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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

13th century
Peterhouse A selection of famous people who have been connected with the college.

Peterhouse was founded by Hugo de Balsham, the Bishop of Ely, in 1284.

It is the oldest - and smallest - college at Cambridge University.


Famous People

Henry Cavendish Chemist. Natural philosopher
Undergraduate, 1749-53 No degree

James Mason Actor
Undergraduate, 1928-31

Inventors and Scientists

Charles Babbage Mathematician. Computer pioneer
Undergraduate, 1812-14 MA, 1817
Lucasian Professor of Mathematics, 1828-39

Nobel Prize Winners

A.J.P. Martin Nobel Prize for Chemistry, 1952
Undergraduate, 1929-32

Max Perutz Nobel Prize for Chemistry, 1962

John C. Kendrew Nobel Prize for Chemistry, 1962
Fellow, 1947-75
See Trinity College

Aaron Klug Nobel Prize for Chemistry, 1982
Fellow, 1962-93

Michael Levitt Nobel Prize for Chemistry, 2013
Research student, 1968-71
See Gonville & Caius

Prime Ministers

Duke of Grafton
Prime Minister of Britain, 1768-70
Undergraduate, 1751-53 MA

Writers and Poets

Thomas Gray Poet
Undergraduate, 1734-38 (No degree), 1742-43 Fellow, 1742-56
Regius Professor of Modern History, 1768-71
Gray lived at the college until 1756 when he moved to Pembroke College

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