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Why choose St Catharine's?

A quick explanation of the Cambridge college system, and six reasons to choose St Catharine's!

If you decide to apply to study as an undergraduate at Cambridge, you will probably apply to a particular college after all, it would be the place where you would live, eat, have small-group teaching sessions, and make many of your friends. At St Catharine's ('Catz') our aim is to help you make the most of all that the University can offer.

Many people worry about their choice of college, but it does not affect your chances of getting a place at Cambridge. However, different colleges have a different feel to them, so it's worth thinking about which one might suit you best and can support you in your academic work. Right in the centre of Cambridge, St Catharine's is known as an extremely supportive college, dedicated to helping its students do as well as they can academically - and enjoy themselves too.


The college system

The structure of the University of Cambridge can seem confusing at times, but one of its most important (and enjoyable) features is that it is collegiate – students spend much of their time living and working in one of thirty or so colleges.

For example, colleges are responsible for providing small-group teaching support (undergraduate 'supervisions'), supporting students' learning (via a Director of Studies) and providing excellent pastoral care for all students (through a Tutor). Colleges are also responsible for selecting applicants during the admissions process.

In addition, most undergraduate students live either in their college or in accommodation provided by the college elsewhere in Cambridge. Colleges also offer places to eat, sports facilities, libraries, computers and bars, among other things. St Catharine's accommodation and facilities are among its great strengths, and are often praised by current students.

Most important of all, most students find that their college provides the main focus of their social life while they are in Cambridge - and they usually form friendships which will last long after they graduate.

The other main institutions in Cambridge are the subject-specific departments or faculties. These are where undergraduates receive their large-group teaching in the form of lectures, practicals, seminars or language classes. St Catharine's location at the heart of the University means you are never far away from your subject department or faculty.


Six reasons to choose St Catharine's

Choosing a college can seem a confusing decision, but here are six reasons why St Catharine's is a great place to study.

1. Teaching and academic support in a wide array of subjects. St Catharine’s has put a great deal of effort into recruiting academic staff who are not only excellent teachers, but also approachable mentors. The transition from school to university can be quite a leap, and we are dedicated to helping you succeed. One result of our commitment to teaching is that Catz students usually perform well in university exams. 

At St Catharine's, we teach students in all subjects except Architecture, Education, Linguistics, and History of Art. We believe that this ‘multi-subject’ approach is one of the most important aspects of life at Cambridge, because it means that the College is a place to meet and interact with people with many different and diverse interests and talents.

2. A diverse, relaxed and welcoming community. Catz is known for being a very welcoming college, and it is easy to find your place here. Relations between staff and students are informal and we know that socialising with a wide variety of people is an important part of university life. The college has an excellent new bar, which doubles as a popular coffee shop during the day, and there are frequent social events during term time. St Catharine’s really is an enjoyable place to be. 

3. Great location and environment. We are fortunate to be located right in the historic centre of Cambridge within walking distance of most university faculties and departments (and shops, and social events...). Everything is nearby, so travel costs are often nil, although you may decide you need a bicycle. The College is also a very nice place to look at! The compact main college site is dominated by 17th and 18th century buildings and gardens, combined with striking modern spaces cerated by new building projects.

4. Good accommodation. Catz accommodation is of a very high standard. All first years and all third years are accommodated on the main site. Most importantly, all second years are accommodated together as a group in St Chad’s, an award-winning modern building situated in leafy gardens ten minutes’ walk away on Grange Road – they are not dispersed to smaller college houses, or privately owned accommodation. Where relevant, fourth years can also be housed in college accommodation (final year linguists 'count' as third years for accommodation purposes). Students pay rent only during term-time – usually thirty weeks each year - so accommodation costs are very competitive.

5. Reassuring pastoral support. Catz students often comment on how many people are available to help them if they have financial, medical or emotional problems. The college runs an active pastoral system to support students, including a free student counselling scheme for any student who runs into difficulties. There are also many informal sources of support, such as teaching staff, the Chaplain, our college nurse, other college staff, and of course other students, too. 

6. Excellent facilities. The college has two libraries, and has an active policy of purchasing books requested by students. All rooms have internet access points. There are many sports facilities, including a boathouse, a gym, squash and badminton courts, and a large sports ground a short cycle ride away, including an all-weather astroturf hockey pitch.. There are also many active college clubs and societies, in addition to all the university societies available to our students. The College and University also provide excellent careers support for students and alumni.

And some numbers...

Among St Catharine's new students starting their courses in autumn 2018, 77.3% of our UK students came to us from state schools (76.6% of our UK applicants for that year were from state schools).

Of applicants to St Catharine's in the late-2017 admissions round, 23.9% gained conditional or firm offers of a place at the University.

The male:female ratio of our new students starting their courses in autumn 2018 was 68:67.


If after reading this website you still have questions about applying to St Catharine's for an undergraduate degree, please email us at