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Postgraduate Study


The University of Cambridge is one of the world's leading universities, providing a challenging, flexible and individual learning experience.

The University is globally respected for the quality of our teaching and research, and our graduates are highly sought after by employers. If you have the ability, the commitment and the motivation to study here, you can expect to gain a lot in return.

The University and Colleges

Cambridge is a ‘collegiate’ university, which means it’s made up of University faculties/departments in different academic subjects, and 31 Colleges. The University provides teaching and research supervision for postgraduate students, and the Colleges provide pastoral support within a stimulating academic community.

Faculties and departments

As a postgraduate student at Cambridge, you will belong to one of the University's faculties, departments or affiliated institutions. These provide all your teaching and supervisions, and facilities for research. They also organise regular seminars and workshops, often with eminent speakers.

The Colleges

As well as being a member of the University and an academic faculty/department, students also belong to a College community. Colleges offer a huge amount of individual pastoral and academic support for each student. In each College, there is a wide range of students from different disciplines, ages and backgrounds. 

Whilst each of the 31 Colleges has its own unique character, they have more similarities than differences. They each have their own libraries and computer suites as well as a wide range of sports and music facilities, such as playing fields, gyms, music practice rooms and performance venues.

All Colleges accept postgraduate students and most also take undergraduate students.

If you have been made a formal offer of admission by the University and are accepted onto a course, you will be accepted by a College. College membership is an essential part of registration as a postgraduate student, whether you are full or part-time. No matter which College you join, you will be welcomed into an inclusive, interdisciplinary, supportive, and social community.

We've included some advice on choosing a College and key facts and figures about each College in the Colleges section.

Institute of Continuing Education (ICE)

The Institute of Continuing Education (ICE) is part of the University of Cambridge and provides part-time and short courses for adults of any age.

ICE offers a constantly-evolving programme of over 250 courses covering a variety of academic disciplines and subjects areas. These cover a wide range of formats, including day schools, residential courses, online distance learning, part-time undergraduate and postgraduate qualifications and Masters of Studies.

ICE works closely with sector experts and practitioners to provide courses that support professional development, but many students also come here simply for the enjoyment of learning. Some students live locally, while others come from all over the world, and they range from recent graduates to people in retirement. All are encouraged to share their experiences and learn with, and from, each other. This variety has made ICE a true centre for ‘lifelong’ learning.

ICE was founded in 1873 and is based at Madingley Hall, a 16th-century, listed building on the edge of Cambridge, equipped with modern teaching and conference facilities, and a complete residential and catering service for our students.

More information and a full list of part-time Postgraduate Certificates and Diplomas can be found on the ICE website.

University Partner Institutions (UPIs)

In addition to the University’s faculties, departments and institutes there are a number of external Partner Institutions where postgraduate students registered at the University can undertake specialist research. 

These Partner Institutions are located in or close to Cambridge, allowing students to utilise central University and College facilities and support as well as those offered at the Partner Institution. Students based at a Partner Institution will be governed by the same University regulations as students based in a faculty or department and will have a University supervisor as well as an Institution supervisor. Students will be charged fees via their College as with students based in faculties and departments.

Applications to study at a Partner Institution are made using the online application system overseen by the Postgraduate Admissions Office. 

List of University Partner Institutes

Cambridge terminology

You might come across many new and unfamiliar words, terms and expressions when you are researching your postgraduate study options. Many universities mention things that are particular to their institution, and Cambridge is no exception. Listed below are some of the terms you might come across on our website or when speaking to current postgraduate students, with a quick guide to what they mean.

  • Backs – the area of the city around the river that runs along the "back" of a number of central Colleges.
  • Collegiate university – a university made up of faculties and departments in different academic subjects and Colleges.
  • Easter (summer) term – Each academic year consists of three eight-week terms (Michaelmas, Lent and Easter). Easter term runs from April to Mid-June.
  • Fellow – a senior member of a College, elected to a particular position of authority and responsibility in relation to the academic work and government of the College.
  • Formal (hall) - a College meal (normally three courses) with waiter service. Formal attire (and gown) is worn. The regularity and price varies by College.
  • Lent (spring) term – Each academic year consists of three eight-week terms (Michaelmas, Lent and Easter). Lent term runs from January to early March.
  • Matriculation – this is the formal admission of a student to the University.
  • Michaelmas (autumn) term – Each academic year consists of three eight-week terms (Michaelmas, Lent and Easter). Michaelmas term runs from October to early December.
  • MCR (Middle Combination Room) – the postgraduate community in your College. Usually there is a physical room in which postgraduate students can hang out, as well as an organisation that runs events and represents the interests of the postgraduate students.
  • Porters – every College has a team of Porters to maintain the safety and security of staff and students; they’ll often be your first point of contact for information or help around College.
  • Punt – a long, flat-bottomed boat that’s propelled by someone standing at the back and pushing a long pole into the river bed; punting along the Backs is a popular activity for students, locals and tourists alike.
  • Senior Tutor – the College officer with overall responsibility for academic, welfare and disciplinary matters.

If you come across anything else that isn’t clear or you simply want to find out more about being a student at Cambridge, contact the Postgraduate Admissions Office.

I chose to apply to study at Cambridge because of the curriculum of the Master Programme, the quality of the University and the scholarships available.

Emmanouela, MPhil in Development Studies