Everything below was written by undergraduates at Queens’ College in 2013/14
Anglo-Saxon, Norse & Celtic (ASNAC)
Asian & Middle Eastern Studies
History of Art
Human, Social and Political Sciences (HSPS)
Modern & Medieval Languages (MML)
Natural Sciences (Biology, Chemistry, Physics & Others)
Psychological and Behavioural Sciences (PBS)
Theology & Religious Studies
What does it mean to be a member of a Cambridge college?
At Cambridge there are 29 undergraduate colleges. When you come to the University you will join a college, which you will live, eat and where much of your social life will be based. Unlike many other institutions, we do not live in ‘halls’ for first year, before moving out into a house. Instead, we live in college-provided accommodation for the duration of our degree.
At Queens’ we are lucky as we are guaranteed three years on the main college site, but at other colleges students sometimes spend one or two years living in college-managed houses away from the rest of the college. Living on-site for three years gives us a really great chance to get to know people at different stages in their degree, and who are studying different subjects from us. QBar (the college bar/cafe) is lively and very reasonably priced, and you can always find people you know in the canteen (the ‘Buttery’).
Some of your education will also take place in college. Supervisions are often with academic staff at your college. However, if there are no academics at your college with the necessary expertise in the area you have chosen to study, you will be matched with an academic at another college.
So what does the University do?
The University organises lectures and, if you are a scientist, medic or engineer, will arrange your practicals. These take place in the University subject Departments, dotted around the city. Queens’ is just a few minutes away from the bulk of these departments, most of which are located at or very near the Downing Site, New Museums Site, and Sidgwick Site.
The elements of your education organised by the University will take place with students studying your subject at all colleges, although you will often attend them with members of your own college.
What is a supervision?
Supervisions are one of the best things about the Cambridge teaching system. Every week or fortnight you will meet with an eminent academic and one or two other students doing the same module to go over material you have read and/or prepared in advance. This is a fantastic opportunity to ask any questions you have and to resolve any problems you had when studying the aspect of your subject under discussion. The academic, your ‘supervisor’, will be extremely knowledgeable on the material, and will often have written one of the books you are learning from. This sounds daunting, and can be nerve-racking at first, but it quickly becomes clear that your supervisor wants you to ask questions, and they never expect you to know as much as them!
What facilities do you have at Queens’?
Queens’ has a canteen (the ‘Buttery’) serving hot meals three times a day, with a good range of options – this week’s menu (term-time only) will give you an idea. You can also grab a salad, a jacket potato with a choice of various fillings, soup, or cold meats and cheese. There is always a vegetarian option. The Buttery has several ‘themed’ meals a term, for example an Arabic-themed dinner, a steak night, or a Halloween feast. Queens’ puts on formal dinner four nights a week, for which we spruce up a bit and wear our gowns. These are not compulsory, but at £8.90 for a three course served meal they offer a fun alternative to ‘normal’ Buttery for birthdays or other special occasions. The novelty of wearing your gown wears off, but the quality of the food remains high as ever!
During the day there is a cafe selling sandwiches and paninis, snacks, cakes and drinks, which you can enjoy with a newspaper (or a friend!) By night the cafe space opens as QBar, which offers a wide range of very reasonably-priced drinks, as well as burgers, kebabs, and other hot food, to be enjoyed with a game of pool, darts or pinball. You can also try your hand at the quiz machine, though we don’t believe anyone has ever won.
We also have vending machines which can be accessed 24 hours a day for snacks and drinks.
If self-catering is more your thing, every room has a nearby kitchen (‘gyp room’) with a hob, microwave, toaster, kettle, fridge, sink, and lockable cupboard storage.
There is a laundry room on site. One load of washing costs £1.40, and driers cost 20p for 6 minutes. Every room is cleaned by Housekeeping once a week, and gyp rooms are cleaned daily. Housekeeping provide futons for people who have guests coming to stay, and there are also guest rooms in college which can be booked out for a fee.
The college library provides a quiet place to work and a range of books to give you a solid grounding, though as you progress to more specialised areas in your degree you are likely to need to visit your faculty or the University Library. You’ll never be short of books here!
Queens’ has lots of function rooms for college members to book and use, ranging from small seminar rooms to grand function rooms like Old Hall, or versatile spaces like the Fitzpatrick Hall.
You can get in and out of college 24 hours a day.
Sports and societies
Queens’ has its own gym and squash courts on-site. The squash courts are free for college members to book and use, and membership to the gym is £25 for the year.
We also have the benefit of the Fitzpatrick Hall, which is used for a huge range of things, including basketball, netball, football and badminton. It is also often home to plays put on by the Queens’ dramatics society BATS, amongst other things.
For more details of Queens’ societies see here. There are also plenty of University-wide societies available to join, but as a large college there is plenty going on at Queens’, and societies are a great way to get to know the college and its students better.
Anglo-Saxon, Norse & Celtic
Faculty website: www.asnc.cam.ac.uk
Feel free to contact Suhaiymah, the current JCR Access Officer on email@example.com for further information about studying at Queens’.
Studying Architecture at Cambridge
Architecture consists of many parts with a full breakdown of the course is available at the department website: http://www.arct.cam.ac.uk/courses/architecturecourses/ba-tripos-arb-riba-pt1
However essentially the course is split into two parts:
- Studio = 60% of your overall mark, usually consists of 3-4 projects completed from October to May. 2 days a week you have group and individual meetings with studio tutors. You will submit a portfolio at the end of the year which will be marked.
- Lectures = 40% of your overall mark, broken down into 5 lecture courses covering History & Theory, Construction, Structures and Environment. You will have lectures for these 3 days a week and weekly supervisions for History & Theory where you will be set reading and sometimes essays. These are usually done in small groups of 2-5 students. As well as an exams at the end of the year there are small coursework projects for the technical subjects.
This might seem a bit overwhelming but trust me when I say how worthwhile it all is. To be simultaneously learning about the origins of civilisation, how to design an efficient truss, bizarrely making a brick and also be designing your own building is amazing. There is simply no other subject which enables you to study in so many different ways as Architecture and very few places which give you such a good grounding in all aspects of this varied subject.
Studying Architecture here is not all about the work and deadlines, but it would be wrong not to mention that you will often work more hours than most other courses due to the time consuming nature of studio work. However the other side of the course is the social aspect. Unlike most other courses where students hardly know who they share a lecture hall with unless they go to the same college, Architecture students spend a lot of time together in the department outside of lectures because of studio work. You all have your own desk in Studio and it’s impossible not to get to know everyone when there is only 40/45 of you. ArcSoc (the Architecture Society) puts on regular films and life drawing in the department. The biggest part of ArcSoc is the events we put on to raise money for the exhibition we create in London at the end of year.
All of this is topped off with a trip during the Easter Vacation which has typically gone to Rome and more recently Naples. This week is orientated around sketching and understanding the city but also is the setting for having a lot of fun. This is a fantastic opportunity organised by the department and emphasises the high quality of facilities we have at Cambridge. With your own space to work in the department, a well-stocked library in the faculty and lecturers who are all incredibly knowledgeable in their subjects you couldn’t ask for a better environment to study Architecture.
Architecture at Queens’
Like most other Cambridge colleges, Queens’ usually has 2-3 architects in each year. This gives you at least one other person to consult with if you have any queries particularly around supervisions which you are likely to have together. This is much better that at some colleges who only admit one student a year. Queens’ is a really beautiful college, particularly on the ‘dark side’ (the older side of the river) with the picturesque courts making it a great place to study and appreciate Architecture. Queens’ college is also great for getting to and from the department as it is one of the closest colleges – only taking 10 minutes to walk there. Yet Queens’ is still very close to the centre of Cambridge. The people at Queens’ are lovely. There is a very welcoming atmosphere as everyone is friendly from other students to the staff, including your Director of Studies who is extremely supportive, approachable and knowledgeable.
Faculty website: www.arct.cam.ac.uk
Feel free to contact Suhaiymah, the current JCR Access Officer on firstname.lastname@example.org for further information about studying at Queens’.
Asian & Middle Eastern Studies
Faculty website: www.ames.cam.ac.uk
Feel free to contact Suhaiymah, the current JCR Access Officer on email@example.com for further information about studying at Queens’.
Should I apply?
If you find the vibrant and varied world of ancient Greece and Rome fascinating, then Classics at Cambridge is definitely for you. The Cambridge Classical ‘Tripos’ (course) allows undergraduate students to branch out into the historical, philosophical, archaeological and linguistic aspects of Mediterranean antiquity, while simultaneously increasing their proficiency in the core elements, Classical languages (Latin and Ancient Greek) and literature.
You should certainly consider applying for the 3-year course if you have studied Latin and/or Ancient Greek up to A-level standard at school. However, if you have no previous experience of either language, don’t be discouraged! A separate 4-year Classics course exists, with an extra year to bring students up to A-level standard in Latin ab initio. Students who have previously studied Latin but not Ancient Greek will not be at any disadvantage during the 3-year course: regular classes of ‘Intensive Greek’ will guide your language learning and help you reach a proficient standard in Greek after the first year.
What’s the course like?
The first year introduces you to every element of the Cambridge Classics course. A selection of ‘target texts’ allows you to practise your Latin and Greek reading skills and provides a taster of the wide variety of Classical literature that will become accessible later on. This is complemented by regular language work in both Latin and Ancient Greek to increase your ability and confidence in reading ancient texts. You will also receive teaching in the other ‘options’ (history, philosophy, art & archaeology, philology & linguistics), and will begin to choose which options you wish to continue studying later on. The year ends with exams that test your progress in every area, but do not count towards your final degree.
In the second year, you can begin to choose from a wider variety of literary texts, as well as specialising more in your chosen options. Afterwards, the third year allows you to select from a very broad range of different papers – you can study a wide variety of different elements of Classics or specialise very closely in a single area. In the third year, you can even choose to write a dissertation instead of one of your papers, to reflect a particular enthusiasm for a specific topic within Classics.
How is teaching done?
Supervisions (usually 4 a week, 1 hour each) are compulsory small-group teaching sessions, usually with 3 or fewer students present. These are organised by Queens’ through your Director of Studies, and will usually be taught by Queens’ fellows in your subject. Normally, one of these will be an essay supervision; the others will be language translations or compositions. For any supervision, you will hand in your work early (usually by the evening of the day before). The supervision will then revolve around a stimulating discussion of your and the other students’ work – not just talking about your mistakes, but discussing the points you made in greater depth and exploring alternative perspectives on the subject.
Lectures (around 7 a week, just under 1 hour each) are organised for the whole Classics year group by the Faculty. These are optional, but I highly recommend that you go to all the relevant ones, as they provide a very useful introduction to the topics you will be studying, and many will be useful background for supervisions. Lectures are delivered by the internationally expert members of the Cambridge Classics Faculty, and are almost always fascinating!
Reading classes in the first year (numbers per week vary, just under 1 hour each): depending on your Latin and Greek language level, group classes will be organised for you by the Faculty. Intensive-language (i.e. ab initio – usually Greek) classes help to build up your knowledge of grammar, as well as providing support with reading target texts. For non-intensive students, classes are organised support reading of the target texts, with occasional revision of some more complex grammar.
Why choose Queens’ College?
For any subject, Queens’ would be an excellent choice of college – the atmosphere is really friendly. A prospective Classicist should definitely consider applying to Queens’: the Classics Faculty is only a 5-minute walk from the college site and the Queens’ Library has an excellent, well-stocked Classics section. Most importantly, the Classics supervisions for Queens’ students, whether taking place within Queens’ or organised by Queens’ with an external supervisor, are always excellent.
Faculty website: www.classics.cam.ac.uk
Computer Science at Cambridge
Computer science at Cambridge will give you a detailed look at many aspects of Computer Science. You will cover a wide range of topics looking at both software and hardware, as well as doing practical, knowledge and theory-based courses. In the first year you take four papers, and this typically consists of two computer science papers, and the other two are made up of either two papers from the maths Tripos if you are thinking about doing computer science with maths, or if you are applying for normal computer science you do the natural science maths paper and one other natural sciences paper. This could be things such as chemistry or physics, but you also have the option to do a psychology paper. In addition to the four papers you also have a number of practicals that build upon lecture material and allow you to practice coding in Java and ML, as well as getting some experience with hardware. In the second year things switch and you now do full computer science with all four papers being on a range of material such as security, graphics, complexity theory and you even cover some more unusual languages such as Prolog. Again you also have practicals in Java as well as hardware practicals in Verilog (there isn’t any need to know these languages before you arrive). In the Lent term you also take part in a group project which gives you an insight into the world of work; companies pitch ideas to the Computer Lab then over 8 weeks you go through the initial design face, client meetings, development and testing before presenting the finished projects to the rest of your year. This is a really good opportunity to experience coding and building in teams and allows you to work on some really cool projects. In the third year you have a bit more choice to pick the topics you want and also spend 25% of your year’s work on a personal dissertation.
Computer Science at Queens’
Teaching in computer science is a mix of lectures, supervisions and practicals. Practicals all happen at the Computer Lab as do all lectures in second and third year. In first year most of your lectures will be in central Cambridge so you want have the long walk, but some of you may need to suffer Saturday lectures, but you will get used to it! Practicals are assessed but not at a high level and they’re usually very relaxed – typically you just have to complete a guided exercise at the end of each session. Supervisions vary from college to college. At Queens’ you will have about three to four per week in small groups and these are a fantastic opportunity to really iron out any issues you are having with the course.
Queens’ also has a Computer Science blog where you can take a look at the different sorts of things that we do as a group within Queens’. These give you a great chance to mix with the other years and discover what other people are doing, both in Queens’ but also in industry. Check it out here: http://queenscompsci.wordpress.com/.
Computer science is a heavy workload but you’ll be studying a subject that has real relevance. You quickly get into a routine so you’ll find plenty of time to get involved with other aspects of college and uni life. Studying at Cambridge is a fast paced yet rewarding experience and will set you up really well for a career after you graduate. Enjoy!
Faculty website: www.cl.cam.ac.uk
Unofficial but very handy youtube channel of one of Queens’ very own Computer Scientists.
Economics at Cambridge
If you choose to read Economics at Cambridge, come prepared for a challenge – and ready to reap big rewards.
Of course, as with any course at Cambridge, you will be expected to put in a lot of hard work during the course of the three years. But fear not, it’s definitely worth it. You will find that reading Economics at Cambridge really stretches your mind, it teaches you things you never even considered about how the World works, and it provides a great deal of intellectual stimulation. If that weren’t enough, you will also have awesome job prospects at the end. Cambridge economists typically hold jobs in investment banks, asset management firms, government or professional services firms. If you know anything about these sectors, you will understand why so many students choose to read Economics at Cambridge.
To find out about the structure of the course, take a look at the Economics faculty website, and I particularly recommend you watch the Youtube video, which covers most of what Economics at Cambridge is all about, as well as showing you some snazzy footage of the outstanding Marshall Library, which provides every Economics student at this University with a wide range of books, covering just about everything you will need or want.
It is important to emphasise that unlike most Economics courses at other Universities, Cambridge manages to offer a course which is both broad, as well as deep. You will cover a wide range of subjects, form core Economic modules, to Politics, History, Maths, Development, and even Finance, if you so desire. There are optional papers in second and third years, which mean you can take the course in whichever direction suits you. If you’re not fond of Maths, you might find this course tricky. It’s a lot more Math-heavy than a similar course at most other institutions, so make sure you’re confident with numbers if you’re thinking of applying here.
Finally, from my personal experience of the tripos, it’s interesting, exciting, and if you enjoy a challenge, it’s also very good fun – if you like the sound of that, and want to find out more, make sure you come along to an open day.
Economics at Queens’
Queens’ is one of the biggest Economics colleges, taking an average of 10 students per year. This means you will have a large enough network of people in your subject area to consult whenever questions arise, but also you will form many great friendships in the progress. The Economics fellows at Queens’ are of excellent quality, and you will receive outstanding teaching. Your Director of Studies and your supervisors will all be highly supportive, and will have a genuine interest in your well-being, both academically and more generally.
Queens’ also boasts a lovely Economics society, run by its own students, which hosts talks, as well as very nice social events – sponsorship from big companies means you can get some really great nights, courtesy of the Economics society!
If you’re interested, check this out for more information.
Faculty website: www.econ.cam.ac.uk
Education at Cambridge
Education is unique amongst Cambridge courses, in that it is the only joint honours course offered by the University. It is studied alongside another subject from the following: Biological Sciences, Classics, English, English & Drama, Geography, History, Modern & Medieval Languages, Music, Physical Sciences or Religious Studies.
The Education side of the course explores the intellectual, social and psychological development of the child and young person from birth through to adulthood and the role of literacy, language and creativity in learning. It examines the historical contexts shaping educational ideas and movements and the underlying philosophical principles and political beliefs promoting notions of meritocracy, equality, social inclusion, poverty alleviation and human rights. At Cambridge, you will engage with these important contemporary themes and ongoing debates, developing and applying a form of critical literacy suited to addressing the varieties of evidence generated and used by educational researchers, policy-makers and professionals.
In your first and second years, you will take papers in all of the main disciplines of Education (History, Philosophy, Psychology and Sociology). Some students choose only to study these aspects of the Education course, making up the rest of their papers with choices from their chosen subject area. However, the Education faculty offers a broad range of further papers such as Education, Modernity and Globalisation; Children’s Literature; Education, Inclusion and Diversity; and Language, Literacy and Communication. In your final year you will complete a Research and Investigation project, culminating in a 12,000 word dissertation, and you will have the option of specialising in a particular discipline.
Your contact hours will vary depending on your paper choices, but you will have approximately 8 hours of contact time per week. This will comprise mainly of lectures and seminars, but you will also have an average of one supervision per week. This will be either alone or with 2 or 3 other students, and will provide you with the opportunity to discuss your ideas either prior to writing an essay, or after you have written it. The course requires a great deal of independent study, comprising mainly of reading and essay writing.
Education at Queens’
Queens’ accepts only 1 or 2 Education students per year, which means that there aren’t many of us in college. There are benefits to this however, as it enables you to make two good group of friends – those from your course, and those from Queens’. It also means that you will always have something to talk about; fellow Queens’ students are often curious about the Education course, as they rarely encounter other Education students.
The course provides a useful grounding for careers in teaching and education, but as the course is all academic and discipline based (there are no practical experience or placements in schools), it also provides the foundations for a broad range of different careers, and is respected across fields. Although many education students do indeed go into teaching, the course leads people down a range of alternative routes, such as policy-making, lecturing, curriculum development, educational research and educational psychology.
Faculty website: www.educ.cam.ac.uk
The structure of the course is very rigid for the first two years. Everybody studies the same four papers in the first year (Mechanics & Fluids, Structures & Materials, Electronics & Electrical and Maths & Computing). In the second year most of these topics have their own paper and an eighth paper has two electives. The third and fourth year allow specialisation into specific areas.
Students currently have three supervisions per fortnight and one whole group supervision every week. There are a number of labs throughout the year (that are all quite dull, but easy to pass.) Most days have lectures and labs from 9-12 leaving the afternoons and evenings free. The engineering department is a 5 minute walk away from Queens’!
Work takes the form of ‘Examples Papers’ which are questions on material taught in lectures. Each paper takes around 6-12 hours to complete and there are about 2-4 new papers each week. Working for around 2-4 hours per day is fairly standard with occasional bursts of extra work.
I chose Engineering because I enjoyed Maths and Physics at A-level and found big engineering projects very interesting. I chose this course specifically because I didn’t know which area I wanted to specialise in and it gave me a chance to try each area. I originally wanted to do mechanical but have since decided to do Manufacturing Engineering (a 3rd and 4th year only course).
Around half of the people that graduate become engineers, working in well paid and interesting jobs. Working for pretty much any engineering company in any discipline is possible with the degree. A quarter go on to work in the financial and consulting sectors and the remaining quarter do something entirely different or carry on and do research.
There is an engineering society in Queens’ (QED) and the university wide society (CUES). Both organise talks, seminars and annual dinners.
Faculty website: www.eng.cam.ac.uk
Reading English at Queens’ is both incredibly flexible and amazingly far-reaching. Like many humanity subjects, the course is Tripos, with exams at the end of second and third years. The English course has many aims, not least to foster a love of understanding and critical reading, but also to learn the ability to construct a thorough argument, develop sensitivity to language and understand the changing ways that writers throughout the history of English Literature have not only written, but thought. Reading English at Queens’ doesn’t simply make you someone who appreciates literature; it gives you knowledge that enriches your life forever. Skills and qualities are acquired that change your outlook on everyday life.
One of the unique things about the Queens’ and Cambridge experience as a whole is that the course combines both Lectures and Seminars in the English Faculty (less than five minutes away!) with Supervisions in college (this could be close teaching with just you and your supervisor, in pairs or threes, or larger groups – usually a mixture of these). This gives you the opportunity to air your views, probe where you want to know more, and debate the questions you are really interested in with not only your peers, but also top academics in a very personal and special environment. This kind of learning is invaluable.
The best thing about the course at Queens’ in my opinion is that not only are you taught by the best in their fields – it’s a unique feeling to get some secondary material out of the library with your Supervisor having written it! – but that so many aspects of literature are open to study. If your passion is Old English, naughty Rochester poems, Shakespeare comedy, The Bronte sisters, grammar, creative writing, existentialist texts, post-colonial writing in English, film, Kipling, or any aspect of literature you can think of, there is always something in each paper that you will be interested in.
I would urge anybody with a love of literature and a curious desire to learn to apply for English at Queens’. The third year Tragedy paper is unique to Cambridge and one of the best selling points for the course. See the English faculty website for more information, or e-mail the Access Officer to be put in contact with a current student. Applying to Cambridge can be daunting for any subject, English included, but it is definitely worth it.
Faculty website: www.english.cam.ac.uk
Studying geography at Cambridge can be a very diverse and provoking experience, and right from the first year you’ll get to delve into some of the most widespread and critical issues facing the modern world. The Geographical Tripos offers such a broad range of topics and academic fields of study that it caters to a huge variety of individual interests, though you’ll need to keep an open mind in the first year as you study both human and physical geography topics throughout the year. The 2nd year of the degree allows you to tailor the course more closely to your interests as you choose which optional modules to study. Finally in the 3rd year allows you to specialise further as you write a 10,000 word dissertation concerning a subject of your choice that you have researched, whilst studying a range of chosen modules.
Running alongside the modules of the Geographical Tripos are a variety of practical activities allowing you to learn research methods for both human and physical geography and travel opportunities including an overseas fieldtrip during second year and dissertation research abroad.
For more information on the Geographical Tripos at Cambridge, see the course guide below:
The Cambridge Geography Department and Teaching
Teaching at Cambridge is organised primarily around a series of lecture courses covering the key themes of each module/ topic, and a series of supervisions organised through the college where you and one or two other geography students from your college meet with an academic/ PhD student to discuss one of the course topics and go through any work in the form of essays or data response activities they may have set you. It’s common to find meeting with supervisors and receiving feedback directly in person a little daunting at first but just remember all the other first years will be in the same boat as you, and your supervisor or your director of studies (DOS) appointed by your college will be happy to help with any problems or questions you may have with the course.
A Typical week for a geography student at Cambridge
Your typical week as a Cambridge geography student would involve 1-2 lectures a day from Monday to Friday, starting from as early as 9am to as late as 1pm. The weekend is free for you to catch up on reading for essay questions and course subjects, and pursue whatever extra-curricular activities you like (there’s pretty much a society for everything!) Alongside lectures you will also be emailed a topic-specific task by your supervisor or DOS, (usually an essay question) for you to complete before your supervision about that topic in the following week. The supervision task will have an attached list of books, journal articles and academic resources for you to use to write and research the essay question, although individual reading and research is always encouraged. Supervisions for geography will usually take place at other colleges or at the Geography department, though both are easy to get to from Queens’ which is located close to the centre of Cambridge.
A key tip for when you are reading up for essay questions and supervision tasks would be to collaborate with the other geography students at Queens’ or indeed at other colleges. A lot can come out from sharing notes and resources and finished essays once they’ve been marked by your supervisor, since this can help you gain a fresh perspective on a topic. Also remember your director of studies and your supervisors will always be on hand to help with any course-related questions you may have.
Geography at Queens’
There are numerous advantages to studying geography at Queens’ Firstly the college is located only about a 10 minute walk from the Geography Department, so it’s easy to sleep in a bit and still make those occasional 9am starts! Also I have found Queens’ certainly lives up to its reputation as the “friendly” college and it’s very easy to settle into its open atmosphere and enjoy the college’s vibrant social side, with its college-wide parties themed parties known as “bops” and variety of student societies and sports teams. While geography is a relatively small subject at Queens’ with each year containing around 3 to 4 geography students, the student body as a whole has a real sense of community with the chance of meeting people with a huge variety of interests making it easy to make friends. Moreover the small number of geography students each year means it is generally quite easy to collaborate on topics and help each other out at the start of the course, and you can have a learning experience very much tailored to you rather than to a large group of students studying the same subject. Additionally the Queens’ college library is a great resource for all things geographical and also a good working environment.
In general, studying geography at Cambridge offers the opportunity to pursue a huge range of academic interests and to specialise as go through the three years of the Tripos. Additionally Queens’ offers the perfect place to enrich this experience with its incredibly open and friendly atmosphere and well-organised teaching and support networks that provide the ideal space from which you can start your time studying geography at Cambridge.
Faculty website: www.geog.cam.ac.uk
Cambridge is one of the most exciting places to study History, and both the work and the experience is challenging, stimulating and rewarding. The most important thing in any student is a love of and enthusiasm for history, which will set you apart at interview and allow you to excel during your time here. If you remember this, the interview is not as daunting as it might appear; you can get things wrong while still showing your interest.
The History Tripos
The history tripos is very flexible, allowing students to pursue their own interests rather than being bound within a rigid curriculum: there is only one compulsory paper in the whole three years.
Part I of the tripos encompasses your first and second years, where you study five papers, one per term, with the sixth examining all of that. This has the advantage of allowing you to mature into your style as a historian (as well as a more relaxed Easter term in first year), but it does mean you have a lot of revise the following year.
The range of papers is very broad: you could dip into the murky politics of medieval England and discover why Edward II was murdered, relive the Industrial Revolution, or examine the tensions of the Cold War – whatever takes your fancy. Over the 5 terms, you must take a British Political, a British social and economic, and a European paper, but the papers also allow you to branch out into ancient, American and world history too. In short, the scope is vast and the richness of knowledge gained immense and deeply satisfying.
There is also a coursework element to Part I; a source-based long essay on a historical theme – fortnightly classes in your first year help prepare you for this. This is a great opportunity to really delve in detail into your chosen subject, and the sources give fascinating insights into peoples’ lives. Some examples include Spanish conversion to Christianity in Latin America, 20th century American diplomacy, remaking the body in the early modern period etc.
For further information on papers, see the faculty website (link at the bottom of this entry).
Part II (third year) allows you to specialize within the papers, and also gives the option of a dissertation. One of the papers (Special Subject) is source-based with class discussions and presentations, and is assessed by a long essay and an exam. For more information, see the faculty website.
The Outstanding Teaching & Work
In Part I, there are lectures on topics within your papers (usually 5-10 hours per week), and some give overviews of the period, while others relate to a specific event/geographical period. Although not compulsory, they provide excellent overviews that are useful in providing either a background of knowledge or a starting point for an essay, and are highly recommended.
The main focus will be the weekly essay, submitted and followed by a supervision with an expert in the field (usually 1-1, sometimes 1-3). This sounds daunting, but they are lovely people who delight in chatting with you about something you both love, and you really learn a lot from them.
Work is done for the essays by reading throughout the week. Thus while a historian has a flexible timetable and can afford the odd lie-in, they also have to find the motivation to work with little structure in their academic lives.
Obviously the work itself is demanding, and it is tough – and there is no escaping the fact that much of your time will be spent in a library. However, it is certainly manageable, and with good time management, provides enough flexibility to enjoy many of the other fantastic opportunities Cambridge has to offer. Supervisors also are generally understanding if you have a bad week too.
There are several libraries available for your use too: the University Library, your faculty library and your college library – all of which will more than provide the books you need and are great working spaces.
Queens’ is a fabulous college – friendly and sociable, large, a great deal going on, with all the historical trappings you’d want of a Cambridge college. The intake of historians is fairly large, averaging 8 or 9 in a year, making it a great place to mix with other young people who are just as keen about history as you and would willingly chat about it. There is a definite non-judgemental and banterous atmosphere in Queens’ that is not found in every college too, which makes living in Queens’ not only easy, but fun too.
Queens’ has three history fellows, each experts in their own field (early modern British + European politics, early modern British social and economic history, and 18th century British + European politics) – all interesting characters willing to share anecdotes. More importantly, they are all excellent teachers, who are very supportive and happy to help about hinderances to your academic career, and will work to find solutions. If these don’t match your interests, supervisions are easily arranged at other nearby colleges; many students go outside.
Queens’ also has a brilliant (sometimes rather eccentric) student-run history society, the Erasmus society, which hosts social events, such as History drinks, teas, swaps (meals/parties with historians from other colleges) and the famous annual History Dinner, and 3-4 academic talks per term. Recent examples of speakers include Sir Keith Thomas, Lord Hennessy and a debate on the Reformation by Eamon Duffy, George Bernard and Alexandra Walsham. These are great opportunities to hear some of the country’s leading historians discuss their most recent work.
If that’s not enough to persuade you, Queens’ has a great location in that it’s only a 10 minute walk to Sainsbury’s and the centre of town, and a 5 minute walk to the faculty for lectures and libraries – bed to lectures can be done in 7 minutes!
Prospects after Cambridge with a History degree are good. Cambridge graduates are highly sought after, and history graduates go into a range of professions, including academia, law, teaching, banking, politics, journalism and NGO work to name a few. While an undergraduate, Cambridge provides unrivalled opportunities to explore your options. There is a great, dedicated and free Careers Service available to all students where there are plenty of leaflets, booklets and advisors on hand. The proximity that the collegiate system provides to hundreds of other students means that it’s easy to become involved in events run by lawyers, bankers, consultants, development workers etc, all of which allow you to ask questions and discover more. Queens’ also hosts some great Alumni evenings, where ex-students return to talk about their careers and the paths they took to get there.
To Sum Up?
Cambridge is one of the best places in the world to study history, with a 1-1 teaching system, a huge range of papers and experts on offer, and a lively historical social scene filled with talks and opportunities to chat, not to mention all the other amazing things on offer in Cambridge. Queens’ is one of the best places to study history for its rich historical tradition, its friendly and social atmosphere and its proximity to lectures. Studying any subject at Cambridge is hard work, which can be tough, but Queens’ has good support and welfare systems to help in times of difficulty, in the form of fellow students and staff. Above all, if you love history, then you’ll love history at Cambridge and Queens’ and we hope to see you soon!
Faculty website: www.hist.cam.ac.uk
History of Art
Cambridge is an excellent place to study the History of Art, not only because of the structure of the course but because of the amount of learning which is done in front of real objects. The vast amount of artifacts available in Cambridge in the Fitzwilliam Museum, College Collections and kettles Yard, mean that lectures are often held in front of actual paintings, sculptures, drawings etc, so you have the opportunity to interact with the object instead of looking at mere reproductions. The first year of the course is really broad with a focus on providing everyone with a detailed overview of the subject, and equipping them with the visual skills which are necessary for studying the History of Art. The second and third years are incredibly flexible, with students being able to pick from a large variety of subjects such as Romanesque, British Architecture in the Enlightenment, Surrealism, Modernism and Russian Painting, to mention but a few.
The department is incredibly small with around 24 students in each year. At Queens’ normally 1 or 2 students are admitted annually, but this is standard practice amongst other colleges because of the size of the department. The good thing about this is that you get to form really strong friendships with those studying your subject at other colleges, as well as having a large base of friends in college who study a variety of subjects. It also means that teaching is not as college based as other subjects, so factors such as which college has the best supervisor are not relevant, as all teaching staff are shared amongst all colleges so that you get a expert for each paper.
If you are thinking of applying to Cambridge to study the History of Art I would strongly encourage you to do so, and believe that Queens’s is one of the best colleges in which to study it. It is one of the closest colleges to the department, as it is less than 10 minutes away, and is in the centre of town so you are close to everything you could possibly need. It is a really old college dating back to 1448 so has plenty of traditions and lots of artifacts which are of great interest to Art historians. It is a really beautiful place to study with amazing architecture which spans both sides of the river, as well as being one of the friendliest colleges. The need to balance work with non academic interests is emphasized at Queens’ with the vast array of societies on offer, which encompass Music, Sports etc. Everyone is really friendly and it is not a daunting place at all to study. The annual Queens’ arts festival also gives Art Historians in college an opportunity to curate an exhibition, and organize supporting events over a weekend in Lent term.
Faculty website: www.hoart.cam.ac.uk
Human, Social and Political Sciences
HSPS (Human, Social, and Political Sciences) is a new course this year at Cambridge, which combines politics, sociology, archaeology and anthropology. This range is a big opportunity in first year, where paper options range from international relations, to egyptian language, to psychology. Depending on where your interests lie, second and third year allows you to specialise further, utilising the broad knowledge base you will have from first year.
The course is light on structured learning, as compared to a science or mathematics course for example. You will have fewer lectures than these courses, and your learning will be largely compensated by readings to expand upon what you learn in lectures. People who do well in HSPS put in the time to do the readings set, and do rely on individual learning – this is one subject where lectures are the base for your learning rather than the entirety, which doesn’t suit all learning types!
A typical week for an HSPS student would be 1-2 lectures, 4-5 days a week. You will have 3 supervisions in each of the 4 papers across the term, so on average, 1-2 one hour intensive learning sessions with a supervisor. Supervisions are typically external to Queens’, so you will be supervised with students from other colleges with fellows and occasionally PhD students.
HSPS in any college is a relatively small subject, but Queens’ has the good fortune of being tied with Clare College in learning support. This means that Queens’ holds mixers termly with Clare, so you’ll have a wider network of people studying HSPS than you would get at other colleges. Queens’ is also ideally located, being the closest college to Mill Lane where most first year lectures take place!
Faculty website: www.hsps.cam.ac.uk
Land Economy at Cambridge
Land Economy is a unique degree, exclusive to Cambridge in the UK at undergraduate level. The course itself is just 50 years old so being a young(ish) subject, the syllabus is continually being updated to keep it relevant to current issues. Long gone are the days when Land Economy students used to learn about restoring moldings on historic buildings!
The current course encompasses a broad range of topics from economics and law to maths and environmental sustainability, giving you a solid grounding in multiple disciplines – perfect for the indecisive individual. As a student this is fantastic because it’s far easier to stay engaged when your lectures and particularly your work is so varied – one minute you could be researching property rights in China and the next minute you’re assessing the pros and cons of referendums. Of course as you progress into your second and third years there is the opportunity for specialisation once you have decided where your interests lie. Depending upon the combination of papers that you choose, your studies may even give you some academic exemption from the requirements of the Law Society and the Bar Council in addition to the course accreditation by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).
Fortunately the multidisciplinary nature of the course is something which really appeals to employers giving graduates excellent job prospects (The statistics speak for themselves) in a whole host of different sectors including Finance, Property, Surveying and Town Planning. If you don’t want a degree that pigeon holes you into any particular career path, Land Economy is a good choice to keep your options and your interests open.
In terms of contact time, a first year student would typically have around 10 hours of lectures per week and a further 2 hours of intense supervisions with 2-3 other students. There are approximately 50 undergraduates admitted per year making the department and therefore the lecture sizes very small by comparison. This video produced by the university gives a concise overview of the course and is a good visual indication of what you could expect at a typical lecture.
Land Economy at Queens’
On average there are two students admitted per year for Land Economy at Queens’ and this is typical of most colleges. No college is better or worse for studying Land Economy (Or any other subject) as teaching is carried out at a university level rather than a college level, meaning that every student receives the same quality of education. Being a small department, this is particularly true for Land Economy as supervisions take place at the faculty where you are mixed with students from across the university, as opposed to the college based supervision system used for most other subjects.
Personally, I chose to study at Queens’ because it’s the closest to the Land Ec faculty, which means I can wake up at 8:50 and still make it to a 9am lecture…There are also additional benefits in being close to the specialist Mill Lane Library that houses all the books on the required reading list and more specific texts that you are unlikely to find in a college library.
Faculty website: www.landecon.cam.ac.uk
Law in Cambridge
Any subject you read in Cambridge will inevitably be challenging and intense, but this statement is never truer when applied to Lawyers. Law in Cambridge requires a lot of hard work and dedication (which can sometimes be quite harrowing!), but it is ultimately an extremely rewarding course that is intellectually satisfying and practically useful.
The Law course typically spans a period of 3 years, during which you will do a total of 14 subjects (4 in your first year and 5 each in your second and third years). Although 7 of them are compulsory subjects necessary for a qualifying law degree, you are given the opportunity in your second and third years to diversify and/or specialise into a broad range of fields. Subjects offered by the faculty include Intellectual Property, Criminal Procedure & Evidence, Legal History, and Commercial Law (full list). There isn’t any strict route that most students follow in terms of subjects – most choose subjects that are practically relevant to their desired career destination, but a lot of students also choose whichever subject sounds the most interesting to them. Whether you want to be an up-and-coming commercial lawyer, a crusader for criminal justice in the Crown Court, an aspiring academic in human rights or an activist in environmental law, there’s definitely something you will find in Cambridge!
Teaching mostly happens through lectures and supervisions, which are typically 10-12 hours a week and 2 hours a week respectively. Amidst all that contact time is a LOT of independent reading and research, with the occasional essay thrown in for good measure (expect around 2 per subject per term). There isn’t a strict quantity of hours that you absolutely must fulfil in order to ‘do the course right’, but be aware that the usual rules apply: you get out of the subject what you’re willing to put into it in the first place!
Law at Queens’
Choosing to do Law at Queens’ is a great idea for many reasons. Firstly, we are located really close to the faculty, which means that it is fully possible to wake up at 9.45 and make it in time for 10 o’clock lectures! Queens’ also takes in around 6-12 students a year, which is large enough to encourage a social atmosphere, but not so huge as to make you get lost in the crowd. There is also a particularly active society within the college, known as the Queens’ Bench Law Society, which organises loads of socials and career events just for Queens’ lawyers only. We get a lot of sponsorship from various corporate firms looking to recruit, which often results in very lavish events at very affordable prices (friends doing other subjects will never forget this and will be completely unsympathetic if you happen to have “too many free dinners to attend” on a particularly busy week).
Another thing I enjoy about Queens’ is the open, flexible and non-judgemental atmosphere that doesn’t seem to exist in other colleges. While some colleges may over-emphasise a particular type of post-Cambridge career (e.g. a solicitor-friendly or barrister-friendly ethos), Queens’ places no pressure on you to make a ‘right’ professional choice. Each individual is free to dabble in as many things as they feel comfortable, and while quite a number of us will eventually end up working as solicitors and barristers, a lot of Queens’ members do go on into a variety of other fields (even those outside the legal sector).
One of the biggest advantages of reading Law in Queens’ is the teaching, which is (in my opinion) top-notch. The law fellows are all exceptional in their field, and it is not uncommon for some of them to be the current leading experts in the area. This year, for example, I’ve been personally lectured and supervised by the same person who is currently writing the leading textbook in a particular area of law! The fellows are also very friendly, and will always be there to give you whatever support and help you might need.
Ultimately, Law is a subject that is inevitably stressful, and a supportive and conducing learning environment is sometimes necessary to make people realise how the overall experience can also be enjoyable and rewarding at the same time. Queens’ really does deliver on that!
Faculty website: www.law.cam.ac.uk
Cambridge is an exciting place to study linguistics – a lot of current research is taking place here, and Queens’ particularly is a great college for linguistics.
Linguistics at Cambridge
In the university overall, there are generally around 35 places for linguistics in each year spread across most of the colleges, and then in some of the first year papers you will be joined by some MML (Modern & Medieval Languages) students who are “borrowing” (taking a module from another degree programme) the paper into their degree. The fact that linguistics is quite a small degree in numbers means there is a really nice community within each year – with you getting to know everyone at least by name. Also, the small size means that linguistics lectures are slightly different to other subjects in that lecturers are able to answer and ask questions in a way that is not possible in a lecture theatre with the 400 people of other subjects. Another effect of the small numbers means that supervisions are all administered by the department, unlike the bigger Cambridge degrees where the Director of Studies in your college is generally responsible for some, if not all of the supervision teaching. This means that which college you apply for will not affect the quality of your supervisions, or who teaches you, and you will have supervisions with linguists from other colleges too. The groups in first year are normally of around 6, which decreases into smaller groups of around 2 in second year. The larger size in first year allows us to have quite a lot of supervisions per term – 6 per paper per term, and we take 4 papers, which words out at around 3 supervisions a week. On top of the supervisions there is one lecture per paper a week, giving 8 lectures each term for each module. The department may run an extra Q&A lecture at the end of each term, or similar, if there is demand. In first year all new material is taught in the first two terms, and so the timetable decreases massively in third term when exams are taken, with generally one supervision and one lecture per module being given, the focus being on revision.
In first year, the Cambridge course gives a really good broad base of most linguistic areas, meaning you get a good foundation to build on in second and third year and can get a sense of what areas interest you most. Second and third year give you the chance to go more into depth of these areas and some other new ones, and also borrow papers from other subjects, such as MML or Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic Studies. For an up to date list of modules available, have a look here. We’re lucky to have a massive flexibility in the range of papers you can take, with modules ranging from ‘Celtic Philology’ to ‘Computational Linguistics’. As an example of how you can tailor and specialise your degree here would be: for someone who wanted to focus on historical linguistics and German, they would take the ‘Historical Linguistics’ paper in second year and then the ‘Aspects of the History of the German Language’ and write a dissertation on the history of German in third year.
Linguistics at Queens’
Now for the totally biased personal view! Why Queens’ for linguistics? As mentioned, supervisions for linguistics are not generally taught by the Director of Studies at your college, so picking which college is not going to have as big an influence on your education as for other subjects. However, it is still a decision to think about and here are three points to consider.
1) Location – The majority of linguistics supervisions and lectures happen at the Sidgwick site. Queens’ is about a five minute walk from there – do not underestimate how much you will appreciate this. It’s great as you can lie in so much longer than the people at far away colleges or, you know, work for longer before trekking out and means it is really easy and quick to just pop to the faculty library if you realise you need a book. Time is quite precious in Cambridge and I have really appreciated being so close to the department.
2) Internal and external Directors of Studies – Some colleges have an external Director of Studies for linguistics, which means they are from another college. While this won’t have a big impact, I have been glad that our DoS is at Queens’ specifically. For one part, it gives a sense of a kind of community and belonging – for example, every year at Queens’ there is a dinner for MML and Linguistics students and the Directors of Studies. Having a DoS at Queens’, about a minute from your room, also means you can very easily meet to discuss any questions you might have. Another thing to consider perhaps is if you are particularly interested in any certain areas of research – for me, I really like some of the areas my DoS is an expert on which means you can easily enter discussion into ways you perhaps also can get involved in this area (Warning! Don’t ask about this in your interview. I mean once you came, and were thinking about summer holiday projects, for example).
3) Queens’ Director of Studies – Queens’ is very lucky to have a fantastic DoS for Linguistics – Dr Ioanna Sitaridou. (Here is a video about some of her recent research) Dr Sitaridou is extremely passionate about our learning and will always make time for you if you have any academic concerns and is particularly generous with her time in exam term, often giving revision sessions (linguists at some other colleges have expressed surprise that we get this…).
Faculty website: www.mml.cam.ac.uk/dtal/
Maths at Cambridge
The Cambridge Mathematical Tripos is one of the most fascinating, demanding and intellectually stimulating courses available at the university. From Isaac Newton to Stephen Hawking, generations of outstanding mathematicians have passed through its doors – you could be one of them.
The first year offers a broad and thorough foundation for all of maths, with eight courses that everyone takes. At the pure end of things you will study some of the fascinating properties of Numbers and Sets (did you know there are infinitely many infinities?), take a first dive into Probability along with your first course in Group Theory and Analysis – whatever those might be! Meanwhile at the applied end of things you will extend the calculus you learnt at A-level to some fascinating Differential Equations, try some 3D integration in the Vector Calculus course and have a first look at the theory of Relativity.
In the second and third years you are able to choose your specialism more with a wide range of courses available to suit everyone’s taste. You will also learn to program, with coursework projects that involve using computers to help solve certain problems.
Beyond Cambridge the prospects are very good for mathematicians. Should you wish to study further, your degree will open the door to a range of Masters and PhDs programs in Cambridge, the UK and worldwide. Those looking for jobs will have many opportunities in front of them, with numerate people some of the most sought-after graduates.
Watch this – featuring the Queens’ Director of Studies, Dr Julia Gog – for more information about the course in general. And if you haven’t heard of STEP yet – the admissions test – read up on this; practicing with past papers is the key to doing well.
Maths at Queens’
The first reason why you should come to Queens’ – it’s almost the closest college to lectures, just a 2 minute walk! It’s also a great college in terms of the non-academic stuff you can do – be it music, sport, going out or just hanging out by the pool table and quiz machine.
Academically, Queens’ also offers one of the best deals. For every course you will be supervised – a chance to ask a real expert in the field all the things you couldn’t quite get your head around first time. But Queens’ goes over and above this, offering ‘examples classes’; these are seminars for all students, where the tutor will go over the most common confusions, allowing you to use your valuable supervision time even more effectively.
Queens’ is one of the larger colleges for maths, with around 15 mathematicians in each year who you will quickly make close friends with. Unlike many other colleges, taking a gap year is absolutely fine.
Good luck to those applying!
Faculty website: www.maths.cam.ac.uk
Medicine at Cambridge
At Cambridge you learn Medicine from a much more scientific perspective at first; this lets you indulge the inner gremlin who secretly enjoyed Maths at A Level. The preclinical course lasts two years and in your third year there is a chance to branch off into a whole range of different subjects. You can stuck in to a research project, psychology, neuroscience, anthropology or pathology for example.
One of the best things about studying Medicine here is the opportunity to do a full dissection, instead of prosecution like most other universities. This gives you some experience if you were thinking of becoming a surgeon but also is really interesting, don’t worry about it being to gory to handle, everyone managed fine- even the guy with a phobia of blood… Small group supervisions are held in groups of three or four with some PHD students or more often, world leaders in their respective fields.
Medicine at Cambridge, like Medicine everywhere, is hard work, the nice thing about Cambridge is lots of other people are working hard too so you feel less ostracised for having 20+ contact hours a week. It also means that you end up with plenty of friends who are medics but also engineers or geography students for example.
Medicine at Queens’
We are very local to all the main sites, some people get away with rolling out of bed ten minutes before the lecture starts. There tends to be around 12 medics each year and 3 vets so there’s a lovely community feel and always someone to walk to lectures with. Amongst the three years of medics at queens’ there is also a very sociable vibe, with all the years joining in on Christmas pub crawls and bowling.
One of the best things I’ve noticed about Queens’ Medicine, compared to other colleges is not only how close the medics here are, but also how much more relaxed it is. Supervisors go out of their way to help you out and create an atmosphere that is calmer and less pressured than other colleges. This year, whilst some students were stressing out because their college was setting them six essays a week, we had a more healthy three essays every two weeks which means that you can enjoy the university experience whilst still working hard.
So if you’re looking for a college that maintains a good balance of sociable, friendly and hard work, Queens’ is brilliant.
Faculty website: www.medschl.cam.ac.uk
Modern & Medieval Languages
Modern and Medieval Languages (MML) is a fantastic subject to study at Cambridge, and Queens’ (in my opinion) is the ideal college to do it at. Here is a slightly, (well… very), idealized video about life as an MMLer at Cambridge.
MML is a diverse and exciting subject. Not only is there a huge range of languages to choose from, but also within those languages there is a huge amount of choice such as literature, linguistics, film, thought, history, translation etc. The course is flexible and in many cases different languages can be picked up as you go through. Furthermore, spending the 3rd year abroad is an exciting opportunity – a chance to become fluent in your language(s) and gain valuable experience. Please see the faculty website for detailed information.
An MMLer’s work does not become monotonous, as there is so much variety in a weekly timetable. A typical week for a first-year student doing 2 post A-level languages might involve: a translation class, 2 language classes, 2 oral classes, 2 literature supervisions, a grammar supervision and 4 lectures (along with the work that these classes and supervisions set). Queens’ students are very lucky as the college offers also a fortnightly critical theory session for MML students.
Queens’ is in the ideal location for MML as it is only a 5-minute walk from the Sidgwick Site where all the lectures and many of the classes take place and is the location of the MML library. Unlike many of the central colleges, Queens’ offers accommodation on-site for 3 years so you are always guaranteed to live near the lecture site. The Queens’ library is also well stocked with useful books for MMLers and has a great working environment.
Queens’ has a highly supportive atmosphere for MML students and is very lucky to have fantastic fellows in both languages and linguistics. However, not all the languages are covered by fellows in Queens’ and some students will inevitably have to go to other colleges for their supervisions in different languages. The number of places that Queens’ offers to MML students seems to vary significantly from year to year but is around 4-10.
The MML community in Queens’ is great and I would highly recommend applying here!
Faculty website: www.mml.cam.ac.uk
Feel free to contact Suhaiymah, the current JCR Access Officer on firstname.lastname@example.org for further information about studying at Queens’..
Cambridge is an incredibly special place to be a music student – a brand new course which covers almost everything, 1 or 2-to-1 supervisions, hundreds of fantastic musical opportunities and a unique community of like-minded musicians, opening the door to wherever you want to go after university.
And I can’t think of a college I’d rather be at. Queens’ has a buzzing music community of its own, made up of the six music students, chapel choir and members of its very own large and exciting music society, ‘MAGSOC’. Singing in the chapel choir brings the opportunity to sing in the beautiful chapel four times a week and attend twice-weekly formals for free. Being part of MAGSOC will bring countless instrumental, singing and conducting opportunities in ensembles and in solo recitals, and it is also very easy to start up something new. The college is friendly and lively and is a perfect place for both academic study and extra music.
There are also many practical benefits of being a music student, or ‘Muso’, at Queens’. Queens’ is in a fantastic location for both lectures and supervisions (it is possible to make it from bed to lectures in 7 minutes – trust me) and being one of just two music students in your year means plenty of attention and opportunities.
The only problem will be fitting everything in and there are plenty of people to help you manage your time – your second year subject contact, college parents, fellow Musos, DoS, Tutor and fellow Musos will all be willing to help.
Faculty website: www.mus.cam.ac.uk
Natural Sciences (Biology, Chemistry, Physics & Others)
Natural sciences in Cambridge
Natural sciences (aka ‘Natsci’) is a course that covers biology, chemistry and physics. It is a really flexible course where you can choose to keep a broad curriculum or specialise. In first year, your specialisation is restricted to either biological sciences or physical sciences. In first year you take 4 modules, one of which is a mathematical option that you choose based on your previous maths experience and other first year options. From second year, you can be much more specific and choose from wide range of subjects, from physics to pathology and geology to psychology. Depending on your choice of third year subject there is the option to stay on for a fourth year and gain a masters.
The teaching is a mixture of lectures, practicals and supervisions. Lectures take place in departments, usually in the morning, 6 days a week (including Saturdays! Grim, but you get used to it and at least it wakes you up!) Practicals are usually in the afternoon and are a great opportunity to meet people from other colleges. You also have one supervision a week for each of your modules which are arranged by the college.
Depending on your options there is also opportunity to go on field trips both in the UK and abroad. These are heavily subsided by the departments and there are also travel grants available from colleges. This again is a great way to get to know people from other colleges although they can often be blighted by torrential rain!
Although Natsci has some of the most contact hours of courses in Cambridge and one of the biggest workloads we all still find time to get fully involved college and uni life. Work hard, play hard!
Natural sciences at Queens’
Natsci has the biggest intake of undergrads each year in Queens’, with about 30 students per year across physical and biological sciences. As well as Queens’ being a social and friendly college, there is also a great community of scientists here, so there is always someone around to give advice for an essay! Queens is a 5 to 10 minute walk from most lectures and practicals. Physics labs are an exception however – they are a cycle out of town to west Cambridge.
We are split into two groups: physical sciences and biological sciences, which have separate directors of studies (DOSs) who are responsible for looking after you academically. There is flexibility to change between DOSs each year depending on the subjects you choose.
Supervisions are usually in groups of 2 or 3. Many of the supervisors are Queens’ fellows, and are occasionally PhD students (who may have studied the course themselves). Due to the broad nature of the course, there are not suitable supervisors for all modules within college, and your DOS may arrange for you to have supervisions outside of college. Supervision work and exams for biologists are largely essay based; although these are very different from arts essays, and most biologists come in with very little essay writing experience from A-levels! Physical science questions tend to be problem sheets and short answer questions.
First year biologists have study skills sessions a few times per term, where practical questions are discussed and there are workshops on essay writing and reading scientific papers. This is something that is not offered by most colleges and can be helpful for the transition from A-level to university work.
There is an active science society in Queens’ called the Milner Society, which holds formals and socials throughout the year. It also provides a great support network for students. Physics students in particular benefit from weekly study sessions organised by second years where they can work through problem sheets together.
If you’re someone who loves science, wants a flexible and stimulating degree and to be taught by, and learn with an interesting and friendly group of people then Natsci at Queens’ could be the course for you!
Philosophy at Cambridge
Philosophy at Cambridge is great! (No bias intended!) It’s taught as a broad subject with a focus on the analytic side of philosophy. You cover topics from formal logic, to ethics, to philosophy of mind, meaning there’s literally something for everyone. It’s also an exciting place to study philosophy, having educated the likes of Bertrand Russell and Wittgenstein, and it still attracts those at the forefront of philosophical enquiry. Even in my short time here, I’ve received lectures from Judith Jarvis Thomson, and had the opportunity to hear AC Grayling speak at the Union, while the faculty is full of people writing new and exciting material.
In the first year you cover a range of topics, taking everything from the beginning so there’s no need to have already studied philosophy. Because of this everyone studies the same topics in first year, and then in subsequent years there’s the opportunity to choose the modules that most interest you, including modules in ethics, metaphysics, political philosophy and even psychology among many more. Each week you have a one-on-one supervision, for which you write an essay on a particular topic; these are a great way to discuss ideas and topics in great depth and explore all the nuances of arguments and debates.
There are also fortnightly logic classes to help with the Formal Logic, and fortnightly discussion groups. The latter of these is a great chance to meet people from other colleges doing philosophy and have a good ol’ debate about something philosophical! Other than logic classes, discussion groups and supervisions, teaching happens through lectures, of which there are 4-8 hours a week. Because there are only about 40 people studying it in the year the lectures are quite ‘intimate’, which is great for philosophy because it means that sometimes we get a little bit of discussion going in lectures! All things considered it’s a great place to study philosophy, and there are so many opportunities to read around the course, go to extra talks and lectures, and just generally debate and discuss all sorts of interesting topics.
Philosophy at Queens’
*Warning: more bias imminent!* Queens’ College is probably the BEST place to study philosophy! Not only is the college itself super pretty and friendly, it’s perfectly situated only 5 minutes’ walk from lectures! Also, we get to have supervisions in other colleges, which is a great opportunity to get to know Cambridge a little better and be a bit nosey! In my year there are two of us doing philosophy, which I think is pretty standard for Queens’, and having a philosophy buddy is really useful, not only for debates but for helping each other with work.
All in all, I would really recommend both Cambridge and Queens’ for studying philosophy – there are so many opportunities, options and great people that you couldn’t really want anything else! 🙂
Faculty website: www.phil.cam.ac.uk
Psychological and Behavioural Sciences
PBS at Cambridge
The PBS course at Cambridge is like no other, in that in the first year it forces you to take papers from the huge spectrum of other academic fields that psychology is relevant for. In later years you can specialise in topics ranging from neuroscience to anthropology, or continue to take a mix. By the end of the degree you may effectively have done a joint degree with another social or natural science, or have a broad education in the liberal arts & sciences. The flexibility of the Tripos system for PBS is unique, and allows you to develop and explore your interests.
PBS is a pretty small subject with around only 80 people in the year, with most colleges only having handful psycos. The typical week, especially in the first year, is very similar to those in the HSPS Tripos. Normally you’ll have 8-10 hours of lectures a week, and supervisions once every two weeks for each paper. For those that do more natural science papers in the later years it becomes more labs based, with less time spent reading for essays.
PBS at Queens’
Queens’ is a great place to do psychology because you become really close with the other people in your subject in college. As well as having a great atmosphere, Queens’ is ideally located with most lectures taking place at Mill Lane, which is practically just across the road, and the department is only a couple minutes walk. In PBS your supervisors are key, and within college for some of the papers there are some serious names. Typically you’ll have a mix of supervisions with people in college and out of college, which is great as it allows you to make friends at the other colleges.
Faculty website: www.pbs.tripos.cam.ac.uk
Theology & Religious Studies
Theology and Religious Studies at Cambridge
Theology and Religious Studies at Cambridge offers the opportunity to engage creatively and critically with the big questions of meaning and value that the world religions have and continue to raise. A common misapprehension is that you are expected to be coming from a faith position – this is not the case at all. It is just the same as (and, as I will go on to show, probably better than) doing any other liberal arts degree. It allows you to take on a diverse range of disciplines including history, philosophy, psychology, literature, and sociology. Moreover it gives you the chance to get to grips with a scriptural language – ancient Greek, Hebrew, Sanskrit or Arabic. The result is that it is one of most exciting degrees you can do at Cambridge.
In your first year you choose five papers (modules) two of which have to be a scriptural language paper and either an Old or New Testament paper. For your second and third year you choose 4 papers and what you choose is entirely up to you. So you can end up with some quite distinctive combinations according to your specific interests. For instance, in my first year my papers were Old Testament, contemporary religion (sociology and anthropology), Christology, philosophy of religion and Qur’anic Arabic. I went on to do papers focusing on ethics, Christian theology and Islam and continued doing Arabic. The course effectively caters for those who want to pursue a specific interest in the theology, philosophy or history and other aspects of a particular religion, whilst at the same time pursuing a wider exploration of the world religions. In the process one develops a broad range of analytical and linguistic skills.
Theology and Religious Studies at Queens’
Queens’ is a great place (I would not hesitate to say one of the best) to do theology and religious studies. For starters it’s only a 5-10 minute walk from the divinity faculty at Sidgwick site where you have your lectures. There are normally about 2-3 theologians in a year, which is well above the average for most colleges. Consequently there is a thriving community of theologians at Queens’ who (in my experience) are very welcoming and more than happy to offer help and advice. We also have a theology society, named after Bernard de Clairvaux, which all the theologians are encouraged to be actively involved in. It invites prestigious speakers to come throughout the year to talk on and discuss with the audience topics relating to theology and religion, enabling Queens’ theologians to enrich their interests outside the course with a glass of wine or juice in hand. I have enjoyed some engaging and provoking discussions on a variety of subjects including euthanasia, religious pluralism, human rights and militant Islam. I feel the meetings are indicative of Queens’ distinctive and successful synthesis of social and academic life.
So I can wholeheartedly say that to opt to do theology and religious studies at Queens’ college would be a very wise decision indeed.
Faculty website: www.divinity.cam.ac.uk
Veterinary Medicine at Cambridge
The first three years of Veterinary Medicine are highly scientific at Cambridge, with two pre-clinical years studying various subjects such as physiology, pathology and anatomy. There is, however, still a bit of animal handling and loads of practicals, including dissections 2-3 times a week, along with histology and physiology practicals. In third year, students branch out into a range of subjects, typically joining the third year natural scientists in studying areas such as neurology, genetics or zoology; a BA is gained at the end of this year. Following the BA are 3 years of clinical study, where a lot more time is spent at the university’s veterinary school hospital rather than in lectures (6th year is completely lecture free!)
Veterinary Medicine at Queens’
It is very easy to study Veterinary Medicine and still be social in Cambridge, particularly at Queens’ which is extremely central. Unlike at the other veterinary schools in the UK, the vets here spend a large amount of time being taught with the medics, including lectures, practicals and supervisions. This means that you get to meet and work with a lot of people with similar interests, but who are not on exactly the same course. Typically Queens’ has around 12 medics and 3 vets, so there are plenty of people to walk to lectures with (which, for pre-clinical years, are generally only just around the corner). Vets are also part of the medical society of Queens’, which involves many great things to take part in such as the Annual Medical Society Dinner and pub crawls (in fancy dress of course).
Like at any university, Veterinary Medicine at Cambridge is a tough subject, with a lot of contact hours and, amongst other work, an average of 3 essays per fortnight at Queens’. This is made a bit more bearable though by the fact that most people here have to work long hours and so you don’t feel like you have to miss out too much on the socialising compared to anyone else! Queens’ is an extremely friendly college, where there is always something going on that you can get involved in; this, along with the large number of students at Queens’ and its central location, means that it’s easy to balance the course and social life, combining to make a fantastic uni experience.
Faculty website: www.applications.vet.cam.ac.uk