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The definitive guide to studying abroad in Cambridge

The definitive guide to studying abroad in Cambridge

'Tranquil' is probably the word that best sums up Cambridge. This leading university town, situated in the flat fenlands of East Anglia on the lovely River Cam, has stunning architecture and is surrounded by beautiful countryside. It's an altogether more relaxed place than its rival Oxford. But make sure you never mention the 'O' city here; it is always referred to – usually in hushed tones - as 'the other place'.

Cambridge's densely packed ancient colleges lead down to the river, their 'Backs' or gardens, beautifully tended and manicured. On a summer's day you almost expect to meet some of the University's famous ex-students - including former Malaysian leader Lee Kuan Yew and wartime code breaker Alan Turing – strolling around or punting on the Cam.

But Cambridge is not all about the past. Over the last few decades the city has built a reputation as a centre for high-technology industries, earning it the affectionate nickname of 'Silicon Fen' – a play on 'Silicon Valley' and the fens surrounding the city. Its strengths lie in sectors such as software and bioscience – and the city is now home to the 'Cambridge Biomedical Campus', one of the largest biomedical research clusters in the world.

This great academic diversity, the laid back vibe and proximity to London, which can be reached by train in less than an hour, guarantees that it is a very popular place to study abroad.

Some schools worth checking out

Trinity Great Court, Copyright CC User Ed Brambley on Flickr

Cambridge University is made up of 31 constituent Colleges housed in ancient buildings located in the city centre. The University is at the international forefront of excellence in teaching and research with performance league tables consistently placing it among the world's top-ranking institutions. Courses cover natural sciences, computer science, music, mathematics, education and human, social and political science. Teaching consists of lectures, supervisions and small group tutorials with a senior member of the university.

Anglia Ruskin University is based on a campus a 10 minute walk from the city centre, with another other campus is 64 kilometres away in Chelmsford in Essex. It started life, in the late C19th, as an art school becoming one of the United Kingdom's 'new' universities in 2005. It is particularly highly regarded in the field of science and technology but offers course across the arts, social sciences, medicine, the law and humanities too, with a focus on vocational courses like nursing and midwifery. 

THE places for student housing in Cambridge

Cambridge street, Copyright CC User Mario Sánchez Prada on Flickr

Students make up about a fifth of the population of Cambridge, so there are plenty of landlords catering to this market, although rents are amongst the highest in the United Kingdom.

One of the city's most prestigious districts is Newnham, which lies beyond 'The Backs' and Queens Road. Much of the housing here is college-owned by Cambridge University. To the south west of the city, the Mill Road area is very popular and has student friendly cafes and pubs. Arbury is an area of ex-local authority housing, which contains relatively low-cost apartments.

Both of the universities provide near or on-campus housing (in Colleges at Cambridge University) for between £100 and £140 per week depending on the facilities and catering on offer. Contact their respective accommodation offices for more details.

The best time to start looking for a place to live is from February onwards. To assist students seeking private accommodation Anglia Ruskin University maintains an online database of private accommodation called angliastudentpad.

There are a number of commercial agencies, including Cambridge Student Accommodation and CRM Student Accommodation who specialize in marketing properties aimed at the student market.

Or, you may decide to try to find accommodation by scouring private ads. The Cambridge Property News and the Gumtree websites are good resources for this. 

The cost of education in Cambridge

Kings Parade, Copyright CC User Kosala Bandara on Flickr

Annual tuition fees for International Students at Anglia Ruskin are about £9,000 a year for students from the European Union or from £10,300 per annum for those from elsewhere.

At Cambridge University fees start at £16,100 a year, although if you are a EU student and meet certain eligibility requirements the fees will be considerably less. You will, in addition need to pay College fees to cover the 'range of educational, domestic and pastoral services and support' provided by your College. These fees vary but are currently between £5,400 and £7,720 per year. See individual College websites for details and you should budget for increases in subsequent years.

There are useful 'cost of living' calculators on the university websites to help you assess what your annual expenses, in addition to tuition and college fees, may be.

Both universities have grants and bursaries on offer for International Students, so check the website of the one you are thinking of applying to.

You're here now, so what's next?

Trinity Meadow in Spring, Copyright CC User Danny. on Flickr

Both universities have International Student Support Teams that provide a dedicated advisory service for international students on non-academic and welfare matters such as immigration, employment, finance and other concerns.

The universities also have hundreds of clubs and societies. They are a great way to make friends and meet people. The Cambridge Footlights drama group, run by students, is a legendary organization that has launched the careers of many international stars including Emma Thompson and Hugh Laurie. The Student Room website is also a good way to seek out information and ask questions online.

Welcome International Students of Cambridge (WISC) is an informal, non-profit, goodwill-based organization registered with the British Council in Cambridge and aims to promote relationships and interaction between international students at Cambridge University and local families who regularly invite international students to spend the day with them, enjoy a meal and learn about each other's country.

The Students' Union, a nationwide organization representing students and lobbying for their interests, also has an International Students' Association subsection. It's free to join. 

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26 September 2023

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