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Cambridge University Oxford University

Cambridge University is the second oldest - after Oxford - in Britain. The university has 31 colleges (see the list of colleges). In 2009 the university celebrated its 800 year anniversary.

The colleges
The origins of Cambridge University date back to the arrival of former students of Oxford University in 1209 but it wasn't until 1284 that the first college - Peterhouse - was founded. By the end of the 16th century another fifteen colleges had been established and then - in the 19th and 20th centuries - fifteen more.

As with Oxford, Cambridge University - especially its older established colleges - has seen many of its students go on to achieve notable things.

No degree
But a successful completion of their studies was not always necessary for former students to achieve success in life. The Poet Laureates Thomas Shadwell
and Alfred Tennyson, the poets Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Siegfried Sassoon and the writers William Makepeace Thackeray and Christopher Isherwood all left Cambridge without a degree. A degree also eluded Edward VII, Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, Britain's first Prime Minister Robert Walpole and the chemist Henry Cavendish (whose descendants endowed the university's world-famous Cavendish Laboratory).

It wasn't until
Girton College (1869) and Newnham College (1871) opened that women were finally admitted to Cambridge. Since then graduates have included the first British woman to win a Nobel Prize, Dorothy Hodgkin; the poet Sylvia Plath, the ethologist Jane Goodall and the writer Iris Murdoch.

The following list shows the thirty-one colleges, grouped by the century in which they were founded.

The colleges founded before the 18th century include information on a selection of famous people who have been connected to the college and links to the college website and its history webpage.

The colleges founded since 1800 have links to their websites.

The 31 Cambridge Colleges


13th century


Founded: 1284

14th century


Clare College
Founded: 1326

Pembroke College
Founded: 1347

Gonville & Caius College
Founded: 1348

Trinity Hall
Founded: 1350

Corpus Christi College
Founded: 1352

15th century


Magdalene College
Founded: 1428

King's College
Founded: 1441

Queens' College
Founded: 1448

St Catharine's College
Founded: 1473

Jesus College
Founded: 1496

16th century


Christ's College
Founded: 1505

St John's College
Founded: 1511

Trinity College
Founded: 1546

Emmanuel College
Founded: 1584

Sidney Sussex College
Founded: 1596

19th century

Downing College
Founded: 1800

Girton College
Founded: 1869

Fitzwilliam College
Founded: 1869

Newnham College
Founded: 1871

Selwyn College
Founded: 1882

Hughes Hall
Founded: 1885

St Edmund's College
Founded: 1896

20th century

Murray Edwards College
Founded (as New Hall): 1954

Churchill College
Founded: 1960

Darwin College
Founded: 1964

Lucy Cavendish College
Founded: 1965

Clare Hall
Founded: 1965

Wolfson College
Founded: 1965

Homerton College
Founded: 1976

Robinson College
Founded: 1979

15th century
Magdalene College A selection of famous people who have been connected with the college.

Magdalene College was founded in 1428 as Monks Hostel when Abbot Lytlington from Crowland Abbey near Peterborough acquired the land to house student Benedictine monks

Later in the century it was renamed Buckingham College after its then patron, the Duke of Buckingham and also began admitting students other than monks.

After the Dissolution of the Monasteries, Lord Audley refounded the college in 1542 as St Mary Magdalene from which the present-day name derives.


Nobel Prize Winners

Patrick Blackett Nobel Prize for Physics, 1948
Undergraduate, 1919-21
See Kings College


Samuel Pepys Writer
Undergraduate, 1650-53 MA, 1660

C.S. Lewis Writer
Professor of Medieval and Renaissance English, 1954-63

King's College

A selection of famous people who have been connected with the college.

King's College was founded in 1441 by
Henry VI.

The college's earliest students all came from Eton College which the King had set up the previous year.


Famous People

John Maynard Keynes Economist
Undergraduate, 1902-05 MA, 1908 Fellow, 1908-46

Inventors and Scientists

Alan Turing Mathematician. Computer pioneer. Enigma code-breaker
Undergraduate, 1931-1934 Fellow 1932-35

Nobel Prize Winners

Patrick Blackett Nobel Prize for Physics, 1948

Frederick Sanger Double Nobel Prize for Chemistry, 1958 and 1980

Philip Noel-Baker Nobel Prize for Peace, 1959
Undergraduate, 1910, 1912

Patrick White Nobel Prize for Literature, 1973
Undergraduate, 1932-35

Richard Stone Nobel Prize for Economics, 1984
Fellow, 1945-91

Sydney Brenner Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine, 2002

Prime Ministers

Robert Walpole First Prime Minister of Britain, 1721-42
Undergraduate, 1696-98 No degree

Writers and Poets

Horace Walpole Writer
Undergraduate, 1735-38 No degree

E.M. Forster Writer
Undergraduate, 1897-1901 Fellow, 1946-
After being elected a fellow Forster lived at the college until his death in 1970

Rupert Brooke Poet
Undergraduate, 1906-09 Fellow, 1913-15

Queens' College

A selection of famous people who have been connected with the college.

Queens' College of St Margaret and St Bernard was founded in 1448 by Margaret of Anjou, the royal consort to
Henry VI.


St Catharine's College

A selection of famous people who have been connected with the college.

St Catharine's College was founded in 1473 by Robert Woodlark.


Writers and Poets

Malcolm Lowry Writer
Undergraduate, 1929-32

Jesus College

A selection of famous people who have been connected with the college.

Jesus College was founded in 1496 by John Alcock, the Bishop of Ely. Built on the site of a former Benedictine nunnery the college took its name from Jesus Chapel which had served the nunnery and the local area.


Famous People

Thomas Cranmer Archbishop of Canterbury
Undergraduate, 1503- Fellow, 1510-33

Nobel Prize Winners

Peter D. Mitchell Nobel Prize for Chemistry, 1978
Undergraduate, 1939-

Writers and Poets

Lawrence Sterne Writer
Undergraduate, 1733-36 MA, 1740

Samuel Taylor Coleridge Poet
Undergraduate, 1791-94 No degree

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