwriter and producer;
  • William Wordsworth – the world-famous English romantic poet;
  • Graham Arthur Chapman – actor-comedian and writer;
  • Stephen John Fry – presenter, actor, writer and activist;
  • James Hugh Calum Laurie is a television director and producer, English actor, musician, comedian and writer.

Cambridge traditions and interesting facts

One of the more fun traditions of the University of Cambridge is the “Wooden spoon”. According to legend, such an “award” was received by the student who received the lowest score on the exam in mathematics. Unfortunately, now this tradition has become history, and the last spoon (the size of an oar!) Was handed over to a negligent student in 1909.

An interesting story is connected with the so-called Mathematical Bridge, located in Queen’s College. It is believed that the bridge was built by Isaac Newton himself, who allegedly was able to design and build the bridge without a single nail. It is not known where this legend came from, but scientists have found out for certain that all this is nothing more than a beautiful fiction, the bridge was built 22 years after Newton’s death (and screws and bolts were used in construction!).

The romantic Bridge of Sighs deserves special attention. It is believed that the bridge got its name because of a young man who was unlucky in love and did not wait for his bride. The Bridge of Sighs is the only bridge that has walls and a roof, so that a young man could sigh in very comfortable conditions. Well, now students are sighing on the bridge, waiting for the next session.


Walking around the campuses of the University of Cambridge, you can see young people in blue jackets – these are not just fashionistas! The privilege of wearing such jackets is given to students who have achieved significant success in any sport. In front of you is a guy in a blue jacket – you know, he is not only a smart guy and a student of Cambridge, but also a first-class athlete!

There are many stories about unusual questions in introductory interviews. Provocations and surprises are exactly what you need to prepare for (although how do you prepare for this?!). For example, the question “tell me about a banana” no longer surprises anyone!

Traditionally, part of the graduation ceremony in Cambridge is done in Latin. And this despite the fact that most of the students do not know and do not use this “dead language”. It sounds beautiful and solemn – what else do you need ?!


The University of Cambridge is a whole world, a community, an ecosystem. Once in Cambridge, even as a tourist, you will forever remember this incomparable academic atmosphere, saturated with traditions and history.

I really hope that someday my children will be able to become a part of this amazing universe and spend their student years within the walls of one of the best universities in the world – the Cambridge University!

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