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Cambridge University Students' Union
Old Examination Hall
Free School Lane
Cambridge CB2 3RF
Even for the most happy-go-lucky student, there's. going to be a time when you need a bit of a pick-up. Life at Cambridge is relatively relaxed, but the work is hard and busy and things can easily get on top of you without you realising. Cambridge University is exceptionally good at taking care of us, and has the lowest drop-out rate in the UK.
One of the best things about the College system is that it's very difficult to feel isolated or not know where to turn. Though you still feel part of a big university, there are amazing support networks within your College. On an academic side, Cambridge students get a lot of contact time with tutors through the supervision system, so there is always someone on hand to help you if you get stuck and they'll stop you from falling behind. You also have a Director of Studies, a tutor in your College who monitors your progress and guides you through your course.
Though Directors of Studies are usually willing to talk about any problem you might have, there are non-academic support staff in College. You are allocated a personal tutor, who isn't related to your course, but who you can contact about anything. Many Colleges have their own nurse and nondenominational chaplains, who take an active interest in students' welfare, whether you are looking for help and advice or just a cup of tea and chocolate. The University also has a professional Counselling Service, which has regular hours and gives free and confidential support.
On top of this, there are student-run welfare networks. Within both CUSU (Cambridge University Students' Union) and the College Students' Union, there is a Welfare Officer, who organises events, occasionally puts sweets in your post box and is a constant port of call for any problems. You've also got your friends: one of the best things about University is that you live with so many people and make lots of really close friendships.
The way the system works in practice will vary depending on your College and (mostly) how you get on with your tutors. Everything is informal and, quite often, you'll find someone you feel comfortable talking to and go to them throughout your time here. This informality is the greatest plus and the weakness of the system: sometimes, it doesn't work so well and things can seem fragmented or disjointed. Whatever happens, though, there will always be people to point you in the right direction.
Ethnic Minority Students
Though Cambridge has a smaller percentage of people from ethnic minorities than the big cities like London and Manchester, it is on a par with other universities and still in the process of increasing as more people apply. The student body in Cambridge is fairly culturally diverse and very culturally aware, and you won't have any problems getting involved with whatever you want to. There is an active Black Students' Campaign and many cultural or faith-based organisations. Generally, university is a great opportunity to meet people you might otherwise not had you stayed at home, and your background and your ethnicity does not need to be an issue.
LGBT stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered. Cambridge University is a very LGBT friendly place. Whatever your sexuality and gender identity means to you, you'll find people who are supportive, understanding and accepting. There is a strong LGBT group, which puts on regular events, including the popular weekly club night, and provides a contact network. There is no pressure to come out at Cambridge, but it's easy to do so: there is no stigma or assumptions, and people recognize that sexuality and gender identity are only aspects of a person. Cambridge is renowned as one of the most progressive areas of the country, and this stretches beyond academia, so people's sexuality and gender identity never stand in the way of getting the most out of university.
Women in Cambridge
Women have studied in Cambridge for well over a century, and the male:female ratio is even. Gender isn't an issue that should, or does, impact upon your education or your university experience. Women are actively involved with every sport, society and niche of student life. CUSU has a really active Women's Campaign, which works with and campaigns throughout the University to provide for women's academic and social needs. There are three Colleges which only admit women students (Newnham, Murray Edwards and Lucy Cavendish), offering an all-female environment in which to live and study.
Students with Disabilities
It is estimated that there are a thousand students in Cambridge with a disability. This figure includes students with Specific Learning Difficulties (e.g. dyslexia, dyspraxia), mental health difficulties, unseen chronic health conditions and many other disabilities. Happily, there has been much progress over recent years to make the University more accessible. A lot of advice and support is now available for students as they anticipate their arrival and adjust to the new environment. The University is committed to making sure that everyone should be able to participate fully within the University environment. The Disability Resource Centre provides information, advice and support, and has a range of equipment on loan. The Students' Union also has a Students with Disabilities Officer and a full time Welfare Officer who are able to offer more informal, student orientated help.
If you are over 21 on the first day of your course, you will be a mature student. There's an increasing number of mature students across Cambridge. There are four Colleges who only admit mature and graduate students: Hughes Hall, St Edmund's, Wolfson and Lucy Cavendish (women only). Cambridge isn't just orientated towards young students, and you can take life here at whatever pace you like. There are comprehensive bursaries and accommodation for couples and families, though this is sometimes hard to find and varies in quality. The Cambridge system, with its personal contact and focus on you as an individual is perfect for students returning to education, allowing you to feel confident that you are re-honing your skills and knowledge correctly.
Cambridge endeavours to be accessible to everyone, and provisions are made for student parents. There are a range of child care facilities in the University and the city and a full time child care advisor, as well as a variety of government and University loans and bursaries for those needing help supporting children. Many Colleges have joint facilities, though these nurseries are usually heavily oversubscribed and provision isn't great, though this is something that the University is under pressure to reform. At some Colleges there is a strong network of student parents, with studentorganised social events happening around the year. The University website offers a much more detailed breakdown of support and services offered.