Questions about Cambridge

How does the work at Cambridge compare to other universities?

There are no two ways about it - the courses at Cambridge will challenge you and may be more time consuming than some universities.  Students we surveyed from a variety of subjects reported dedicating  between 30 and 60 hours per week on academic work, with an average of  45. However, students are passionate about their subject so enjoy the work whilst also finding time to relax and get involved with other aspects of uni life. 

Are societies free?

The vast majority of Selwyn societies are free, with rowing being  the main exception at £35 a term (to cover the coaching and equipment  costs). At the University Freshers’ Fair, societies will be very keen to  get you signed up to their mailing lists (for free), but the costs involved with each society will vary. Usually if there is a cost, you can pay to go along to a single event, or there may be annual or lifetime memberships available which mean that all of the society’s events are then free for you. There are also usually bursary schemes within a lot of societies if money is a barrier to getting involved! 

What is a Director of Studies?

Every student is appointed a Director of Studies (more commonly known as DoS). This is a subject expert and usually a College Fellow who is responsible for overseeing your academic progress. They are available to advise and assist you with course choices, supervision arrangements and any other academic issues you might come across. 

What facilities does the University have?

Cambridge has many facilities, including the Students’ Union (CUSU), the University Sport Centre, and the ADC (a student theatre). Further facilities are detailed on the Universities's Facitilies and Resources Page

How many contact hours will I have? How will they be distributed?

This is always specific to your course, so refer to the course websites for more details, but science students may have 16-24 hours contact hours a week, while arts and humanities students may have 6-16 hours (there is much more independent study). All students have a mixture of lectures and supervisions with one to three students, along with many also having classes of larger group sizes. In addition, some courses (in particular sciences) also have practical work to complete in labs.

What is a supervision? Who will my supervisor be?

Supervisions form a very important part of teaching at Cambridge and are a privilege you don’t get at many universities. They are small-group teaching sessions with a subject-specialist who may be anyone from a PhD student to a Professor. They may supervise you all year or change regularly, depending on the course. You will have several supervisors, and usually multiple supervisions per week. Usually, they last one hour and between one and three students will be supervised together. Supervisions come in different forms depending on the subject - you can find out more specific details on course websites. Whilst they may seem a nerve-wracking concept at first, they quickly become the best bit of the course for many students! 

What support is available for applicants with disabilities?

The best places to seek detailed advice on this are the Disability Resource Centre and the University Counselling Service

On  a college level, at Selwyn we have a Disabilities and Mental Health Officer on the JCR. This is a student who supports the interests and represents the views of both applicants and students in college who consider themselves as having any kind of disability. You can contact  them with questions at: The JCR and University also have funds to support disabled students. 

What is a Tutor?

Every student is assigned a Tutor who you’ll meet at least twice per term. This will be an academic at your college (usually unrelated to your subject), but will be there to assist you with any non-academic  support. For example, finances or health matters, that you need during your time at Cambridge, and they will be more than willing to guide you through any problems you might face.

What is the city of Cambridge like?

Cambridge is a historic city in which the University is a very prominent feature, so it has a large student base but also receives many tourist visitors - especially in the summer. The city centre is  relatively small compared to most major cities in the UK, and it is easy to walk pretty much anywhere in the city from Selwyn. The best way to get a feel for the city is to come and visit, or if you can’t then another way is to use Street View on Google Maps.