Why choose St Catharine's?

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

Welcome! Most people who apply to study as an undergraduate at Cambridge apply to a particular college. Colleges are very important to our students - they are 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 be a friendly, supportive community which helps you make the most of all the University has to offer.

We are aware that the COVID-19 outbreak has disrupted most candidates' plans to apply to university in 2022 and beyond. In particular we realise that your school studies may have been partially interrupted. We are also concerned that the need to work from home, with access to a computer, internet, school resources, and a quiet working environment, will have widened the disparities in educational support available to our future applicants. Please be assured that we are aware of these problems, and we will carefully consider them if you decide to apply to St Catharine's in the future.

Many people worry about how to choose a Cambridge college - after all, you probably won't need to do this for most, if any of your university choices. However, we want you to see it as a positive opportunity to make a choice about your life at Cambridge. Most importantly, and as is explained later, you should bear in mind that college choice 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. And hopefully once you've read our webpages, you'll decide that Catz is the college for you!

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 (undergraduate 'supervisions'), mentoring students' in their learning (their Director of Studies does this), and providing excellent pastoral care for all students (their Tutor does this). Also, it is the colleges which are 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, libraries, computers, social spaces and for work, sport, music and socialising. For example, St Catharine's accommodation and facilities are among its great strengths, and are often praised by current students. We also believe strongly that extracurricular activities are a key part of making the most of life at Cambridge.

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 centre 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. We know that many students find the transition from school to university is quite a leap, and we are dedicated to helping you succeed. One result of our commitment to support and 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 varied 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 range of people is an important part of university life. The college has an excellent modern 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 zero, although you may decide you need a bicycle. The College is also very nice to look at - the compact main college site is dominated by 17th and 18th century buildings and gardens, combined with striking modern spaces created by more recent 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, and 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 required to seek privately rented 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 – 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, health or emotional problems. The college runs an active pastoral system to support students, including access to the College's own welfare team, and the University’s free student counselling service for any student who runs into difficulties. There are also many informal sources of support, such as friendly 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 the large number of university societies available to our students. The College and University also provide unparalleled careers support for students and alumni.

And some numbers...

Among St Catharine's new students starting their courses in autumn 2019, 73.1% of our UK students came to us from state schools (73.7% of our UK applicants for that year were from state schools).

Of applicants to St Catharine's in the late-2019 admissions round, 21.9% gained conditional or firm offers of a place at the University.

Next page: Life at St Catharine's