How To Find The Best Cambridge College for Law

October 24, 2023
5 min read
Cress Warnell

How To Find The Best Cambridge College for Law

You get to choose between 29 undergraduate colleges at Cambridge University. So how do you find which is the best college for studying a law degree?

Unfortunately, there's no easy way to rank Cambridge colleges based on the degree you're studying as an undergraduate. However, there is a stack of different factors that can influence your choice, the most significant of which we'll discuss here. Every Cambridge college accepts law students, and every college has a history of turning out graduates who've gone on to a successful career based on their law studies.

When it comes to finding the best Cambridge college for law, it's important to remember that they're all part of a university that is consistently one of the top three or four in the world. Every year global rankings, such as the World University Rankings from Time Higher Education, position Cambridge alongside Oxford, Harvard and Stanford as the very best places at which to study for a degree.

Every one of the 29 undergraduate colleges at Cambridge is a great place to study law. Let's explore the factors that may make one of them the best college for you.

The college system explained

Cambridge, like Oxford, is organised differently to most other universities in the United Kingdom. You don't apply to Cambridge University directly, you apply to one of its colleges - which is why you need to choose.

You can submit an open application, which means the university decides which college your details are sent to. It's still the college that reviews your application, which invites you to an interview, and that may offer you a place as a student.

This college will be your home for your years of study. It takes responsibility for your accommodation, provides dining facilities, offers pastoral support and it's where you'll do some of your learning. Every college has its own library and study facilities, and the college manages your supervisions - that is, the small group tutorials that are an essential part of achieving a degree from Cambridge.

All the colleges are part of the university. It's the university that sets the curriculum for your course, which provides lectures and seminars, and that sets the exams. Your degree is awarded by the university.

While you're at Cambridge you're a student member of both a college and the university.

Finding the best college: location

Cambridge is a small city that's been home to students for centuries. This means its transport network has developed to serve the needs of the university and its colleges. All of the colleges are within walking or cycling distance of the university faculties, lecture halls and libraries.

The Cambridge Law Faculty is on the university's Sidgwick site, in the same building as the Squire Law Library. This central location allows all the law teaching and research to take place in one place.

The nearest colleges to the law faculty are Queens' College, Newnham College and St Catherine's College. Homerton College and Girton College are the furthest from the faculty - around a 45-minute walk or quicker by bicycle or public transport.

Finding the best college: academic achievement

You may have a host of aspirations for your student life at Cambridge: to join a rowing club, to enjoy traditional candlelit dinners in historic halls, to get involved with one of the famous student societies, to meet interesting people and, of course, to excel in your academic studies.

It makes sense to consider which of the undergraduate colleges has the best record of achievement when it comes to the all-important exams. Fortunately, there's a handy table - the Tompkins Table - which tells you this. Published annually, this unofficial listing has been available since the 1980s. It's based on undergraduate exam results.

The table helps you see which colleges have the top-performing students when it comes to exams, but it says nothing about the quality of teaching and support available. Some colleges have been consistently near the top in recent years, such as Christ's College and Trinity College. Others vary significantly in position - St Catherine's College was ranked number 3 in 2022, but only 19th in 2017.

Ask a graduate which Cambridge college is best for law and they're most likely to say that every college is a good choice, from an academic point of view. What makes it the right choice is the other features and facilities on offer.

Finding the best college: size and facilities

It's acknowledged that each of the Cambridge colleges has a different feel, or culture. This is a product of their age, traditions, facilities and size.

The oldest is Peterhouse College, which is also the smallest and is often described as having a family feel. The newest is Robinson College, established in 1977. The largest is Homerton College, with nearly 1,200 students.

All the colleges have their own traditions, one of which is the Formal Hall, where students dress formally to attend a meal. The level of formality varies - for example, at Christ's College you're required to wear academic gowns for the Formal Halls and chapel services. Others take a more relaxed approach.

Each college has its own grounds and sports facilities. Rowing is a popular pastime, with colleges having their own clubs and taking part in competitions. Girton College considers itself to have the best sports facilities among the colleges. The university also has a sports centre, sports ground, cricket pitch and tennis courts.

There are over 80 sports clubs and societies across the university and its colleges.

The best way to get a real sense of whether a particular college may be right for you is to spend time there. You can also research colleges through their websites.

Learn more about studying law at Cambridge with Summer Schools

Perhaps you're thinking of studying law because you want a career in the legal system. Or maybe you know it's an excellent foundation for a wide range of careers, including politics, business and academia. Whatever your reason, choosing where to study is important. The experience you gain and the contacts you'll make can vary significantly based on which university you attend.

Through Summer Schools, you get a chance to sample studying a particular subject in a university setting. We offer a huge variety of courses across many different subjects, based in top universities around the world. Attending one of these courses helps expand your thinking, allows you to experience different cultures, deepens your knowledge - and it looks great in university applications.

Take a look at the extensive selection of courses and their locations on our website. There's something for everyone, whatever subject you're thinking of studying at university.

Cress Warnell

Cress is a skilled copywriter who transforms ideas into captivating content. With a passion for words and a keen eye for detail, she crafts compelling copy for Summer Schools, helping students explore their options in education.

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