University of Cambridge
The University of Cambridge is the second oldest academic institution in the English-speaking world (after Oxford). According to legend, the University was founded in 1209 by scholars escaping Oxford after a fight with locals.
Cambridge and the University of Oxford, referred to together as Oxbridge, vie for the position of best overall university in the UK (see Oxbridge rivalry). Together, they produce a significant proportion of Britain's prominent scientists, writers and politicians. In addition, both are members of the Russell Group of Universities (a network of large, research-led British universities), the Coimbra Group (an association of leading European universities) and the LERU (League of European Research Universities).
Cambridge has produced more Nobel prize winners than any other university, having around 80 associated with it, about 70 of whom were students there. It also regularly heads league tables ranking British universities. Cambridge is widely regarded as one of the most prestigious universities in the world.
|Table of contents|
4 Notable alumni
5 Cambridge University in fiction
6 See also
7 External links
The thirty-one Colleges of the University are independent institutions, separate from the University itself, and they enjoy considerable autonomy. For example, colleges decide which students they are to admit (though this is under review in 2003), are responsible for the welfare and domestic arrangements of students and for small group teaching ('supervisions'). They appoint their own 'fellows' (senior members). Many of the colleges are also quite wealthy (in some cases very wealthy), while the university is less so.
Admission to Cambridge colleges used to be dependent on knowledge of Latin and Greek, subjects taught principally in Britain at public schools - restricting entry to members of the British social elite. Since the 1960s, changing attitudes (not least amongst Cambridge academics) have meant a shift to an admission process that aims at strict meritocracy. Cambridge undergraduates from Britain are expected to have the best, or nearly the best, A-level qualifications available and to impress College fellows at interviews. In recent years admissions tutors in certain technical subjects, most notably the Mathematics Tripos, have required applicants to sit the harder STEP papers as most candidates achieve top grades in their A-levels.
The first College was Peterhouse founded in 1284 by Hugh Balsham, Bishop of Ely. The second-oldest College is King's Hall which was founded in 1317, though it no longer exists as a separate entity. Many other colleges were founded during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. A full list of Colleges is given below, though some, such as Michaelhouse (which King Henry VIII combined with King's Hall to make Trinity in 1546) and Gonville Hall no longer exist. The newest college is Robinson, built in the late 1970s. In 2004, there were newspaper reports that Cambridge was planning on expanding its student numbers by adding three new colleges, but this has been denied by the university.
During the early times, the Colleges were founded so that their students would pray for the souls of the founders and were often associated with chapels, if not abbeys. In conjunction with the Dissolution of the Monasteries, in 1536 King Henry VIII ordered the University to disband its Faculty of Canon Law and to stop teaching "scholastic philosophy." So instead of focusing on canon law, the colleges' curricula then became centered on the Greek and Latin classics, the Bible, and mathematics. The university today teaches and researches a complete range of subjects.
The first Colleges for women were Girton College in 1869 and Newnham College in 1872. The first women students were examined in 1882 but attempts to make women full members of the University did not succeed until 1947, 20 years later than at Oxford. Of the 31 Colleges, three are now for women only (Lucy Cavendish, New Hall, and Newnham College), and four are for graduate students only (Clare Hall, Darwin, Wolfson and St Edmund's).
A Cambridge exam for the Bachelor of Arts degree is known as a Tripos. Although the university now offers courses in a large number of subjects, it had a particularly strong emphasis on Mathematics up until the early 19th century, and study of this subject was compulsory for graduation. Students awarded first-class honours after completing the maths course were named wranglers. The Mathematics Tripos was extremely competitive, and it helped produce some of the most famous names in British science, including Lord Kelvin, Stokes and Maxwell. However, some famous students, such as Hardy disliked the system, feeling that people were too interested in accumulating large numbers of marks in exams and not interested in the subject itself. Despite diversifying its research and teaching interests, Cambridge today maintains its strength in mathematics. The Isaac Newton Institute, part of the university, is widely regarded as the UK's national research institute for maths and theoretical physics.
The 'Wooden Spoon' was the 'prize' awarded to the last-placed student in the Mathematical Tripos. It was last awarded in 1909 to C. L. Holthouse, an oarsman of the Lady Margaret Boat Club (St John's College). It was over one metre in length, with a blade for a handle. This particular spoon is now in the possession of St John's College.
There are certain number of leisure pursuits associated with Cambridge. Rowing is a popular sport and there are competitions between colleges (notably the bumps races) and against Oxford (the Boat Race). There are also Varsity Matches against Oxford in many other sports, including rugby, cricket, chess and tiddlywinks. Representing the university in certain sports entitles the athlete to apply for a blue at the discretion of a Blues Committee consisting of the captains of the thirteen most prestigious sports. Theatre clubs include the famous Footlights.
There are also a number of myths associated with Cambridge University, some of which should be taken less seriously than others. One of the most famous is that of the Queens' College Mathematical Bridge (pictured at the top of the article), which was supposedly designed by Isaac Newton to hold itself together without any bolts or screws. It was also supposedly taken apart by inquisitive students who were then unable to reassemble it. The story is false, as the bridge was actually erected 22 years after Newton's death. It is thought that this myth arises from the fact that earlier versions of the bridge used iron pins and screws at the joints, whereas the current bridge uses nuts and bolts (and hence are more visible).
The Legend of the Austin Seven delivery van which went up in the world is recounted in detail on the Caius College website.
In the Meiji Era (1868-1912) several Japanese students studied at the University. See here for details. In Japan there is a Cambridge and Oxford Society, one of the few examples of the name Cambridge coming before Oxford (traditionally, the order used when referring to both universities is "Oxford and Cambridge", even though "C" precedes "O" in the Latin alphabet).
Cambridge has a partnership with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (see the Cambridge-MIT Institute). The university is closely linked with the high-technology businesses in the Cambridge area (see Silicon Fen). The university and the Cambridge area have also been financially supported by several prominent figures in the technology world, including Gordon Moore of Intel Corporation and Bill Gates of Microsoft. In 2000, Gates set up the Gates Scholarships to help students from outside the UK study at Cambridge.
|Gonville and Caius||1348||Website|
Events and organisations connected with the university include:
Cambridge University in fiction
Fictional Cambridge Colleges
Clare Hall |
Corpus Christi |
Gonville and Caius |
Hughes Hall |
Lucy Cavendish |
New Hall |
St Catharine's |
St Edmund's |
St John's |
Sidney Sussex |
Trinity Hall |