Though the primary strength of Cambridge University lies in science, it is famous for its social sciences and arts courses as well.

The Cambridge University, known for its excellence, started functioning eight centuries ago, in 1209.

Bertrand Russell, J. J. Thomson, Ernest Rutherford, Niels Bohr, S. Chandrasekhar, Amartya Sen, Philip Noel-Baker, and Venkatraman Ramakrishnan are among the 85 Nobel laureates from Cambridge.

Though the primary strength of Cambridge lies in science, it is famous for its arts and social sciences courses as well. There is a variety of subjects from archaeology, anthropology, and architecture to natural sciences and veterinary medicine. There are more than 17,000 students at the university, including nearly 3,000 international students from a wide range of countries.

A ‘college' in Cambridge is where you live when studying at the university. You will do a lot of socialising too. The college community includes undergraduates, research students, and teachers. Colleges are also responsible for admitting students to Cambridge.

The colleges guarantee you college-owned accommodation for three years, and often for the fourth-year also. Food is provided in the colleges. There are directors of studies to offer you academic guidance. A tutor helps you in other matters.

Studies at Cambridge enable you to learn under international experts in your subject. The bursary schemes give fine financial support to the needy.

Admission process

The first step for you is to identify a programme/ course to suit your aptitude and interest. You can go to the list of courses by navigating through the website www.cam.ac.uk. In the ‘Study Opportunities-Undergraduate' segment, if you click on any of your chosen subjects you will find the details including the subject areas covered and the prospects after graduation. You can get the full details pertaining to the various graduate and research programmes through appropriate navigation on the web site.

You can also gather information on fees, other expenses, and scholarships for the different categories of students, if you go to the link ‘funding'.

A typical case is the Manmohan Singh Undergraduate Scholarships for applicants from India. Next, you have to check and confirm the eligibility conditions. These are course-specific, and can be read under the link ‘entrance requirements'. There is a complementary decision you have to make—choosing a college. You may choose a college, or file an 'open' application and accept the allocation made by a computer. In either case, your UCAS application will be sent to a college, and that college will assess it. UCAS (Universities and Colleges Admissions Service) is the organisation responsible for managing applications to higher education courses in the U.K. It processes applications for full-time undergraduate courses and helps students find the right course. There are online tools on the site www.ucas.ac.uk. More than half a million people use its services every year for making informed choices about higher education. You will have to submit your UCAS online application by 15 October for admission in the next calendar year. Also, you will have to complete a Cambridge Overseas Application Form (COAF), which can be downloaded from the site.

Your UCAS application should be sent to UCAS and your COAF should be sent to the admission office of your chosen college, or in the case of an open application, to: Cambridge Admissions Office (CAO), Fitzwilliam House, 32 Trumpington Street, Cambridge, CB2 1QY.

If you want to be interviewed in India, you should file the application before 20 September. There are additional application forms for applicants for the Cambridge Graduate Course in medicine. These can also be downloaded.

Since you can apply directly only to one college, you should choose it carefully. You may read through the individual college profiles, keeping in mind the courses administered, entrance requirements, admission tests, your age and gender.

Four colleges admit only students above 21 years. Three colleges admit only women. If you are not concerned about getting selected in a particular college, it is easy to make an open application. Open applications are allocated to one of the colleges. An open application increases your chance of getting an offer.

Contact address for clarification on UCAS applications: UCAS, Rosehill, New Barn Lane, Cheltenham, GL52 3LZ; Ph: 01242 222444; e-mail: enquiries@ucas.ac.uk; www.ucas.ac.uk. Shortly after you submit your UCAS application, you will be asked to furnish additional information through the online Supplementary Application Questionnaire (SAQ). The SAQ has the following eight elements: photograph, application type, personal details, course details, education qualifications, additional information and submit. You may be asked to take the Thinking Skills Assessment (TSA) or a short subject-based test when you go for the interview, which forms an important part of our selection process.

Cambridge clarifies that there are no ‘tricks' at the interview. As part of the preparation, you may read ‘around the subject' you have applied for. You should know about major developments in the subject, and be able to explain why you want to study it and why you want to study it at Cambridge. If you have already gained the qualifications required for entry, you may be made an unconditional offer, however, if you are still studying for qualification, you get a conditional offer; you can join after achieving necessary grades in the qualifying examination.

Living expenses

The minimum resources needed (excluding University and College fees) are estimated to be in the range of £6,000 to £7,500 depending on your lifestyle. You are not allowed to work during the academic session. You will have to prove that you can finance yourself for your entire course. Colleges may ask for financial guarantees. The financial support available for overseas students is limited.

Graduate studies

There is a wide variety of programmes classified under three headings:

Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences

Physical Sciences, Technology and Management

Biological, Medical and Veterinary Sciences

There are courses in two categories: research programmes, and courses with taught elements. The graduate prospectus can be freely downloaded from the site www.admin.cam.ac.uk/offices/gradstud/admissions.

The entrance requirements would include prescribed scores in an English language competency test like the IELTS or TOEFL. The minimum requirement: in IELTS is an overall band score of 7.0 with not less than 7.0 in speaking, listening and writing, and 6.5 in reading. If it is the Internet-based TOEFL, you should have at least an overall score of 100, with a minimum score of 25 in each element.

Courses offered:

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D) degree

Master of Science (M.Sc.) or Master of Letters (M.Litt.) degrees

Doctor of Engineering (Eng.D.) degree

Master of Philosophy (M.Phil.) degree

Four-year integrated doctoral programme (IDP)

Certificate of postgraduate study (CPGS)

Diplomas in international law; legal studies

If you wish to undertake a research degree you may first make sure that the department has the necessary expertise, resources, and a suitable supervisor. For research degrees there is no system of awarding grades or credits.

Your dissertation will be examined by experts, and discussed at a viva.

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