The University of Cambridge is composed of 31 colleges in addition to the academic departments and administration of the central University. Until the mid-19th century, both Cambridge and Oxford comprised a group of colleges with a small central university administration, rather than universities in the common sense. Cambridge's colleges are communities of students, academics and staff - an environment in which generations and academic disciplines are able to mix, with both students and fellows experiencing "the breadth and excellence of a top University at an intimate level".
Cambridge Colleges provide most of the accommodation for undergraduates and graduates at the University. At the undergraduate level they have responsibility for admitting students to the university, providing pastoral support, and organising elements of their tuition, though lectures and examinations are organised by the faculties and departments of the central University. For graduates, research is conducted virtually entirely centrally in the faculties, departments and other university-affiliated research centres, though the colleges provide a central social and intellectual hub for students.
Colleges provide a range of facilities and services to their members in addition to accommodation, including catering, extracurricular societies, and sporting teams. Much of sporting life at Cambridge is centred around college teams and inter-collegiate competition in Cuppers. Student activity is typically organised through separate common rooms for undergraduate and postgraduate students. Another important element of collegiate life is formal hall, which range in frequency from weekly to every night of the week during Full Term.
Colleges also provide funding, accommodation, or both, for some of the academic posts in the university, with the majority of Cambridge academics being a fellow of a college in addition to their Faculty/Departmental role. Academics may therefore hold college positions in addition to their academic posts at the University: these include roles such as Tutor (responsible for pastoral support), Director of Studies (responsible for academic oversight of students), Dean (responsible for discipline among college members), Senior Tutor (responsible for the College's overall academic provision), or Head of College ('Head of House'). Some academics are employed solely by their college, whilst holding membership of their respective Faculty.
Colleges are self-governed charities in their own right, with their own endowments and possessions.
"Old" and "new" colleges
The University of Cambridge has 31 colleges, founded between the 13th and 20th centuries. No colleges were founded between 1596 (Sidney Sussex College) and 1800 (Downing College), which allows the colleges to be distinguished into two groups according to foundation date:
- the 16 'old' colleges, founded between 1284 and 1596, and
- the 15 'new' colleges, founded between 1800 and 1977.
The oldest college is Peterhouse, founded in 1284, and the newest is Robinson, founded in 1977. Homerton, which was first founded in the eighteenth century as a dissenting academy (and later teacher training college), attained full college status in 2010.
Restrictions on entry
All 16 of the "old" colleges and 7 of the 15 "new" ones admit both male and female students as both undergraduates and postgraduates, without any age restrictions. Eight colleges restrict entry by sex, or by age of undergraduates, or admit only postgraduates:
- Murray Edwards and Newnham admit only women. Lucy Cavendish admitted only women until 2021;
- Lucy Cavendish admitted only mature students, i.e. aged 21 or older until 2020, or postgraduates until 2021;
- Clare Hall and Darwin admit only postgraduates;
- Hughes Hall, St Edmund's and Wolfson admit only mature students (defined as aged 21 or older) or postgraduates.
No colleges are all-male, although most originally were. Darwin, founded in 1964, was the first mixed college, while in 1972 Churchill, Clare and King's colleges were the first previously all-male colleges to admit women. The last all-male college to become mixed was Magdalene, in 1988. In 1973 Hughes Hall became the first all-female college to admit men, and Girton first admitted men in 1979.
Newnham also places restrictions on the admission of staff members, allowing only females to become fellows of the college. Murray Edwards and Lucy Cavendish do not place this restriction on fellows.
The Cambridge and Oxford colleges have served as an architectural inspiration for Collegiate Gothic Architecture, used by a number of American universities including Princeton University and Washington University in St. Louis since the late nineteenth century.
List of colleges
|College, with logo and scarf colours||Head||Net Assets (2019)||Assets per student
||1505||Dr Jane Stapleton, Master||433||256||689||£126,626,000||£196,757,000||£285,586||||CHR|
||1960||Professor Dame Athene Donald, Master||499||346||845||£108,833,000||£181,280,000||£214,532||||CHU|
||1326||Anthony Grabiner, Baron Grabiner QC, Master
Loretta Minghella, Master-elect
| Clare Hall
||1966||Professor Alan Short, President||0||249||249||£29,004,099||£34,931,819||£140,288||||CLH||Graduate students only.|
| Corpus Christi
||1352||Professor Christopher Kelly, Master||294||259||553||£94,390,000||£231,571,000||£418,754||||CC|
||1964||Dr Mike Rands, Master||0||755||755||£26,667,686||£74,424,534||£98,575||||DAR||Graduate students only.|
||1800||Alan Bookbinder, Master||463||382||845||£49,800,000||£197,200,000||£233,372||||DOW|
||1584||Dame Fiona Reynolds, Master||512||206||718||£102,465,915||£282,706,712||£393,741||||EM||Emma|
||1869 (1966)||Sally Morgan, Baroness Morgan of Huyton, Master||486||413||899||£61,074,000||£135,672,000||£150,914||||F||Fitz|
||1869||Professor Susan J. Smith, Mistress||516||292||808||£53,123,000||£153,413,000||£189,867||||G||Formerly women's only; became mixed in 1976.|
| Gonville and Caius
||1348||Dr Pippa Rogerson, Master||602||247||849||£227,459,000||£347,917,000||£398,017||||CAI||Caius|
||1768 (1976)||Professor Geoffrey Ward, Principal
Simon Woolley, Baron Woolley of Woodford, Principal-elect
| Hughes Hall
||1885 (1949)||Dr Anthony Freeling, President||150||711||861||£13,840,000||£45,734,088||£53,117||||HH||Mature undergrad, and grad students only. Became mixed in 1973.|
||1496||Sonita Alleyne, Master||513||411||924||£203,565,936||£344,813,325||£373,174||||JE|
||1441||Professor Michael Proctor, Provost||442||284||726||£100,380,000||£376,940,000||£519,201||||K|
| Lucy Cavendish
||1965||Professor Dame Madeleine Atkins, President||120||320||440||£13,754,000||£45,018,000||£102,313||||LC||Mature female undergrad, and female grad students only. Mixed from 2021 entry, all ages from 2020 entry.||Lucy Cav|
||1428||Professor Sir Christopher Greenwood, Master||382||190||572||£62,619,000||£178,556,000||£312,160||||M|
| Murray Edwards
||1954||Dame Barbara Stocking, President||376||189||565||£46,457,000||£105,100,000||£186,017||||MUR||Female only. Formerly New Hall.||Medwards|
||1871||Alison Rose, Principal||416||290||706||£59,172,000||£218,882,000||£310,031||||N||Female students only.|
||1347||Chris Smith, Baron Smith of Finsbury, Master||475||285||760||£80,445,000||£259,162,000||£341,002||||PEM||Pem|
||1284||Bridget Kendall, Master||292||178||470||£204,078,000||£328,230,000||£698,361||||PET|
||1448||Dr Mohamed A. El-Erian, President||521||500||1021||£59,785,000||£123,464,000||£120,924||||Q|
||1977||Professor David Yates, Warden
Sir Richard Heaton, Warden-elect
||1882||Roger Mosey, Master||419||249||668||£67,600,000||£121,639,000||£182,094||||SE|
| Sidney Sussex
||1596||Professor Richard Penty, Master||380||247||627||£27,960,000||£131,665,000||£209,992||||SID||Sidney|
| St Catharine's
||1473||Professor Sir Mark Welland, Master||481||287||768||£67,689,000||£145,952,000||£190,041||||CTH||Cats|
| St Edmund's
||1896||Catherine Arnold, Master||121||452||573||£18,127,000||£40,904,000||£71,385||||ED||Mature undergrad, and grad students only.||Eddie's|
| St John's
||1511||Heather Hancock, Master||658||319||977||£542,446,000||£834,697,000||£854,346||||JN|
||1546||Professor Dame Sally Davies, Master||722||332||1054||£1,286,289,000||£1,532,280,000||£1,453,776||||T||Trin|
| Trinity Hall
||1350||The Reverend Canon Dr Jeremy Morris, Master||376||226||602||£286,665,000||£320,529,000||£532,440||||TH||Tit Hall|
||1965||Professor Jane Clarke, President||180||832||1012||£25,820,000||£67,285,000||£66,487||||W||Mature undergrad, and grad students only.|
|Institutions(s)||Founded||Head||Net Assets (2019)||Assets per student
|University of Cambridge||c. 1209||Professor Stephen Toope, Vice-Chancellor||12,354||10,893||23,247||£3,020,000,000||£5,144,800,000||£221,310|||
|Colleges (Total)||" "||" "||" "||£4,101,210,636||£7,424,334,478||£319,367|
There are also several theological colleges in Cambridge (for example Ridley Hall, Wesley House, Westcott House and Westminster College) that are affiliated with the university through the Cambridge Theological Federation. These colleges, while not officially part of the University of Cambridge, operate programmes that are either validated by or are taught on behalf either of the university or of Anglia Ruskin or Durham Universities.
Heads of colleges
Most colleges are led by a Master, even when the Master is female. However, there are some exceptions, listed below. Girton College has always had a Mistress, even though male candidates have been able to run for the office since 1976.
- Mistress: Girton College
- President: Clare Hall, Hughes Hall, Lucy Cavendish College, Murray Edwards College, Queens' College, Wolfson College
- Principal: Homerton College, Newnham College
- Provost: King's College
- Warden: Robinson College
The above list does not include several former colleges that no longer exist. These include:
- Ayerst Hostel, founded in the 1880s, renamed as St Edmund's House in 1896 and later St Edmund's College in 1996.
- Buckingham College, founded in 1428 as a Benedictine hall, refounded as Magdalene in 1542.
- Bull College, an unofficial college for US GIs returning from World War II, existing in Michaelmas 1945 and Lent 1946.
- Cavendish College, founded in 1873, an attempt to allow poorer students to sit the Tripos examinations, whose buildings were bought by Homerton in 1895.
- "Clare Hall" was the name of Clare College between 1338 and 1856. Clare College founded a new college named Clare Hall in 1966.
- Gonville Hall, founded in 1348, and re-founded in 1557 as Gonville and Caius College.
- God's House, founded in 1437, and re-founded in 1505 as Christ's College.
- King's Hall, founded in 1317, and combined with Michaelhouse to form Trinity College in 1546.
- Michaelhouse, founded in 1324, and combined with King's Hall to form Trinity College in 1546.
- New Hall, founded 1954, and re-founded in 2008 as Murray Edwards College
- Physwick Hostel, Cambridge - was a predecessor of Gonville and Caius College
- University College, founded 1965, and re-founded in 1972 as Wolfson College
- University Hall, founded 1326, refounded as Clare Hall in 1338, renamed as Clare College in 1856.
- Colleges of Durham University
- Colleges of the University of Oxford
- Colleges of the University of York
- List of current heads of University of Cambridge colleges
- List of fictional Cambridge colleges
- List of Oxbridge sister colleges
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