skip to primary navigationskip to content

Cambridge glossary

Academical Year (or academic year)
The year used by the University, running from 1 October to 30 September. The Academical Year is divided into three Terms and three vacations; it is never not the Academical Year.
  1. Being admitted to a degree. After admission (in this sense), most students leave the University.
  2. Being admitted to study at the University. Overseen by the Cambridge Admissions Office. After admission (in this sense), a student arrives at the University. Not to be confused with matriculation.
Anglia Ruskin University (ARU)
A University based in the East of England. It has several campuses across the region, but its original campus is on East Road in Cambridge. ARU evolved from the Cambridge School of Art, founded in 1858 and opened with an address by John Ruskin. Since then it has amalgamated with a number of other institutions, becoming first Anglia Polytechnic in 1991, then Anglia Polytechnic University (APU) in 1992, and finally Anglia Ruskin University in 2005. ARU's Cambridge campus includes the Mumford Theatre and the Ruskin Gallery. For more information, visit the ARU website.
Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic. May refer to the Department, the Tripos, or a student of the subject.
BA status
Awarded to graduate students within the University who do not hold a degree from the University of Cambridge.
Those with BA status have the same rights as BA holders with respect to University libraries and museums and the Botanic Garden. They wear the BA gown, but without strings and without a hood. See also Bachelor of Arts.
Bachelor of Arts (BA, Baccalaureus in Artibus)
The standard first degree awarded by the University. The BA by Honours is awarded to students who obtain honours in a qualifying Tripos examination and keep nine Terms. The Ordinary BA is awarded to students who achieve honours in some Tripos examinations and keep nine Terms, but do not qualify for the BA by Honours. BA degrees have no overall grade beyond the Honours/Ordinary division, and are not subject-specific. See also BA status, Tripos.
Bachelor of Divinity
See Higher Degree.
Bachelor of Medicine (MB, Baccalaureus in Medicina) and Bachelor of Surgery (BChir, Baccalaureus in Chirurgia)
The degrees awarded by the University for the completion of the clinical medicine course. The actual examinations are for the MB degree; candidates who pass the final MB examination are immediately admitted to the BChir degree by virtue of their result. This is so that successful candidates can practice medicine professionally after completing the course, without waiting to be admitted to the MB by a congregation in the usual way. If holders of the BChir have not been able to attend a congregation, they are automatically admitted to the MB once a year has passed. Note that unlike in countries which require an MD to practice medicine, both clinical qualifications at Cambridge are Bachelor's degrees: medical practitioners are addressed as doctor by tradition, as a courtesy. Higher degrees aside, the MB is the most-senior bachelor's degree, followed by the BChir. Not to be confused with Doctor of Medicine.
Bachelor of Music (MusB, Baccalaureus in Musica)
A degree integrating academic study of music with performance. The MusB has been suspended since 2011, having been largely been superseded by the music tripos and the MMus. The MusB is more senior than the BA, but less senior than the VetMB.
Bachelor of Surgery
See Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery.
Bachelor of Theology for Ministry (BTh, Baccalaureus in Theologia Pastorali)
A two-year vocational degree offered by the University as preparation for a career in Christian ministry. Students for the BTh are members of one of the Cambridge Theological Federation colleges. The BTh is the least senior of the degrees awarded by the University and the only currently-awarded degree less senior than the BA.
Bachelor of Veterinary Medicine (VetMB, Baccalaureus in Veterinaria Medicina)
The degree awarded by the University for the competition of the clinical stage of the veterinary medicine course. The VetMB is more senior than the MusB, but less senior than the LLB.
The area to the east of Queen's Road, comprising the grounds of several central Colleges situated on the river and a public footpath from which these grounds can be viewed.
See Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery.
See Higher Degree.
A member of a College's housekeeping team. The term "bedder" is derived from a time not so long ago when bedders would make students' beds (and report any beds which had not been slept in).
An award given to those who represent Cambridge in a varsity match against Oxford. Blues are awarded at the discretion of the men's and women's Blues Committees. A Full Blue is the most prestigious award, typically given to the participants in the varsity match in major sports. Half-Blues are typically given to varsity match participants in less prestigious sports, or sometimes to participants in second-team varsity matches. Quarter Blues do not exist, but are sometimes jokingly attributed to sports which do not qualify for a Half Blue. Blues are entitled to wear aesthetically horrific but socially impressive Cambridge blue blazers and assorted other Cambridge blue regalia. Slightly beneath a Blue are first- or second-team colours, awarded to those who participate in a varsity match but do not meet the requirements for a Blue. For more information, visit the Hawks' Club website. See also Cambridge blue.
A boater.
A type of rigid straw hat. Boaters have a flat top, a flat rim, and are decorated with a ribbon running around the crown, often in College colours. No one looks good in a boater. Not to be confused with boatie.
A rower. Not to be confused with boater.
A student party, organised by a JCR or MCR etc.
See Bachelor of Theology for Ministry.
A senior College officer. Bursars are typically concerned with finance, compliance, investments, and estate management. Most Colleges divide these responsibilities among a number of bursars with titles like "Senior Bursar", "Junior Bursar", "First Bursar", "Second Bursar", "Domestic Bursar", etc.
A College canteen.
See Gonville and Caius College.
Cambridge blue
A shade of green. See also Blue.
Cambridge University Students' Union (CUSU)
One of two central, intercollegiate students' unions at the University. CUSU represents undergraduate and graduate students.
See St Catharine's College.
Christ's College
The 11th "old" College of the University, located on St Andrew's Street. Christ's was originally established on land now occupied by King's chapel by William Bingham in 1487 as God's House; relocated in 1443 to make way for the foundation of King's College; formally founded in 1448 by Henry VI; and finally refounded in 1505 by the mother of Henry VIII, Lady Margaret Beaufort, under its current name. Christ's shares its arms and motto, those of Margaret Beaufort, with St John's. The College is home to the UK's oldest outdoor swimming pool. Abbreviation: CHR.
Churchill College
The sixth "new" College of the University, located on Storey's Way. Churchill was founded in 1958 as a national and Commonwealth memorial to Sir Winston Churchill. Churchill is focussed on the study of science and technology, with Winston Churchill wishing to create a British version of MIT. The College has a statutory obligation to admit approximately 70% of its students and fellows in the fields of science and technology. Churchill was the first formerly all-male College to decide to admit women. Abbreviation: CHU.
A nightclub in Cambridge located above the Lion Yard shopping arcade. Although the name of the club is actually Ballare, it was once called Cindies and the name has stuck among Cambridge students.
Clare College
The second "old" College of the University, located on Trinity Lane. Clare was founded in 1326 by the Chancellor of the University, Richard Badew, as University Hall; renamed Clare Hall in 1338 in honour of its new patron Elizabeth de Clare; and adopted its current name in 1856. Clare bridge is decorated with fourteen stone orbs, one of which is missing a wedge. Punting tour guides delight in making up stories to explain this: a common theme is a vengeful architect. Abbreviation: CL. Not to be confused with Clare Hall.
Clare Hall
The 10th "new" College of the University, located on Herschel Road. Clare Hall was established in 1966 by Clare College as an institute of advanced study, loosely modelled on the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton; it was recognised as a College independent of its parent institution by the University in 1984. Clare Hall is a graduate-only College, has no high table or SCR, and all College facilities are available to students and fellows. The College has the smallest student body of any College, and the largest fellow-to-student ratio. Abbreviation: CLH. Not to be confused with Clare College.
Coming up
Arriving at Cambridge.
Common room
A shared space for the use of all the residents of a hostel, but not one of the designated community spaces at a College for the use of the undergraduates, graduates or fellowship; and definitely not a students' union. Not to be confused with the Junior, Middle or Senior Combination Rooms.
Computer Science. May refer to the Tripos or to a student of the subject.
Corpus Christi College
The sixth "old" College of the University, located on Trumpington Street, formally called the College of Corpus Christi and of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Corpus was founded in 1352 by the Guilds of Corpus Christi and the Blessed Virgin Mary. The College is home to the Corpus Clock which, contrary to appearances, operates entirely by clockwork, without any computational assistance; the only electrical input is to wind the clockwork and power the LEDs. The beast on top of the clock is formally called the Chronophage, but known as Rosalind or Hopsy to her friends. Abbreviation: CC.
See Cambridge University Students' Union.
Darwin College
The eighth "new" College of the University, located on Silver Street. Darwin was established in 1964 by Gonville & Caius, St John's and Trinity Colleges as a response to the growing number of graduate students at the University; it received its charter and was formally recognised as a College by the University in 1976. The College is named for the Darwin family, and the oldest part of the College was a former home of Charles Darwin's son and grandson. Darwin was the first graduate-only College, and (along with Wolfson) claims to be the first College to admit men and women as students and fellows. Uniquely, the College grounds include two islands in the River Cam. Abbreviation: DAR.
See Higher Doctorate.
The lowest-level common academic division of the University. All departments are assigned to a school, and most are part of a faculty too. Some departments are informally subdivided further, and a few have formal sub-departments. See also faculty, school.
Doctor of Divinity
See Higher Doctorate.
Doctor of Law
See Higher Doctorate.
Doctor of Letters
See Higher Doctorate.
Doctor of Medical Science
See Higher Doctorate.
Doctor of Medicine (MD, Doctor in Medicina)
  1. A Higher Doctorate awarded by the University until March 2014, when it was renamed to Doctor of Medical Science. See also Higher Doctorate.
  2. A professional doctorate awarded by the University to practicing clinicians who undertake a course of scientific research. Not to be confused with Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery.
Doctor of Music
See Higher Doctorate.
Doctor of Science
See Higher Doctorate.
Downing College
The first "new" College of the University, located on Regent Street. Downing was founded in 1800 from the estate of the politician Sir George Downing, 3rd Baronet, who stipulated in his will that if his line should die out his fortune was to be used to found a College at Cambridge. Supposedly, Trinity pay Downing an annual stipend not to build the final southern range of their huge central court, so that Trinity can continue to claim to have the largest enclosed court at Cambridge. Abbreviation: DOW.
Easter Term
The third Term of the academic year (10 April—18 June, or 17 April—25 June in years in which Full Easter Term begins on 22 April or later). See also Full Term, Term.
Emmanuel College (or simply Emma)
The 15th "old" College of the University, located on St Andrew's Street. Emma was founded in 1584 by Elizabeth I's Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sir Walter Mildmay, upon the site of a fomer Dominican friory made available by the Dissolution of the Monasteries. The College was intended to educate protestant preachers, and its puritan tendencies resulted in one third of the first 100 university graduates in New England were alumni of Emmanuel. Harvard University was founded after the model of Emmanuel by an John Harvard, an alumnus of Emmanuel. Abbreviation: EM.
An entertainment, ie a social event.
The mid-level academic division of the University. Every faculty is assigned to a school, and most faculties are comprised of one or more departments. See also department, school.
A senior member of a College.
Fitzwilliam College
The fifth "new" College of the University, located on Storey's Way. Fitzwilliam was established as the Non-Collegiate Students Board, on Trumpington Street opposite the Fitzwilliam Museum, to oversee the education of undergraduates who were unable to afford membership of a College; the board's headquarters were renamed Fitzwilliam Hall by the University following a vote of the non-Collegiate students in 1887; the institution moved to its current site 1963; and it was reformed as a College under its current name in 1966. The College's mascot is a billygoat, and a huge effigy of this goat is displayed on the front of the College's boathouse. Abbreviation: F.
Formal hall (or formal)
A regular formal meal held by a College.
Full Term
The period within a Term during which undergraduate teaching takes place. Full Term always begins on a Tuesday, ends on a Friday, and comprises three-quarters of the whole Term (so 60 days in Michaelmas and Lent, 53 days in Easter). Full Terms are informally divided into 8 (7 for Easter) numbered weeks, during which most undergraduate lecture courses run, with Week 1 beginning on the first Thursday of Full Term. No, it doesn't make sense. See also Term.
Gardenia (or Gardis, Gardies)
A greek takeaway restaurant on Rose Crescent. Known for covering its walls with photos of their clientele in all their late-night splendour. Isaac Newton wrote often of his fondness for a Gardies Donner Yiros Kebab with half-and-half chips and salad. For more information, visit the Gardenia website.
God damn bloody Oxford. Chanted rhythmically to express support for Cambridge.
Girton College
The second "new" College of the University, located on Huntington Road in the village of Girton. Girton was esablished in 1869 by Emily Davies, Barbara Bodichon and Lady Stanley of Alderley as the College for Women at Benslow House in Hitchin, beween Cambridge and London; moved to Girton and took up its current name in 1873; received its charter in 1924; and was formally recognised as a College by the University in 1948. Girton claims the distinction of being the first residential college for women offering degree-level education in the UK. Not only is it the first Cambridge College to admit women, it became the first women's College to admit men in 1977. Abbreviation: G.
Gonville and Caius College
The fourth "old" College of the University, located on Trinity Street. Caius was founded in 1348 as Gonville Hall by Edmund Gonville, and adopted its current name following its re-foundation by John Caius in 1557. Caius' site contains the Gate of Humility (through which new students enter the College), the Gate of Virtue (through which current students pass regularly), and the Gate of Honour (through which graduands exit the College). Caius is pronounced "keys". Abbreviation: CAI.
Graduate Union (GU)
One of two central, intercollegiate students' unions at the University. Represents graduate, mature and fourth-year students.
Graduate (or grad)
Formally, a member of the University studying for a degree under the supervision of the Board of Graduate Studies. Informally, any graduate or postgraduate student.
Going down
  1. A sexual act.
  2. Leaving Cambridge.
See Graduate Union.
Head of House (or Master, Mistress, President, Principal, Provost, Warden)
The head of a College. Most often called the Master, but called the Mistress at Girton; the President at Clare Hall, Hughes Hall, Lucy Cavendish, Murray Edwards, Queens' and Wolfson; the Principal at Homerton and Newnham; the Provost at King's; and the Warden at Robinson.
Higher Degree
A degree that may be awarded to a member of the University not for completing a course of study of submitting a dissertation, but for submitting a portfolio of scholarship for consideration by a University committee. The Higher Degrees currently awarded by the University are, in order from most to least senior, the Higher Doctorates and the Bachelor of Divinity (BD, Baccalaureus in Sacra Theologia). Higher Degrees outrank all other degrees. See also Higher Doctorate.
Higher Doctorate
A Higher Degree that may be awarded to a member of the University following submission of a portfolio of very-high quality research. The Higher Doctorates currently awarded by the University are, in order from most to least senior: Doctor of Divinity (DD, Doctor in Sacra Theologia), Doctor of Law (LLD, Doctor in Jure), Doctor of Medical Science (MedScD, Doctor in Scientiis Medicines), Doctor of Science (ScD, Doctor in Scientiis) and Doctor of Letters (LittD, Doctor in Litteris), and Doctor of Music (MusD, Doctor in Musica). See also Higher Degree.
The period of leave from work that graduates and University employees are entitled to take. Not to be confused with Vacation.
Homerton College
The 15th and most-recently recognised "new" College of the University, located on Hills Road. Homerton began life in London as a gathering of Protestant dissenters, soon becoming Homerton Academy and focussing on the study of Education which gained its first premises in Hackney in 1768. In 1894 the Academy purchased land in Cambridge and relocated there, and in 1976 became an approved society of the University. In 2000 the Regent House approved a proposal to "converge" Homerton with the rest of the university, involving the transfer of most of the college's teaching and research activity to the new Faculty of Education and the diversification of the College into subjects other than Education. In 2008 Homerton's application for full college status was approved by the University Council and Homerton was granted its Royal Charter in March 2010. In 1881 former students of Homerton College who were members of Glyn Cricket Club formed a football section to help keep their players fit during the winter months, and the growth of this football section led to its development into Leyton Orient Football Club - a fact acknowledged by an annual match between the college's football team and that of the Leyton Orient Supporters Club. Abbreviation: HO.
Hughes Hall
The 14th "new" College of the University, located on Mortimer Road next to Fenner's cricket ground, Hughes Hall admits postgraduate and mature undergraduate students of all genders. Established in 1885 as the Cambridge Training College for Women, Hughes Hall became a recognised institution of the University in 1949 (following the recognition of full membership to the University for women in 1947) and became an approved foundation of the University in 1985 before receiving a Royal Charter marking its full college status in 2005. Following its admittance of male students in 1973, Hughes Hall became the first of Cambridge's all-female colleges to accept men.  Abbreviation: HH.
A term used to describe certain departments, and several institutions independent of the usual school-faculty-department hierarchy. An institute is usually more orientated towards research than education.
See Junior Combination Room.
Jesus College
The 10th "old" College of the University, located on Jesus Lane, formally called the College of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Saint John the Evangelist and the Glorious Virgin Saint Radegund. Jesus was established in 1496 by the Bishop of Ely, John Alcock, and is named for its chapel, which predates both the College and the University. Jesus is the only College whose scarf has a (slightly) different pattern on either side. Abbreviation: JE.
June Event
An event in May Week less formal than a May Ball.
Junior Combination Room (JCR)
  1. The room or suite of rooms in a College designated solely for the use of the undergraduate student community; the main undergraduate common room.
  2. A students' union representing undergraduate students at a College.
Junior Optime
See Wrangler.
King's College
The seventh "old" College of the University, located on King's Parade, formally called the King's College of Our Lady and Saint Nicholas. King's was founded in 1441 by Henry VI, who also established Eton College as a sister foundation.  King's is home to King's College chapel, from which the annual Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols is broadcast live to an audience of millions each Christmas Eve. King's takes precedence over all other Colleges at degree ceremonies, and presents its graduands first. Abbreviation: K.
Lent Term
The second Term of the academic year (5 January–25 March, or in a leap year 5 January—24 March). See also Full Term, Term.
A nightclub in Cambridge located underneath Waterstones. Although the name of the club is actually Kuda, it was once called Life and the name has stuck among Cambridge students.
See Higher Doctorate.
See Higher Doctorate.
Long Vacation (or Long Vac, Research Period)
The Vacation between Easter and Michaelmas Terms. See also Vacation.
Lucy Cavendish College
The 12th "new" College of the University, located on Lady Margaret Road. Lucy Cavendish was established in 1965 when the Society of Women Members of the Regent House who are not Fellows of Colleges successfully applied to be recognised by the University as the Lucy Cavendish Collegiate Society; it moved from its original premises on Silver Street to Northampton Street in 1966, and from there to its present site in 1970; adopted its present name in 1986; and was recognised by the University as a College in 1997. Lucy Cavendish is named after the eponymous women' education campaigner, who was the great-aunt of Margaret Masterman, one of the College's cofounders. Founded in response to the lack of fellowships on offer to women, today Lucy Cavendish is one of Cambridge's three women-only Colleges and the only one to solely admit graduate and mature undergraduate students. Abbreviation: LC.
See Head of House.
MA status
Awarded to graduate students within the University who do not hold a degree from the University of Cambridge and are 24 years old or older. Those with MA status have the same rights as MA holders with respect to University libraries (other than the University Library) and museums and the Botanic Garden, may certify their own residence for the purpose of keeping terms, and are not subject to the University regulations on cars, bicycles or boats. They wear the MA gown, but without strings and without a hood. See also Master of Arts.
Master of Arts (MA, Magister in Artibus)
A University degree which holders of the BA are entitled to by right without further study so long as six years have passed since the completion of their first Term of residence and two years have passed since they were admitted to their BA. Certain other University officials are also entitled to the MA degree. The practice of awarding the MA degree without further study originates from a period where undergraduate students came up to Cambridge at a much younger age. The BA degree was taken on completion of studies, but a licence to teach was not awarded until the student had attained an age the Church deemed appropriate for teaching. In this period "arts" (artes) referred to the topics covered in an undergraduate course and "bachelor" (baccalaureus) was simply the name of the first degree awarded in any subject. "Master" (magister), meaning teacher, was the name of the degree corresponding to a teaching licence. Hence, the Bachelor of Divinity degree at Cambridge outranks the PhD, being the first degree awarded in the higher faculty of Divinity. The MA degree is therefore actually the final award for the completion of the undergraduate course in arts, rather than a postgraduate degree. See also MA status.
Magdalene College
The 13th "old" College of the University, located on Magdalene Street, formally called the College of Saint Mary Magdalene. Magdalene was established for the benefit of Benedictine Monks in 1428 by the Abbot of Crowland Abbey, John Lytlington, as Monks' Hostel; renamed as Buckingham College between 1472 and 1483 following patronage by the Duke of Buckingham's family; and refounded in 1542 under its current name by Thomas Audley, after the estate of one of the College's parent abbeys was granted to him following the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Magdalene is infamous for being the last all-male College in the Universities of Oxford or Cambridge to admit women. Magdalene is pronounced "maudlin". Abbreviation: M.
A mathematician.
The formal process of registering as a member of the University. The process varies in formality between Colleges: at some, it is a minor administrative matter; at others, it involves ceremony, the wearing of gowns and a feast. Not to be confused with admission.
May Ball
A ball in May Week.
May Week
The period after Tripos exams have finished but before undergraduates leave for the Long Vac; dedicated to May Balls, garden parties, and general revelry. Neither in May nor a week – in June and lasting around 10 days.
See Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery.
See Middle Combination Room.
See Doctor of Medicine.
See Higher Doctorate.
Michaelmas Term
The first Term of the Academical Year (1 October—19 December). See also Full Term, Term.
Middle Combination Room (MCR)
  1. The room or suite of rooms in a College designated solely for the use of the graduate student community; the main undergraduate common room.
  2. A students' union representing graduate students at a College.
See Head of House.
Murray Edwards College
The seventh "new" College of the University, located on Huntington Road. Murray Edwards was established in 1954 as New Hall in temporary buildings on Silver Street, as the third women's College at Cambridge; relocated in 1965 following a gift from the Darwin family of their home, The Orchard; recognised by the University as a College in 1972; and refounded under its present name in 2008 in honour of the College's first President, Dame Rosemary Murray, and the Edwards family, who had endowed the College with the largest gift in its history. Murray Edwards only admits women as students, but has a mixed fellowship. The College is home to the largest collection of women's art in Europe, and the second-largest in the world. Abbreviation: MUR.
See Bachelor of Music.
See Higher Doctorate.
Natural Sciences. May refer to the Tripos or to a student of the subject.
New Hall
See Murray Edwards College.
Newnham College
The third "new" College of the University, located on Sidgwick Avenue. Newnham was established in 1871 by one of the organisers of the new Lecutres for Ladies programme, Henry Sidgwick, at the urging of Millicent Garrett Fawcett, as a house for five people on Regent Street at which the women attending the lectures could live; Newnham Hall on the College's current site wsa opened in 1875; and the College was recognised by the University under its current name in 1948. Because women were originally forbidden from the University's laboratories, the Newnham site contains its own private Collegiate laboratories (now used as a performance space). Abbreviaion: N.
Old Schools
  1. A University site located between King's, Clare, Trinity Hall, Caius, and the Senate House. The Old Schools house the University's main administrative offices.
  2. A metonym for the central University administration.
See Wrangler.
Orgasm Bridge
Garret Hostel Bridge. Carries Garret Hostel Lane over the River Cam from Trinity Lane to the Backs, passing by Trinity Hall library, and forms part of the main cycling route from town to the University Library and the West Cambridge site. So-named either because of the noise students make when ascending the steep bridge on their bike, or because of the sensation of relief on reaching the top.
See Tripos.
The oldest College of the University, located on Trumpington Street. Peterhouse was established in 1284 by the Bishop of Ely, Hugo de Balsham, and named after St Peter's Church which formerly occupied the College's site. Peterhouse is the only Cambridge College with a deer park; it does not have any deer. Abbreviation: PET.
Pembroke College
The third "old" College of the University, located on Trumpington Street, formally called the College or Hall of Valence Mary. Pembroke was founded in 1347 by the Countess of Pembroke and widow of Aymer de Valence, Marie de St Pol. Pembroke's original chapel was the first College chapel in Cambridge, and its current chapel is the first completed work of Sir Christopher Wren. Abbreviation: PEM.
See pigeon hole.
Pigeon hole (or pidge)
Compartment where incoming mail is left for collection. Colleges will usually allocate a pigeon hole to each student.
See porters' lodge.
A College employee who gives help and information to visitors and students alike. Very friendly and helpful even when you’ve locked yourself out of your room for the third time.
Porters' lodge (or plodge)
A building near the main entrance of a College housing the porters, usually also having a reception desk and pigeon holes.
Postgraduate (or postgrad)
Formally, a member of the University studying for a degree which is neither a first degree nor under the supervision of the Board of Graduate Studies. Informally, any graduate or postgraduate student.
A College official responsible for Matriculation and Admission. Formerly called the Father of the College, they give graduands away at gradaution by walking them down the aile of Senate House and presenting them to the Deputy Vice-Chancellor. To perform their duties at Admission, Praelectors must memorise a great deal of Latin. They are punished for mistakes during the ceremony (and for the mistakes of their graduands) by fines to be paid in bottles of Port to the Proctors.
See Head of House.
See Head of House.
See Head of House.
Punt diagram
A punt. Note that the till is at the stern (rear) of the boat.
A long, narrow, flat-bottomed boat used to navigate the River Cam. The verb "to punt" means to stand precariously on the back of a punt, and attempt to propel it forward by pushing the end of a long pole against the river bed.  The correct or "Cambridge" way to punt is standing on the short, flat deck of the punt (the till) found towards the stern. The incorrect or "Oxford" way to punt is to stand inside the sitting area at the opposite end to the till and propel the boat till-first. Do not punt the Oxford way, it is foolish.
Queens' College
The eighth "old" College of the University, located on Silver Street, formally called the Queen's College of St Margaret and St Bernard. Queens' was founded in 1448 by Margaret of Anjou, queen to Henry VI, and refounded in 1465 by Elizabeth Woodville, queen to Edward IV. While its formal name reflects is original foundation, its common name reflects its second foundation and the several other queens who have acted as its patron – hence the positions of the apostrophes. Queens' is home to the Mathematical Bridge, which connects the old and new halves of the College. Abbreviation: Q.
Research Period
See Long Vacation.
The official journal of the University. The Reporter is published online weekly in Full Term on Wednesdays, and contains notices of all official University business.
River Cam
The glorious river that runs through Cambridge. Some say that above Silver Street bridge it is more properly called the Granta. These people are to be avoided.
Robinson College
The 11th "new" College of the University and the most-recently established, located on Grange Road. Robinson was founded in 1977 following a gift from Sir David Robinson to the University as the first College to admit undergraduates and graduates of any gender. On establishment, Robinson College did not provide showers for its students because David Robinson insisted that the students ought to relax in the bath. Abbreviation: R.
  1. An old-fashioned term for a course of study.
  2. One of the six primary academic divisions in the University. The University's schools are Arts and Humanities, Biological Sciences, Clinical Medicine, Humanities and Social Sciences, Physical Sciences, and Technology. See also department, faculty.
See Higher Doctorate.
See Senior Combination Room.
Selwyn College
The fourth "new" College of the University, located on Grange Road. Selwyn was founded in 1882 as a memorial to George Augustus Selwyn, the first Bishop of New Zealand, and gained full College status in 1958. The College was founded with an explicitly Christian mission, and originally only admitted baptised Christians. Selwyn is the only Cambridge College with a Greek motto: "Ανδριζεσθε", meaning "Act like men". Despite this, Selwyn was the first Cambridge College to appoint a woman as Head Porter. Abbreviation: SE.
Senior Combination Room (SCR)
  1. A room or suite of rooms in a College designated solely for the use of the fellowship; the main common room for senior members.
  2. A metonym for the fellowship or governing body of a College.
Senior Optime
See Wrangler.
Senior Wrangler
See Wrangler.
College accomodation comprising more than one room.
Sidney Sussex College
The sixteenth and final "old" College of the University, located on Sidney Street, formally called the College of the Lady Frances Sidney Sussex. Sidney was founded in 1596 from the estate of the Countess of Sussex, Lady Frances Sidney. The skull of Oliver Cromwell, former student of the College, is buried in a secret location somewhere in the College grounds - like the recipe for Coca-Cola, only a limited number of people are permitted to know the secret. Abbreviation: SID.
St Catharine's College (or Catz)
The ninth "old" College of the University, located on Trumpington Street, formally called the College or Hall of Saint Catharine the Virgin. Catz was founded in 1473 by the Provost of King’s College, Robert Woodlark, and named after Saint Catherine of Alexandria. Woodlark was suspected of appropriating King's funds for his personal project, and in the 19th century the two Colleges came close to merging; as neighbours, Catz and King's share an accommodation block (but the internal doors linking the Colleges are locked). Abbreviation: CTH.
St Edmund's College (or Eddie's)
The 13th "new" College of the University, located on Mount Pleasant. St Edmund's was established in 1896 by Baron Anatole von Hügel – with the secret financial support of the Duke of Norfolk, Henry Fitzalan-Howard – as St Edmund's House, a residential community of Catholic students matriculated at variety of other Colleges, under the supervision of Father Edmond Nolan, a former Vice-President of St Edmund’s College (a Catholic boarding school in Ware, Hertfordshire); after many unsuccessful attempts, it was finally recognised as a College by the University in 1998. St Edmund's is the only College with a Catholic chapel, and several votes on granting it College status were defeated by protestant Cambridge MAs returning to the University specifically to vote against recognition of such an explicitly papist institution. Eddie's today admits only graduate and mature undergraduate students. Abbreviation: ED.
St John's College
The 12th "old" College of the University, located on St John's Street, formally called the College of Saint John the Evangelist. St John's was founded in 1511 from the estate of Henry VIII's late mother, Lady Margaret Beaufort, upon the site of the religious Hospital of St John after which the College takes its name. The executor of Beaufort's estate, and therefore the person practically responsible for the foundation of the College, was coincidentally another Saint John: John Fisher, chaplain to Beaufort, Chancellor of the University, Bishop of Rochester, and martyr of the English Reformation. St John's shares its arms and motto, those of Beaufort, with Christ's. Despite boasting the tallest chapel in the University, it is widely acknowledged that St John's is a less desirable place to study than the University of Oxford. Abbreviation: JN.
A small-group teaching session for undergraduates. Lead by an academic or a graduate student, and normally attended by one to three undergraduates. For undergraduates, this is perhaps the most important part of their course. For graduates, it is a great opportunity to develop teaching ability and earn money. This characteristic form of teaching provision is particular to the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge. At Oxford it is known as a "tutorial".
Three periods during the Academical Year defined by the University. Terms must be "kept" by full-time students to qualify for a degree. A Term is kept by spending a number of nights determined by the University resident in Cambridge during that Term. See also Full Term.
The Cambridge Student (TCS)
A student newspaper at Cambridge. TCS is primarily an online newspaper, but it publishes two paper editions each year. The paper is owned and published by CUSU, but is editorially independent.
See The Cambridge Student.
Tit Hall
See Trinity Hall.
Trinity College
The 14th "old" College of the University, located on Trinity Street, formally called the College of the Holy and Undivided Trinity (sometimes with "of King Henry the Eighth's Foundation" added to differentiate it from Trinity Hall). Trinity was founded in 1546 by Henry VIII through the merger of two existing Colleges, Michaelhouse (founded in 1324 by Hervey de Stanton) and King's Hall (established by Edward II in 1317 and founded by Edward III in 1337). Trinity is by far the wealthiest College at the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge; so much so that it could give everyone in the UK £5 and retain its status as wealthiest College. Abbreviation: T. Not to be confused with Trinity Hall.
Trinity Hall (or Tit Hall)
The fifth "old" College of the University, located on Trinity Lane, formally called the College or Hall of the Holy Trinity. Trinity Hall was established in 1350 by the Bishop of Norwich, William Bateman. It was probably founded to train replacements for the clergy and lawyers Bateman had lost to the Black Death. For most of its history, Trinity Hall only admitted students of canon or civil law, and the Regius Professorship of Civil Law was held by a Master of Fellow of Trinity Hall continually for over 200 years. Abbreviation: TH. Not to be confused with Trinity College.
Three-legged stool
A three-legged stool.
The examinations taken by undergraduates in pursuit of the BA degree and, by extension, the various undergraduate courses offered by the University. Almost all Triposes (the alternative plural form "Tripodes" is occasionally found) offered by the University are split into several more-or-less self-contained "Parts", each corresponding to one or two full Academical Years' worth of study, and there is therefore a large amount of flexibility to switch between subjects between years. Each Part is graded individually, and unlike at most Universities there is no overall grade. Most Triposes are divided into Parts corresponding to the standard undergraduate three years of study: either Parts I, IIA and IIB or Parts IA, IB and II. After keeping nine Terms, an undergraduate may proceed to the BA degree provided they have obtained honours in a qualifying Tripos examination. Some Triposes also have an optional Part III, which may be taken in the fourth year and leads to a masters' degree alongside the BA; the exception is the Engineering Triposes, in which students are expected to study for four years to receive a BA and MEng and which are therefore split into Parts IA, IB, IIA and IIB. The term "Tripos" is said to derive from the three-legged stool that either the candidate or the examiner sat on during medieval examinations, conducted via an oral debate. Stories differ on who exactly sat on the stool, but most agree on the existence of the stool. See also Bachelor of Arts.
The University Library.
The University Messenger Service.
Undergraduate (or undergrad)
A member of the University studying for a first degree, usually the BA via the Tripos.
The three periods in the Academical Year that are not in Term. Undergraduates normally leave Cambridge during the Vacations, but graduates are expected to work throughout the year. Not to be confused with holiday. See also Long VacationTerm.
  1. An old-fashioned, posh abbreviation for university.
  2. The University's oldest student newspaper.
Varsity match
A match between sports teams representing Cambridge and Oxford, usually contested annually.
See Bachelor of Veterinary Medicine.
A mathematician who has achieved the equivalent of first-class honours in Part II the Mathematics Tripos (sat in third year). For very important historical reasons that make perfect sense, Part II Mathematics is formally graded by classing successful students into Wranglers (equivalent to first-class honours), Senior Optimes Division 1 (upper second-class honours), Senior Optimes Division 2 (lower second-class honours), and Junior Optimes (third-class honours). The Senior Wrangler is the mathematician who placed first in their cohort, the Second Wrangler the mathematician who placed second, etc.
See Head of House.
Wolfson College
The ninth "new" College of the University, located on Barton Road. Wolfson was established in 1965 by the University to help meet the increasing demand for graduate education as University College; it was given its present name in 1973 in recognition of an endowment by the Wolfson Foundation; and received its charter in 1977. Wolfson has no high table or SCR, and all College facilities are available to all of its members. Wolfson admits graduate and mature undergraduate students, and (along with Darwin) claims to be the first College to admit men and women as students.  The floor of the College's main entrance hall is paved with granite taken from the old London Bridge; the rest of the bridge is in Arizona. Abbreviation: W.


  • Kitching, Ian. "A Glossary of Cambridge". Cambridge - Past, Present and Future. Last modified 5 April 1999, accessed 5 September 2016,
  • Long, David. "Chapter 12: Educating England". In Bizarre England: Discover the Country's Secrets and Surprises. London: Michael O'Mara Books, 2015. ISBN 978-1-78243-377-4.
  • Stubbings, Frank. Bedders, Bulldogs and Bedells: A Cambridge Glossary. Rev. enl. ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995. ISBN 0-521-47978-9.
  • Walker, Robin D H. "The Jargon". Queens' College, Cambridge. Last modified 2002, accessed September 2016,