Cambridge Glossary

Everything you are about to read has been written by current and recently graduated students at the University of Cambridge, to give you honest information about what it’s like to be a student at Cambridge.

There’s a lot of terminology (/slang) used in Cambridge to describe aspects of university life. New students often take a little while to learn it, but before long using Cambridge slang becomes second nature! Here’s a list of the most commonly-used words to help you get your head around what we’re talking about:

Someone whose career is in academia, and researches and/or teaches at the university.

Cleaning staff who clean College rooms.

Themed disco in your College.

Bursaries, scholarships, grants: they're all free gifts of money. Cambridge has an extensive bursary system, which gives money based on your household income. Colleges and some departments may offer grants for things like travel, sport and music or to reward exceptional academic achievement.

College dining hall/canteen.

A College is a mini hall of residence. There are 31 Cambridge Colleges in total.

CompSci, NatSci, LandEc, Asnac, Mathmo
Nicknames for (in order) Computer Science students, Natural Sciences students, Land Economy students, Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic students, and Maths students.

Inter-collegiate sports knockout competitions.

Extenuating Circumstances form
The extenuating circumstances form allows students who have experienced substantial disruption to their education to provide greater context in their application. This additional information allows the University to assess candidates fairly and to make appropriate offers.

Director of Studies
A Director of Studies (DoS) is a tutor in your subject who monitors your progression, helps you with your academic choices and organises your small-group teaching, known as supervisions.

A department (or faculty) is the name for both the physical building and the collection of students, lecturers and staff that make up your subject.

A dissertation is essentially an extended essay. Undergraduate dissertations tend to be anywhere from 5,000 words to 15,000. In many subjects, a dissertation is optional and can be taken in the place of an exam.

An 'ent' is a Cambridge term for an organised social event in College – for example, a party or comedy night.

Formal Hall or ‘Formal’
A three-course waiter-served meal in the College hall. These are part of the more traditional side of Cambridge, but are rarely compulsory – they’re often booked onto for birthdays and special occasions.

Another name for a College kitchen.

Committee of students within a College. They represent their College’s students on College committees, and include roles that run welfare schemes, organise ‘ents’, and much more.

May Week
A week of parties to celebrate the end of exams. It’s actually in June…

Michaelmas term, Lent Term, Easter term
Names for (in order) the first, second, and third terms of each academic year.

A topic within your course. Papers are basically ‘modules’, but you might study a few side by side over a whole year. They’re historically called papers because they tend to lead up to an exam, in which you sit an exam paper.

Staff members - wardens of College. The ‘Porters’ Lodge’ (affectionately nicknamed ‘Plodge’) is generally located at the entrance of the College. Porters are friendly faces, and very much part of the College family!

A postgraduate (or graduate) student who has completed their first degree (their undergraduate), and is now studying for an advanced degree such as a ‘masters’ or ‘PhD’.

A supervision is a one-on-one or small group teaching method that allow you to focus on aspects of the course that you find particularly interesting or challenging. You'll often submit work beforehand and receive detailed feedback in the supervision.

Two societies or groups meet (‘swap’) for alcohol and/or food.

A name for the Cambridge degree. Degrees are usually split into Part I and Part II, with University exams at the end of each. Part I tends to be broad and general; Part II allows you to specialise.

A student studying for their first degree.