History and Overview of the University of Cambridge

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19th Sep 2017 Education Reference this


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Introduction to the University of Cambridge

The University of Cambridge is located in the city of Cambridge in East Anglia, UK. It is thought that the University was founded 1209 by a group of scholars which splintered away from Oxford following a fallout with Oxford locals.

Cambridge University describes itself on its website as a ‘self-governed community of scholars’. The University of Cambridge is made up of 31 Colleges and a total exceeding 150 faculties, departments, schools and various other institutions.

The University of Cambridge runs with a fairly small central administrative department, with sections built up of and mostly elected by staff from the Colleges and Faculties. Much of the daily administration of the University of Cambridge is taken care of by teaching and/or lecturing staff. The University of Cambridge describes its governmental structure as democratic.

History of the University of Cambridge

In its early days the University of Cambridge did not have its own premises and so it made use of parish churches such as Great St Mary’s and St Benedict’s to hosts its public ceremonies. Disputations, lodgings and lectures were held in private houses. Eventually a collective of Lawyers, theologians and Regent Masters began hiring and building larger premises in order to hold lectures and to house lodgers. Many of these properties were acquired in the sixteenth century as part of the Colleges themselves.

During the late 1500s, the University of Cambridge began to buy up land in an area known as Senate-House Hill, upon which they built several buildings known as Schools. These are today referred to as the Old Schools.

The first College was St Peter’s. It was founded by the Bishop of Ely, Hugh Balsam, in 1284. In 1317 King’s Hall was founded by Edward the second in order to school trainees for the higher Civil Service. Over the next hundred years, the University of Cambridge’s best-known colleges were founded; Clare, Corpus Christi, Gonville Hall, King’s, Michaelhouse, Pembroke, Queens, Trinity Hall and St Catharine’s. Three of the newer colleges, Christ’s, Jesus and St John’s, were formed when some of the smaller religious houses were dissolved. They were set up to provide for younger students in addition to postgradutates.

At the beginning of the sixteenth century, the Colleges nominated the Proctors from amongst their own numbers, and their heads sat alongside the Vice-Chancellor and senior doctors on an advisory council, which came to be named the Caput Senatus.

How the University of Cambridge works

Research and teaching at the University of Cambridge is administered by several Faculties, and also a few Syndicates. Together, the Syndicates and the Faculties are responsible for every academic area within the University.

Teaching and research in Cambridge is organised by a number of Faculties. In addition, a small number of bodies entitled Syndicates also have responsibilities for teaching and research, and exercise powers similar in effect to those of Faculty Boards. The Faculties and Syndicates cover the whole of the academic programme in the University, each being responsible for a broad subject area.

There are six Schools in the University of Cambridge, each covering a range of departments and faculties. The six schools each reflect a grouping of subjects, which are as follows; Arts and Humanities, Biological Sciences, Clinical Medicine, Humanities and Social Sciences, Physical Sciences, and Technology.

Every Faculty within the University of Cambridge is governed by a Faculty Board. The Faculty Boards carry responsibility for the upholding of standards in teaching, and the provision of research facilities. Each Faculty Board comprises five classes of membership: Professors and Heads of Departments residing within the Faculty, elected members (the teaching staff), junior members who are elected by the faculty’s students, co-opted members and representatives of cognate studies. Each Faculty’s Chairman and Secretary is elected by members of the boards.

The Faculty Board, as well as other boards and syndicates answer to the General Board; other Boards and Syndicates are responsible either to the General Board or the Council.

Three of the University of Cambridge’s 31 colleges – Murray Edwards, Newnham and Lucy Cavendish – are female-only; the remainder, the other 28 Colleges, are mixed. There are two colleges only for postgraduates, Clare Hall and Darwin. Hughes Hall, Lucy Cavendish, St Edmund’s and Wolfson. The remaining 25 Colleges admit both graduates and postgraduates.

Oxford and Cambridge

The University of Cambridge is the second oldest university in the English-speaking world. The oldest is the University of Oxford. Traditionally the two universities have a long-standing rivalry with each other. Jointly, the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge are often referred to as Oxbridge.

Famous Alumni

The University of Cambridge has been the place of study for many people who have become well-known in their particular fields, or simply well-known to the public. To date, Cambridge graduates have won a total of 82 Nobel Prizes, which is greater than any other university. Fifteen of Britain’s Prime Ministers have been graduates of Cambridge, including Robert Walpole.

The University of Cambridge has also traditionally been the preferred University for the Royal Family, with graduates including Kings Edward VII and George VI, Prince Henry of Gloucester, Prince William of Gloucester and Edinburgh, and the Prince of Wales Prince Charles. His father, the Duke of Edinburgh Prince Philip, holds the position of Chancellor of the University of Cambridge.

Famous Alumni include those known from television comedy programmes; Hugh Laurie (Jeeves and Wooster, Blackadder), Rob Newman (Newman and Baddiel, the Mary Whitehouse experience) and Clive Anderson (Whose Line is it Anyway) all attended Selwyn College. Sacha Baron Cohen, best known for his characters Borat and Ali G, attended Christ’s College. John Cleese of Monty Python fame attended Downing College. Peter Cook and Eric Idle (Monty Python) graduated from Pembroke, and Stephen Fry (Jeeves and Wooster, Blackadded) from Queen’s.

There is a rich literary tradition amongst University of Cambridge graduates; William Wordsworth to Ted Hughes, Slyvia Plath to CS Lewis to John Milton were all graduates of the University of Cambridge.

The full list is exhaustive, covering seminal figures in religion, politics, and science – including some of the greatest minds of past and modern times; Charles Darwin, amd Stephen Hawking.

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