University Structure and Organisation

Students new to Cambridge often find the University and its collegiate structure alien and confusing, especially when trying to explain them to friends and family. Don’t panic – you’re not the first to experience this!

The University of Cambridge comprises 31 colleges (some of which are for mature students or women only). Colleges provide their own facilities (library, sports ground, dining hall, JCRs and MCRs, bar, etc.), academic (teaching, seminars, grants, etc.) and pastoral services (accommodation, welfare, financial support) to their students. Colleges also assign students to a tutor (a fellow of the college) to act as an intermediary between them and the College or University.

The University is the degree-awarding body and has an academic hierarchy of several schools, faculties and departments that are responsible for your academic education. You’ll become acquainted with the specific rules and workings of each of your departments, and they will also assign you one or more supervisors and advisors.

Matriculation, Terms, Tutors & Supervisors

Formal enrolment into the University is one of the long-standing traditions of the University of Cambridge. At matriculation, you will be asked to commit to abiding by the College regulations, and officially become a member of your College and the University.

The academic calendar in Cambridge is divided into 3 terms of 8 weeks each. Most students will commence their studies in Michaelmas term (October to December), although a few research students will also start later in the year during Lent (January to March) or Easter (April to June) terms. The summer period, referred to as the Long Vacation (Long Vac), runs from June to October (although for many research students, this name can be quite misleading!).

While undergraduates have to move out of college between terms and during the Long Vacation, faculties and departments expect graduates to remain in Cambridge, minus research or conference trips, so don’t think you’ll be alone in the city! Even during Christmas break, a few international postgraduates are usually still around. The MCR Committee continues to work year-round and tries to organise a variety of social and dining events during Long Vac in particular.

Check out the official University page for the term calendar and other important dates.