Cambridge University: History, Courses, Fees and Traditions
9 min

Cambridge University: History, Courses, Fees and Traditions

9 min
Uploaded on
Nov 10, 2022
Last updated on
Mar 26, 2023
Uploaded on
Nov 10, 2022
Last updated on
Mar 26, 2023
University of Cambridge
The best of British education!

Cambridge University, founded in 1209, is one of the world's oldest. Cambridge appears to be something out of a dark academic film, with its Potter-esque architecture and students walking the cobblestone streets in gowns. Wouldn't you like to learn more about this prestigious University? 

Cambridge University: History

Established in 1209, the University of Cambridge is the second oldest English-speaking University, following Oxford University. Its foundation was motivated by a heinous crime committed by two students from the University of Oxford who were later executed. In response, scholars from Oxford dispersed to smaller schools, including Cambridge, to continue their studies. The lectures and classes they held in Cambridge eventually led to the establishment of a formal institution. In 1233, Pope Gregory IX recognized the University as an official academic institution by signing a decree. Many authors have referenced the University in their works throughout history, including Geoffrey Chaucer, who mentioned it in his novel The Canterbury Tales in the 14th century.

Cambridge University: Overview

The University of Cambridge is a collegiate university located in Cambridge, England. It is one of the leading universities in the United Kingdom, having topped several rankings consistently since 1997. It is also one of the most selective universities in the country, an honour it shares with the University of Oxford. The University has since gained a steady reputation for excellence in teaching and research. It is also a member of several prestigious organizations, including the Coimbra Group, a network of leading European universities, and the Russell Group, composed of the top research universities in U.K. Cambridge has steadily climbed the global rankings in recent years. In the Q.S. World University Ranking, it was placed at #7 in both 2020 and 2021. However, in 2023, it has made impressive progress, reaching the #2 spot. The University of Cambridge was particularly recognized for its academic reputation, faculty-student ratio, citations per faculty, and international-faculty ratio, which contributed significantly to its rise in the rankings.

Colleges under Cambridge University

Students live, eat, and socialize in one of the 31 autonomous Colleges of the University. Undergraduates participate in College supervisions, which are small group teaching sessions that are widely recognized as one of the top teaching formats in the world.

Each college has its own set of internal policies. They choose their own students while adhering to University norms, and the majority admit both undergraduate and postgraduate students. Representatives from colleges serve on the University Council and the Finance Committee. Here's a list of colleges that come under Cambridge University:

  • Christ College 
  • Churchill College
  • Clare College
  • Corpus College
  • Downing College
  • Emmanuel College
  • Fitzwilliam College
  • Girton College 
  • Gonville &Caius College
  • Homerton College
  • Hughes Hall
  • Jesus College
  • King's College
  • Lucy Cavendish College
  • Magdalene College
  • Murry Edwards College
  • Newnham College
  • Pembroke College
  • Peterhouse
  • Queens' College
  • Robinson College
  • Selwyn College
  • Sidney Sussex College
  • St Catharine's College
  • St Edmund's College
  • St John's College
  • Trinity Colege
  • Trinity Hall
  • Wolfson College
Colleges of Cambridge University

Top Courses

This University is well known for being one of the country's best law universities, top MBA universities, and best universities for psychology. But if you're planning on pursuing your master's at Cambridge, here are the top courses at the University. 

1. M.phil

Duration: 9-12 months
M.Phil at the University of Cambridge is a postgraduate research degree program that typically takes one to two years to complete. The M.Phil degree is a research-based program and offers advanced training in specific academic fields. To be eligible for an M.Phil program at Cambridge, applicants must hold a relevant bachelor's degree with a first or high 2:1 classification or an equivalent qualification from an overseas institution. Additionally, applicants must have proficiency in the English language, and non-native speakers must meet specific language requirements such as a minimum score in the IELTS or TOEFL exams.


Duration: 12 months
: 1
The University of Cambridge offers various programs for postgraduate studies in business and management, including the Master of Business Administration (MBA) and Postgraduate Diploma in Management (PGDM). The program aims to equip students with practical skills and knowledge in leadership, strategy, entrepreneurship, and global business practices. The PGDM program is a nine-month full-time course aimed at individuals with less work experience but who have an undergraduate degree in any discipline. This program aims to develop students' knowledge and skills in business and management, including accounting, finance, marketing, operations, and organizational behaviour. Both programs offer students opportunities to gain real-world experience through case studies, projects, internships, and networking events. If you're specifically looking for MBA programs, you should know that Cambridge University is one of the top 10 MBA universities in the U.K

3. B.A.

Duration: 3-4 years
: 17
The University of Cambridge has multiple Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) degree programs in a wide range of subjects. These courses are typically three years long and are highly rigorous, with a strong emphasis on academic excellence and critical thinking skills. Admission to B. A program at Cambridge is highly competitive, and the selection process involves a rigorous evaluation of academic achievements, potential, and personal qualities.

4. MIM

Duration: 1 year
: 1
The University of Cambridge offers a Master's in Management (MIM) program, also known as the MPhil in Management. This is a one-year program that is designed to equip students with the necessary knowledge and skills to pursue a career in management, entrepreneurship, or further academic research. The MIM program consists of core courses, electives, and a research project. The core courses cover topics such as strategic management, marketing, finance, and organizational behaviour. Elective courses allow students to specialize in areas such as entrepreneurship, innovation, or social enterprise. The research project provides students with an opportunity to apply their knowledge and skills to a real-world business problem.

5. M.S.

Duration: 9-11 months
: 7
Master of Science (MSc) is one of Cambridge university's best courses. These programs provide advanced training and research opportunities for students who have already completed an undergraduate degree. M.S. programs at Cambridge typically may include coursework, research, and a thesis or project. Some programs also offer the option to complete a research internship or industrial placement as part of the degree. Upon completion, graduates of these programs may pursue careers in academia, research, industry, or other fields.

6. LL.M

Duration: 9 months - 2 years
: 5
The University of Cambridge offers a Master of Laws (LL.M) program for students who have completed an undergraduate degree in law or a related field. The LL.M. program is designed to provide students with advanced legal education and training in various areas of law. Students can specialize in subjects such as Commercial Law, Corporate Law, Intellectual Property Law, International Law, Human Rights Law, and more.

Cambridge University: Admission and Requirements 

Undergraduate Programmes 

To apply for graduate admission at the University of Cambridge in 2023, follow these steps:

  • Submit your application through the UCAS Application Portal.
  • Pay a non-refundable application fee of £60.
  • Submit all required documents by October 15th.

It's important to note that personal statements or statements of purpose (SOPs) for U.K. universities are different from those required by other institutions. Your SOP should be no longer than 800 words, and at least 90% of it should be academic. Additionally, the requirements for SOPs may vary depending on the subject you're applying for.

Undergraduate Programmes Admission Requirements at the University of Cambridge

  • Academic documents 
  • Minimum 90% or A grade needed in at least five relevant subjects
  • IELTS /TOEFL test scores
  • SOP or personal statement
  • Letter of recommendation by a teacher or a professor 
  • Passport

Graduate Programme

The University of Cambridge is known for its rigorous and intellectually demanding graduate programs, which require a multitude of academic qualifications for admission. International students have access to approximately 167 postgraduate courses at this University. During the 2020-2021 admissions cycle, the majority of international students enrolled in these programs came from China, the United States, and India. Specifically, 1,901 Indian students were admitted into graduate programs at the University of Cambridge.

The application process for graduate admission at the University of Cambridge in 2023 is structured as follows:

  • Complete the application through the University Application Portal.
  • Pay the non-refundable application fee of £75.
  • Submit the necessary documents.

Postgraduate Programmes Admission Requirements at the University of Cambridge

  • A bachelor's degree in a related field with a minimum of 70%.
  • Academic transcripts.
  • English translations of non-English transcripts.
  • Proof of English proficiency, with the minimum score varying depending on the program.
  • Personal Statement or Statement of Purpose.
  • Letter of Recommendation provided by a teacher/tutor/guidance counsellor.
  • Interview (required for some courses).

How do I apply to Cambridge University?

One of the hardest universities to get into, Cambridge's application process differs slightly from that of other universities. You must still apply through UCAS; however, at Cambridge, the process begins earlier to allow us time to collect and review all application information.

How to apply to University of Cambridge

Step 1: Choose a Course

You'll be studying at a high level for several years, so make sure you choose a course that interests you and that you'll like studying! Check sure you meet the prerequisites for the course you want to pursue.

Step 2: Check assessment requirements

As part of the application process, most applicants must take a written admission evaluation. Some applicants may be asked to provide samples of their written work as well. 

Step 3: Decide on your college

You can apply directly to one of the 31 Colleges or make an open application through your UCAS application. 

Step 4: Submit your application

You must submit your UCAS application before October 15th (6 pm U.K. time). You cannot apply to both Cambridge and Oxford Universities in the same year. You will be emailed shortly after submitting your UCAS application and asked to complete My Cambridge Application by a specific deadline. 

Step 5: Interviews

Everyone who has a good chance of getting a job is invited to an interview. If you decide to apply, it is better to be prepared and know what kind of questions you can expect. 

Step 6: Decisions

You'll receive news of the University's decision before the end of January. 

How much does it cost to study at Cambridge University?

The University of Cambridge fees include the following:

Course fee

The University of Cambridge fees for students with Home status will be £9,250 for the first year. Continuing and new students from the Crown Dependencies will have Home status eligibility for paying fees. If the course has a year to be spent abroad, it will cost 15% of the tuition fees for that particular year at the University of Cambridge. The fees are naturally higher for international students. Most EEA/EU and Switzerland students now come under the overseas or international category from October last year. 

Miscellaneous Expenditure

All students with international or overseas status will have to pay the annual University of Cambridge fees over and above the tuition charges. This will cover the costs of various support functions and services. The University of Cambridge fees may vary across courses. 

Cost of Living

Living expenditure may be roughly £11,440 for a year, excluding tuition and college costs, as per estimates. The living costs will cover books, supplies, transportation, personal costs, and food costs. Students should budget at least £10,170 for a year in Cambridge on a moderate lifestyle while this may go up in subsequent years. Costs will naturally be higher during the vacations.


1. Gates Cambridge

The Gates Cambridge Scholarship is one of the world's most distinguished international scholarships. 

• Who can apply: Every year, the University of Cambridge awards 80 full-time postgraduate scholarships to outstanding applicants from countries other than the United Kingdom. 
• What it covers
: The total cost of studying at Cambridge, including tuition, maintenance allowance (£18,384 for 12 months at the 2022-23 rate), travel costs, visa, and so on. 

2. Cambridge Chevening Scholarship

• Who can apply: Masters candidates from countries where Chevening Scholarships are available. Applicants must demonstrate leadership potential and demonstrate a need for financial help in order to study at Cambridge University.
• What it covers
: Tuition at University, an annual stipend (sufficient for a single individual), and some other expenses

3. Commonwealth Scholarship (Cambridge)

• Who can apply: Applicants from developing member countries of the Commonwealth, at Master's or PhD level in any subject. It is tenable at any College. 
• What it covers
: University tuition fee, annual stipend (sufficient for a single person), and return economy airfare

Life at Cambridge University

Taking a break from studying every once in a while can help deal with exam stress. As you might expect from a university city, there are plenty of options in Cambridge. Not only is there an overall Student's Union, but every college has its own student union. There are more than 100 sports clubs and societies associated with the Student's Union, and the University has excellent sports facilities. 

Along with sporting clubs, there are also 700+ clubs and societies affiliated with the University of Cambridge Student's Union. So you're bound to find like-minded people that share your interests. If you like a good night out, you'll be pleased to hear that there are over 100 pubs, as well as several nightclubs, in Cambridge – not including university-run student bars. Clare Cellars, Fez, and the perennial student favourite – Wetherspoons, are all popular night spots.

Cambridge University's Timeless Traditions

Did you know that the University of Cambridge has some awesome student traditions that make the whole experience even better? One of them is the Cardboard Boat Race, where students build boats out of cardboard, tape, and glue and race them based on speed and design. There's also Pennying, where students toss coins into each other's drinks, and the person who gets it has to down the whole thing in one go! During Freshers' Week, new students are inducted into their college with a fancy matriculation ceremony where they wear gowns and sign the college book.

But wait, there's more! Candlelit Formals are weekly dinners where you gotta stand until the high table is seated, and they say grace in Latin before the three-course meal starts. Caesarian Sunday is a fun party on Jesus Green, and Lavish Balls are extravagant events where you dress up in fancy gowns and black suits. And if you make it to the morning after the Lavish Ball, you get to have a "survivors breakfast"!

Why should YOU study at Cambridge University?

Cambridge University is an academic powerhouse known around the world for its exceptional programs and faculty. If you're thinking about furthering your education, here are some reasons why studying at Cambridge might be a great choice for you. First of all, the quality of education at Cambridge is unparalleled. Consistently ranked among the top universities globally, the academic curriculum is designed to challenge students to think critically, conduct independent research, and hone their analytical skills. Moreover, the community at Cambridge is diverse and inclusive, welcoming students from all over the world. Finally, Cambridge's reputation opens doors to a wide range of career opportunities. Employers value degrees from Cambridge highly, and the University has a proven track record of producing successful graduates who excel in academia, industry, and government. Ultimately, the decision to study at Cambridge depends on your academic interests, career aspirations, and personal preferences. But if you're looking for an exceptional academic experience that prepares you for a successful future, Cambridge is undoubtedly worth considering.

Is Cambridge University the right choice for me? There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as each person's compatibility with Cambridge University will be different. However, we can say that Cambridge is a world-renowned university with a rich history and a reputation for excellence. It is a place where you can make life-long friends, gain a world-class education, and have experiences that you will never forget. If you've gotten into Cambridge University, you know what the next step is - finding student accommodation nearby. If you're unsure, you can always check out the other half of the Oxbridge duo - Oxford University.

Frequently Asked Questions