The University of Cambridge (informally Cambridge University, or simply Cambridge) is a public, research university located in Cambridge, United Kingdom. It is the second-oldest university in both England and the English-speaking world and the seventh-oldest globally. In post-nominals the university's name is abbreviated as Cantab, a shortened form of Cantabrigiensis (an adjective derived from Cantabrigia, the Latinised form of Cambridge).
Academically Cambridge ranks as one of the top universities in the world: it is ranked first in the world in the 2010 QS World University Rankings and fifth in the world (and first in Europe) in the 2010 Academic Ranking of World Universities. Cambridge regularly contends with Oxford for first place in UK league tables. Graduates of the University have won a total of 61 Nobel Prizes, the most of any university.
Cambridge is a member of the Coimbra Group, the G5, the International Alliance of Research Universities, the League of European Research Universities and the Russell Group of research-led British universities. It forms part of the 'Golden Triangle' of British universities.
Cambridge's colleges were originally an incidental feature of the system. No college is as old as the university itself. The colleges were endowed fellowships of scholars. There were also institutions without endowments, called hostels. The hostels were gradually absorbed by the colleges over the centuries, but they have left some indicators of their time, such as the name of Garret Hostel Lane.
Cambridge is a collegiate university, meaning that it is made up of self-governing and independent colleges, each with its own property and income. Most colleges bring together academics and students from a broad range of disciplines, and within each faculty, school or department within the university, academics from many different colleges will be found.
The faculties are responsible for ensuring that lectures are given, arranging seminars, performing research and determining the syllabi for teaching, overseen by the General Board. Together with the central administration headed by the Vice-Chancellor, they make up the entire Cambridge University. Facilities such as libraries are provided on all these levels: by the University (the Cambridge University Library), by the departments (departmental libraries such as the Squire Law Library), and by the individual colleges (all of which maintain a multi-discipline library, generally aimed mainly at their undergraduates).
The principal method of teaching at Cambridge colleges is the supervision. These are typically weekly hour-long sessions in which small groups of students – usually between one and three – meet with a member of the university's teaching staff or a doctoral student. Students are normally required to complete an essay or assignment in advance of the supervision, which they will discuss with the supervisor during the session, along with any concerns or difficulties they have had with the material presented in that week's lectures. Lectures at Cambridge are often described as being almost a mere 'bolt-on' to these supervisions. Typically, students receive between one and four supervisions per week. However the number of supervisions varies according to subject and college, and it can often be the case that a student may receive more supervisions in one college than a student reading the same subject in another college. This pedagogical system is often cited as being unique to Cambridge and Oxford (where "supervisions" are known as "tutorials")
The concept of grading students' work quantitatively was developed by a tutor named William Farish at the University of Cambridge in 1792. Schools, faculties and departments
In addition to the 31 colleges, the university is made up of over 150 departments, faculties, schools, syndicates and other institutions. Members of these are usually also members of one or more of the colleges and responsibility for running the entire academic programme of the university is divided amongst them.
A 'School' in the University of Cambridge is a broad administrative grouping of related faculties and other units. Each has an elected supervisory body – the 'Council' of the school – comprising representatives of the constituent bodies. There are six schools:
Arts and Humanities
Humanities and Social Sciences
Teaching and research in Cambridge is organized by faculties. The faculties have different organizational sub-structures which partly reflect their history and partly their operational needs, which may include a number of departments and other institutions. In addition, a small number of bodies entitled 'Syndicates' have responsibilities for teaching and research, e.g. Cambridge Assessment, the University Press, and the University Library.
The academic year is divided into three terms, determined by the Statutes of the University. Michaelmas Term lasts from October to December; Lent Term from January to March; and Easter Term from April to June.
Within these terms undergraduate teaching takes place within eight-week periods called Full Terms. These terms are shorter than those of many other British universities. Undergraduates are also expected to prepare heavily in the three holidays (known as the Christmas, Easter and Long Vacations).
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