Each college of Cambridge University is prestigious and distinct, and offers its students a unique experience
Cambridge University is rightly hailed as one of the best universities in the world. Founded in 1209, it is also one of the oldest, and over the centuries it has educated some of the most respected minds across various fields, from Charles Darwin and Stephen Hawking, to Lord Byron and Germaine Greer.
The university as a whole is impressive but, unlike many other universities, houses a collection of colleges that function as individual academic hubs in their own right. Each one offers its students a unique university experience, and even before you begin an undergraduate degree. Programmes like Immerse Education summer school in Cambridge offer a chance for school students to get a taste of higher education while staying in these fabulous colleges.
If you’ve never been to Cambridge and are new to the setup, here’s an introduction to some of the prestigious colleges.
One of the oldest and largest colleges at the university, Queens’ College was founded in 1448 by Margaret of Anjou (Queen of King Henry VI, hence the name). When you think of Cambridge University buildings, chances are Queens’ College is often one of the first that springs to mind. It spans over two sides of the River Cam, with both sides being connected by the world-famous, and utterly charming, Mathematical Bridge.
As a student of Queens’ College, you’ll be following in some very prestigious footsteps. Alumni include Erasmus, T. H. White, and Stephen Fry.
First founded as God’s House in 1437 by William Byngham, this gorgeous college, with its herbaceous border and tranquil gardens laid out over four courts, was refounded as Christ’s College by order of a Royal Charter from King Henry VII in 1505. It is a little oasis of calm in Cambridge city centre, and was home to two of the university’s most famous alumni, John Milton and Charles Darwin.
St Catharine’s College
If you want to feel as if you’re in the beating heart of Cambridge city, look no further than St Catharine’s College. Nicknamed ‘Catz’, this college was founded in 1473. It looks out onto the historic Cambridge city centre, and is notable for its open court, rather than a more typical enclosed quadrangle, facing out onto Trumpington Street. By staying here you’ll be following the path of actor Sir Ian McKellan, naturalist John Ray, and broadcaster Jeremy Paxman.
Murray Edwards College
One of the wonderful things about Cambridge University is how the ancient and the modern live together in harmony. Some college were founded hundreds of years ago, others within living memory. Such is the case with Murray Edwards College, one of three women-only colleges, founded by Rosemary Murray just over sixty years ago, and named after both her and alumna Ros Edwards, who donated £30 million to the college alongside her husband. This was the biggest single donation a Cambridge college has ever received, and they certainly put the money to good use.
It has a permanent collection of modern and contemporary female-only art, 14 acres of award winning gardens, and incredible modern architecture, including the marvellous dome which crowns the dining hall. Alumni include actress Tilda Swinton, comedian Sue Perkins, and astrophysicist Jocelyn Bell Burnell, who co-discovered the first radio pulsars.
Sidney Sussex College
One of the smaller colleges, Sidney Sussex is well-known for its sense of community and warm welcomes. Founded in 1596, Sidney Sussex is a house of secrets in the centre of Cambridge. Behind a rather unassuming wall of Roman cement lies a lovely cloister court, a haunting chapel, Elizabethan brickwork, medieval cellars, Rococo hallways, and beautiful gardens. Also, somewhere in the confines of Sidney Sussex, is buried the head of Oliver Cromwell. Discover where it is to get your fifteen minutes of fame. By spending time at Sidney Sussex, you’ll be retracing the student days of Oliver Cromwell, historian Asa Briggs, and playwright Alan Bennett.
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