Cambridge and the University
Cambridge is a picturesque university town, with a history dating back to pre-Roman times. Cambridge’s significance rose after the Roman invasion of Britain in 44 AD, when an important military settlement was founded on what is now Castle Hill, to defend the river. The Viking invasions in the 9th century caused Cambridge to grow even more – it was a valuable tradepost amongst the marshy region in the east of England, known as the Fens.
Scholars from Oxford left after a dispute with the townsfolk, and came north-east to Cambridge where they set up the world-famous university in 1209. In the past 800+ years, University of Cambridge alumni have risen to prominence in all fields, both academic and in the wider world. Kings and Queens, world leaders, authors, actors, comedians, business leaders, and top sportsmen and women have all studied at Cambridge, and the university has more Nobel Prize winners affiliated to it than any other.
Certain colleges at the University of Cambridge were a breeding ground of Puritanism in the 16th and 17th century, and many of these alumni left to found colonies in the New World. Massachussets and Rhode Island were both founded by Cambridge alumni, and the city of Cambridge, MA was named in honor of the University of Cambridge. Many of the leaders of the Massachussets Bay Colony were Cambridge alumni and they founded the first institute of higher learning in the United States in 1636, based on the Cambridge education system. It was renamed a few years later as Harvard College, in honor of its first benefactor, Cambridge alumnus John Harvard.
The University of Cambridge has the largest university endowment in Europe, and is consistently ranked as one of the best in the world and the top university outside the United States. In 2011 and 2012 it even beat Harvard to be ranked as the top university in the world in the QS World University League Tables. The university is especially renowned for its long and distinguished history in mathematics and the sciences – with people like Sir Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin and now Stephen Hawking all associated with the university. The region around Cambridge has become home to a cluster of high-technology businesses, named Silicon Fen in analogy with Silicon Valley, and which is one of the most important technology centers in Europe, and is the second biggest venture capital market after Silicon Valley. Building on this reputation for enterprise, science and technology, Cambridge has a partnership with MIT, which allows some students to spend a year at the other university.
The university is divided into 31 different colleges, where students live, eat and work. Lectures and examinations are provided by the faculties, and so are university-wide. If you are considering applying to the University of Cambridge, you should be able to visit and walk around all of the colleges for free (some have a charge for tourists).
Living in Cambridge
Cambridge is a lovely place to live and study. The very center of town is pedestrianised, and Cambridge has a variety of quaint English tea rooms, bookshops, giftshops and restaurants of all sorts of nationalities (especially Italian) to explore. A market has been held in the center of town since the middle ages, and has a large number of stalls offering all sorts of interesting things. Recent redevelopments have led to an upmarket shopping mall opening near the center of town, expanding the choice of shops even more.
There are a variety of theatres, cinemas, museums and galleries to visit, such as the Fitzwilliam Museum containing much of the art and antiquities that the University of Cambridge has collected over the past 800 years. Many of the museums and galleries, like the Fitzwilliam, are free to enter, and a group trip to the cinema is included in the price of CSP.
The most important sports in Cambridge are rugby and rowing, with the climax of each being the Varsity Rugby match and the Boat Race, both against Oxford. Every day, hundreds of college rowers wake up early to get on the river before their lectures begin, in preparation for the end of term races. The most prestigious of these, the May Bumps held over four days, has over 1500 participants. We may offer touch-rugby (a safe version) as an evening activity some days, and rowing is an optional paid extra.
Every year at Cambridge hundreds of people learn to row from scratch, and we offer the same at the Cambridge Scholars’ Programme – for just $300 extra you can learn to row, taught by Cambridge students who’ve already been teaching novice rowers. It’s a great opportunity to learn something that’s such a big part of Cambridge life for many students, and you don’t need any previous rowing experience, just a willingness to learn. Rowing will be in the afternoon, so you don’t have to worry about any early mornings either. Rowing places are given on a first-come, first-served basis, as we need multiples of eight rowers for each boat. Towards the end of CSP we will have a rowing race, so you can experience the fun and adrenaline of racing on the River Cam!
Thank you SO much for having us in your programme this year! We really appreciate all you’ve done for us. This programme has been an extraordinary experience and we loved every minute! We are so glad to have been able to study in Cambridge University and get a feel for what school here would be like. Hope to keep in touch!