The prestigious University of Cambridge is the second-oldest provider of its kind in the English-speaking world, and remarkably the fourth-oldest surviving university on the planet! Founded in 1209 and handed a Royal Charter by King Henry III 22 years later, it developed through an association with scholars who departed the University of Oxford.
It is made up of more than 30 constituent colleges, and in excess of 100 academic departments through six schools. The university runs eight museums and a botanic garden, and its libraries are home to approximately 15 million books, most of which are housed at Cambridge University Library.
Who could have guessed when the Bishop of Ely established Cambridge’s first college, Peterhouse, in 1284, centuries later the University of Cambridge as we know it now would be one of the most respected of its kind in the world?
After the Bishop got the ball rolling back then, more colleges followed in the 14th and 15th centuries. Downing was founded in 1800, and the most recent was Robinson, built in the late 1970s, although Homerton College was given full university college status as recently as 2010, having previously been classed as an approved society linked to the university.
Once the Cambridge University Act firmed up the structure of the university, several new subjects were added to the curriculum, including modern languages, theology and history. Richard Fitzwilliam, of Trinity College, donated resources to help students in their arts, architecture and archaeology studies. The university started awarding doctorates in the early 20th century, and its original PhD in mathematics was awarded in 1924.
The popularity of a number of Cambridge scientists in the wake of the Second World War saw the university experience a significant increase in student enrolment figures. There was a huge expansion of the teaching accommodation in the 1950s and 1960s, with a new School of Clinical Medicine introduced, and arts faculties getting a permanent home for the first time. For social and cultural events, the University Centre, a music school and concert hall, was developed. The Industrial Liaison Office was added in the 1970s, and has since evolved into the Research Office.
The university celebrated its 800th anniversary in 2009, and marked the occasion with events and projects that run throughout the year. Staff, students, alumni and the wider community, along with fellow universities, all contributed over the course of a memorable 12 months.
September 2017 saw the university ranked as the second-best university on the planet in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, and had more subjects in the top 10 than any other institution. Its alumni also read like a who’s who guide, with no less than 90 Nobel Prize winners and 15 Prime Ministers!
A seemingly endless production line of world-famous scientists and mathematicians have graced the corridors of the University of Cambridge over the years, such as Sir Isaac Newton, who conducted experiments in the grounds of Trinity College; Stephen Hawking, who studied and taught at the University of Cambridge; and John Wallis, the first person to acknowledge the law of acceleration.
In the world of music, members of the rock band Radiohead, singer-songwriter Nick Drake, and composer John Rutter attended the university, along with actor Hugh Laurie and Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector of England.