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The University of Cambridge is rich in history - its famous Colleges and University buildings attract visitors from all over the world. But the University's museums and collections also hold many treasures which give an exciting insight into some of the scholarly activities, both past and present, of the University's academics and students.

The University of Cambridge is one of the world's oldest universities and leading academic centres, and a self-governed community of scholars. Its reputation for outstanding academic achievement is known world-wide and reflects the intellectual achievement of its students, as well as the world-class original research carried out by the staff of the University and the Colleges.

Many of the University's customs and unusual terminology can be traced to roots in the early years of the University's long history, and this booklet looks to the past to find the origins of much that is distinctive in the University of today.

How the University and Colleges work

With more than 18,000 students from all walks of life and all corners of the world, nearly 9,000 staff, 31 Colleges and 150 Departments, Faculties, Schools and other institutions, no two days are ever the same at the University of Cambridge.

At the heart of this confederation of Departments, Schools, Faculties and Colleges is a central administration team. It is small because the Colleges are self-governing and teaching staff carry out much of the daily administration at Cambridge.


The University is a confederation of Schools, Faculties, Departments and Colleges. The Colleges are governed by their own statutes and regulations, but are integral to the make-up of the University of Cambridge.


Students live, eat and socialise in one of the University’s 31 autonomous Colleges. Undergraduates receive College supervisions – small group teaching sessions – regarded as one of the best teaching models in the world.

Each College has its own internal procedures. They select their own students, subject to University regulations, and most admit both undergraduate and postgraduate students. College representatives sit on the University Council and Finance Committee.


There are six Schools, which each form an administrative grouping of Faculties and other institutions. They are: Arts and Humanities, Biological Sciences, Clinical Medicine, Humanities and Social Sciences, Physical Sciences, and Technology.

There is a Council of each School – including representatives of its Faculties and Departments. The Schools are represented on the General Board.

Faculties and Departments

University Faculties organise teaching and research into individual subjects or groups of subjects. Their work is normally organised into sub-divisions called Departments.

Centres of studies are controlled by committees of management, bringing together representatives from several disciplines.


The University is governed through central bodies, principally the Regent House, the Council and the General Board of the Faculties. These bodies include representatives from across the University.

The Regent House

The Regent House is the governing body and principal electoral constituency of the University. It has more than 3,800 members, including University Officers, and Heads and Fellows of Colleges. It makes and amends the regulations that govern the University.

The Senate

The Senate was the governing body of the University until 1926. It consists of all holders of the Cambridge MA or other higher degree and all current members of the Regent House. The Senate now elects the Chancellor and the High Steward, the high officers of the University.

The Council

The Council is the principal executive and policy-making body of the University, reporting to the Regent House. It has overall responsibility for administration, defining the University’s mission, planning its work and managing its resources. It also deals with relations between the University and the Colleges. The Council includes 16 elected academic members, four external members and three student members. The Vice-Chancellor is chair of the Council.

The Council has many standing committees including the Finance Committee and the Planning and Resources Committee.

The General Board of the Faculties

The principal duty of the General Board is to advise the University on educational policy and to control resources. It is responsible for maintaining a high standard of teaching and research.

The Board of Scrutiny

The governance of the University is overseen by the Board of Scrutiny; a watch-dog which includes Proctors, Pro-Proctors and eight elected members of the Regent House.

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The Old Schools, Trinity Ln
United Kingdom (GB/UK)

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