Cambridge, Oxford and Durham universities are collegiate, meaning that the university is an association of several colleges. (It is more accurate to think of it as being formed from colleges rather than divided into colleges.) Each student is a member of a College, and also of one or more departments or faculties; so each College will have students in many different departments, and each department will have students from many Colleges. The College is responsible for the students' welfare and residence, and directs and supervises their studies. For most subjects, much of the study (lectures and practical classes) is done in the departments, and the College provides a supervisor (typically a graduate student or fellow of that College) for each subject that the student studies.
I was at Pembroke College (properly called the Hall of Valence Mary, hence the letter V in the registration mark for Pembroke students' bicycles; the foundress' full name is Marie Aylmer de Valence de St. Pol de Chastillon). I matriculated in 82, and graduated in 85.
Pembroke went mixed (American translation: co-ed) in 84, so I experienced both the old-fashioned gentleman's College and the... old-fashioned mixed College. Well, going mixed was done with taste; the notices saying ``Gentlemen are requested...'' changed to ``Ladies and Gentlemen are requested...'' rather than the ``Students must...'' that some colleges use.
A tree was planted in First Court, rather spoiling the appearance of the court. Some students removed it, more than once. Here are the official college notice about it, and a parody that appeared shortly afterwards.
The Walnut tree in First Court.
The tree which has again been planted in First Court was presented by three fellows to mark a long period of membership of the college and their affection for it.
It will be well known that it was twice uprooted last term, no doubt in good, though misplaced, humour.
It was replanted again at the end of last term and again uprooted at once. This third incident has taken the matter beyond a joke. It can now only be seen as an act of petty vandalism of which I would expect a member of the College to feel ashamed, had he through a silly lapse of judgement committed it or taken part in it.
I request that the new tree be left undisturbed. No special measures will be taken to protect it, for it will be obvious to all that even the weakest of intellects could devise a means to remove it again with impunity. I hope that general opinion in the College will operate against that and that a further appeal to the good sense and conduct of individual members of the College will not be needed.
J. C. D. Hickson
The walnut tree in first court.
The tree which has again been planted in First Court was presented by three fellows to mark a long period of membership of the college and their penchant for walnuts.
It will be well known that it was twice planted last term, no doubt in good, though misplaced, humour.
It was uprooted again at the end of last term and again replanted at once. This third incident has taken the matter beyond a joke. It can now only be seen as an act of petty vandalism of which I would expect a member of the college to feel ashamed, had he through a silly lapse of judgement committed it or taken part in it.
I request that the new lawn be left undisturbed. No special measures will be taken to protect it, for it will be obvious to all that even the weakest of intellects could devise a means to replant it again with impunity. I hope that general opinion in the College will operate against that and that a further appeal to the good sense and conduct of individual members of the College will not be needed.
I've produced a separate page of general advice about being a student.
The university year has three terms of 8 weeks each; the first two terms, and the first half of the third term, are taken up with lectures, practicals etc, and the second half of the third term with revision and exams.
Bringing a bike is advisable, although some people manage without one. Cars are allowed only for the disabled, with a few exceptions.
As well as their studies, Cambridge students, like any others, get involved in many other activities, both sporting and otherwise. A popular, not particularly organized, summer activity is punting -- using a pole to propel a long flat-bottomed boat along the murky, Cam Fever-laden waters of the River Cam, as I am doing in this picture.
When I was a student, I was in the Cambridge Bat Group, and Capriol, the medieval and Tudor dancing society, and the Cambridge Dancers' Club (the largest of the University Societies), and at some stage was in CURLS (C. U. Raving Loony Society). Since graduating, going away and returning to the area, I have sometimes been in the Dancers' Club, and am enthusiastically in the Cambridge University Guild of Change Ringers.
The main degree awarded by Cambridge is the Bachelor of Arts, even for people graduating in scientific subjects. Ten terms (trimesters) after receiving the B.A., the candidate may then proceed to the M.A. without taking further examinations (presumably on the assumption that they have continued to learn about their subject).
The degree ceremony is conducted in Latin. Candidates enter by colleges, Royal foundations first then the other foundations in order of seniority (by date of foundation). They emerge as graduates into Senate House Passage, where they may be greeted by friends and supervisors, directors of studies and so on; then go onto the Senate House lawn and typically wait for their relatives to appear from the Senate House as that batch of graduations finishes. Back in my day, this was fairly dignified, but now there are ugly marquees and companies selling photograph frames etc.
The day I graduated was the day I first felt called in some way as a Christian -- at that time I was an enthusiastic nominal Christian.
After graduating from Cambridge, I went on to be a postgraduate student at Bath where I did my PhD.