The colleges provide a large amount of accommodation for graduate students. The amount, quality, price and method of allocation differ from College to College – some Colleges will offer accommodation for one year only while others can offer you a room for the duration of your studies. Further information can be found in the college sections of the Alternative Prospectus or ask the colleges you are interested in.
Living in college can be enjoyable and is a great way of making new friends and generally feeling more involved in University life. It does, however, require a ‘give and take’ attitude as it involves sharing cooking facilities and bathrooms with many others. It used to be the case that living in college could be relied on to be cheaper than renting privately, though recent rent rises in College accommodation mean that this is no longer true for all colleges. Living out of college, on the other hand, has advantages such as feeling less restricted and having a greater sense of privacy. Unfortunately, living in Cambridge is expensive, as in most cities hard pressed for space. Consequently, do expect that it may cost more than what you are used to. For more information about living out of college, including places to look for available properties and organisations to contact, see our accommodation information page.
Graduates with families
Unfortunately, it is much harder to secure College accommodation for families than it is for single graduates, and if you might be looking for family accommodation, it is worth finding out about it from the Colleges you are considering applying to. A summary of the availability of accommodation for families is available in the Cambridge Guide for Student Parents.
Catering and the Kitchen Fixed Charge
All Colleges provide a canteen service; typically breakfast, lunch and dinner are provided during the week and a reduced service operates at the weekends. Outside of term, provision varies by college. Food is typically of a reasonable standard, with several options, and fairly cheap. Most colleges also provide graduates with reasonable self-catering facilities. However a few do not and draconian limitations may be placed on how and whether you cook.
Many colleges levy an additional charge on graduates, called the Kitchen Fixed Charge (KFC) or other names, which is supposed to cover some of the overheads of running a canteen rather than the purchase of any food. Some people resent paying these charges, especially if they cannot access the service, for example those working in labs far from the college or living in private accommodation with their families. The costs can be as high as well over £100 extra a term which is a £1000 over a PhD. The GU maintains a list of current KFC policies for each college so students are aware before applying and can lobby their colleges for fair treatment once here.
If you are in a college hostel or staircase with shared facilities, your housemates may not be too keen on having to frequently queue for a shower and then see your non-rent-paying boy/girlfriend emerge from ‘their’ shower. If hot water bills are shared equally you should also bear the implications of this in mind. When applying, if you are likely to be entertaining overnight guests frequently you may wish to look for a college that can provide suitable facilities, for example an en-suite room.
Landlines are frequently cheaper for international calls into and from the UK. Many colleges provide landlines which can accept incoming calls within their accommodation blocks/houses or sockets where you can rent your own phoneline. If you are travelling a long way and will not be able to return home often then you may want to ask colleges about their telephone provision.