Cambridge's collegiate system is vital to the success of the University and the achievement of its people. Colleges are purposely designed to unite different generations, disciplines and backgrounds in a single, close-knit community where scholarship and discovery can flourish. Through membership of a college, undergraduate and graduate students experience a great global university at a human scale. The colleges are at the heart of the Collegiate Cambridge experience.
To continue to thrive as one of the world's great universities, contributing to society nationally and internationally, Cambridge must remain open to young people of exceptional ability and potential from all backgrounds. In the collegiate system, it is the 31 colleges that play the lead role in admitting, housing and nurturing undergraduate students, and in providing housing, social and educational facilities for graduate students. The colleges are deeply committed to providing a high level of student support, targeted at undergraduates and graduate students in financial need. The provision of bursaries, studentships and scholarships ensures that the costs of higher education do not dissuade students of modest means from applying to Cambridge, or prevent them from continuing their education once they have come into residence. College hardship funds are also vital in supporting students through unforeseen financial difficulties, allowing them to concentrate on their studies and maximise their potential.
College-based teaching of undergraduates, individually and in small groups, lies at the heart of a Cambridge education and underpins its excellence. Such teaching is extremely rare among the world's great research universities. Supervisions help students to develop their self-confidence, critical thinking, intellectual curiosity and mental agility: qualities that are valuable life skills as well as being highly prized by employers. Cambridge's outstanding record in undergraduate teaching reflects the expertise and dedication of the colleges' teaching fellows, who give generously of their time and expertise for very modest financial reward. To ensure that current and future generations of students continue to receive the very best small-group teaching, colleges are committed to recruiting, retaining and developing the best academics, across all subject areas.
The Colleges make a distinctive and vital contribution to Cambridge's research excellence by providing Junior Research Fellowships across the sciences and humanities. These highly competitive posts offer young academics of exceptional calibre who are at an early stage of their careers the opportunity to pursue original research for three or four years, unencumbered by major teaching or administrative duties. Junior Research Fellowships are widely regarded as the training-ground for tomorrow's leading thinkers and researchers. Former Cambridge JRFs include Nobel laureates and many of today's outstanding intellectuals. College Junior Research Fellowships embody the freedom to discover.
Cambridge's unique architectural heritage is embodied, above all, in College buildings. From the medieval courts of the ancient foundations to the pioneering design of the twentieth century Colleges and the bold new additions of recent years, the 31 Colleges offer an unrivalled treasure-house of architecture and history. Preserving this unique legacy for future generations is a major challenge.
The Colleges are also home to collections of international significance, from chained libraries to contemporary art. The sixth century Gospels of St Augustine and the library of Samuel Pepys, pre-Reformation silver and an outstanding collection of women's art: these and other treasures are cared for by the Colleges for the enjoyment and enlightenment of current and future generations.
Giving individual attention to each student's academic development is the Colleges' principal purpose. Every undergraduate is allocated a Director of Studies, who arranges supervisions and ensures appropriate academic support. Supervisions themselves are carried out largely by a College's own Fellows, which again allows for close monitoring of a student's progress. This level of individual provision is virtually unparalleled in the British university system, and is central to Cambridge's reputation for educational excellence.
While many teaching fellows in the Colleges also hold University positions, it is often necessary for Colleges to employ their own, dedicated teaching staff in popular subjects. These College Teaching Officers are an increasingly important part of Cambridge's educational provision, but represent a major financial commitment, especially for the poorer colleges.
A gift to support academic provision at your College – especially College Teaching Officers – will therefore make a vital contribution to Cambridge education, ensuring that all students are helped to achieve their full potential.
For many, it is the extra-curricular activities undertaken at Cambridge that change lives and leave a lasting impression. From inter-collegiate sporting competitions to theatre, music and the arts, the colleges foster a rich array of non-academic activities that make a major contribution to Cambridge 's diverse culture.
College crews and teams provide a valuable training-ground for talented sportsmen and women, with the Cuppers competitions, Lent and May Bumps encouraging teamwork and a spirit of friendly competition. World-famous College choirs and music societies nurture an extraordinary level of musical achievement, providing a springboard for many professional careers. The contributions of College societies to drama and the arts, nationally and internationally, are rightly celebrated.
A gift to support extra-curricular activities at your College - musical, sporting or artistic - will help to sustain Cambridge's cultural excellence for generations to come.
Cambridge is committed to education in its fullest sense, broadening minds and preparing students for their future lives as engaged citizens. Its Colleges play a central part in this endeavour by providing travel and research grants for students in every discipline, from History to Natural Sciences, to undertake research projects or vacation study overseas. Grants are also invaluable in assisting medical students with their overseas electives.
For students whose courses require study abroad – Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, and Modern Languages – costs are rising and the grants available from faculties and departments are limited. There is therefore increasing pressure on limited college funds, often making it difficult to support other students who wish to undertake educationally valid travel beyond the formal requirements of their Tripos course.
A gift to support travel and research grants at your College will ensure that Cambridge continues to provide a broad educational experience for its students, beyond the lecture theatre and the supervision room.