10 Great Reasons to Study in Cambridge

Cambridge is internationally famous as a centre of education, technology, history and culture, and deservedly so. Every summer, we’re delighted to introduce Oxford Royale Academy students to this wonderful city. Here’s what makes Cambridge such a great place to study.


1. Remarkable history

Image shows Peterhouse, Cambridge.
Peterhouse is the oldest college of the University of Cambridge.

Cambridge has an astonishing history, dating back thousands of years. It was settled in prehistoric times, with the archaeological remains of a farmstead found in the city dating back 3,500 years. It’s home to the second-oldest university in the UK – making it one of the oldest in Europe – which dates back to 1209, when it was founded by a group of students who had left the University of Oxford following violent altercations between the university’s students and the city’s non-university residents.

During the English Civil War, in the 17th century, Cambridge once again left its mark on history. Oliver Cromwell, who became Lord Protector after the execution of King Charles I, had been educated at Sidney Sussex College, and lived in Huntingdon and Ely nearby. Cambridge was a Parliamentarian stronghold, in contrast to Oxford, which took the Royalist side in the conflict. Cromwell was decapitated after his death, and his head is believed to be buried somewhere in the grounds of his college. Walking through the city, there are countless reminders of its notable history, whether that’s the blue plaques commemorating former residents, the architecture, or smaller details that you might not notice without a guided tour – which Oxford Royale Academy therefore provides for all students.

2. Amazing culture

Image shows the entrance to the Museum of Earth Sciences featuring an iguanodon and megatherium.
The Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences has this charming doorway.

For a small city, Cambridge has a lot of culture to its name. Alongside notable arts venues such as the Cambridge Junction and the Corn Exchange, it has a plethora of museums. The best-known is probably the Fitzwilliam, which boasts an impressive collection of artefacts and artworks, including works by Monet, Rembrandt, Picasso and van Gogh. What’s more, the museum is home to impressive ancient Egyptian antiquities, medieval arms and armour, and more besides.

But there are many more museums in Cambridge beyond the Fitzwilliam, and all of them equally worth visiting. There’s the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, home to a million artefacts spanning two million years of history across the globe; the Museum of Classical Archaeology, where you can explore the worlds of the ancient Greeks and Romans; the Museum of Zoology, for those fascinated by the animal kingdom; the Polar Museum, which provides a fascinating insight into life at the polar regions, and the history of polar exploration. And that isn’t even all the museums that Cambridge has to offer. That means that when you study here, it’s more likely than not that there’ll be a museum that relates to your area of interest, where you can see artefacts or explore exhibitions to bring your studies to life.

3. High-tech setting

Image shows a computer motherboard.
Components designed in Cambridge can be found in a majority of smartphones and computers across the world.

Most people think of Cambridge and think of punting down the river, strolling past medieval buildings, or having abstruse philosophical debates in quaint cafes. On the surface, this is a reasonably accurate description of what Cambridge is like. But the city, and the surrounding towns and villages, are actually a high-tech hub that’s been nicknamed Silicon Fen. Cambridge punches far above its weight when it comes to the world of STEM, from tech start-ups to long-established pharmaceutical research centres.

It’s a remarkable but true statistic that there are more people working in the field of R&D in Cambridgeshire than in the whole of Wales or Scotland. What’s more, this statistic excludes those directly employed by the University of Cambridge, though of course much of it is the result of the presence of the university, providing new insight and drawing ambitious people into the area. If you aspire to work in STEM in the future but don’t fancy moving to California, Cambridge could be a real alternative. Even if that’s not your plan, studying in the heart of this incredible technological hub is nothing if not inspiring.

4. Beautiful surroundings

Image shows the back of King's College and Clare College.
The Backs has been described as one of the loveliest views in England.

Cambridge is undoubtedly a stunningly beautiful place in which to study. The best-known buildings are the historic buildings of the university, such as King’s College Chapel. The chapel was built in the 15th century in the Perpendicular Gothic style and is known for its astonishing 16th century stained glass windows. Less spectacular, but even older, is the Round Church, which dates back to 1130 – even longer ago than the foundation of the University of Cambridge.

But Cambridge isn’t just notable for buildings that date back centuries. There’s also plenty of modern architecture to admire here, such as the postmodern Faculty of History building, which brings to mind a half-open book, or the brand-new Cambridge Central Mosque, which draws on the shapes seen in nature as well as traditional Islamic architecture to produce a place of worship that is both grand and utterly in keeping with its surroundings.

It’s not just the built environment but the natural environment in and around Cambridge that’s worth admiring. The vast, flat, open expanses of the Fens aren’t to everyone’s taste, but it’s worth getting out of the city and looking up: chances are, you’ve never seen so much sky.

5. World-leading university

Image shows St John's College.
Grand colleges like St John’s can feel intimidating if you’re not used to them.

The city of Cambridge is of course synonymous with the world-leading University of Cambridge. The university frequently tops international rankings as the best in the world, and students from all over the globe flock to Cambridge in order to study there. If you study in Cambridge with Oxford Royale Academy, you’ll have the opportunity to live and learn in university accommodation, getting a taster for the lifestyle of a University of Cambridge student.

What’s more, many prospective students find the university intimidating in all its history and grandeur, which can affect their performance at interview. Living in these surroundings for a fortnight or more is a great way to become more relaxed in them. You’ll also have a better idea of whether the Hogwarts-esque environment is right for you, or whether you might prefer to apply to one of the more modern colleges.

If you do decide you’d like to try for a place at the University of Cambridge, our expert teaching staff can advise you on applications and the interviews. The process is highly competitive; though the applicant to place ratio is lower than many other UK universities, that’s misleading, because all but the best applicants don’t bother to try. A summer school in Cambridge can help you work out for sure whether it’s something you’d like to attempt.

6. Exciting excursions

Image shows the stone near King's College with lines of Xu Zhimo's poetry carved on it in his memory.
See Cambridge landmarks such as this memorial to Xu Zhimo.

Studying in Cambridge offers the opportunity to go on a wide range of fun and interesting excursions. First, there are many things to do in Cambridge itself, such as traditional activities like going for afternoon tea, or punting along the Backs of the Colleges – you can even take a picnic on board the punt with you. This is an ever-changing view, especially given new plans to turn the manicured lawn behind King’s College into a meadow. It’s here that you can also see the memorial to Chinese poet Xu Zhimo, who studied at King’s College in the 1920s and wrote ‘On Leaving Cambridge’ a few years later, in tribute to the scenery and atmosphere you can still enjoy today on the Backs.

Alongside exploring Cambridge itself, there are also coach trips available out of the city. Oxford Royale Academy students can visit the sights of London, and go to musicals in the capital. Other excursions are to notable historical and cultural destinations, such as Henry VIII’s palace at Hampton Court.

7. Fascinating traditions

Image shows the Strawberry Fair parade.
Strawberry Fair traditionally begins with a lively fancy-dress parade.

Cambridge is less traditional than Oxford, but it has its fair share of interesting traditions all the same. One of these includes the Great Court Run at Trinity College, Cambridge, which appeared in the film Chariots of Fire, in which students attempt to run around the Great Court – 370 yards – in the time it takes the college clock to strike 12.

Throughout the summer, the city makes the most of its traditions as well. There’s a different fair or festival nearly every weekend, from the raucous Strawberry Fair, to the more sedate Stourbridge Fair. This dates back to 1211 and was once the largest fair in medieval Europe, with people coming from across the country and camping for days to buy and sell their wares there. The last in that long line of fairs took place in 1933, but it’s more recently been revived, mostly in tribute to its remarkable past. Another medieval fair that’s still going is Midsummer Fair, which recently celebrated its 800th anniversary. And on top of that there’s the Shakespeare Festival, the Science Festival, the Folk Festival and more besides.

8. Excellent food

Image shows a breakfast bagel.
Cambridge has countless excellent brunch spots.

Cambridge is an underrated foodie destination, so if you love to eat delicious things, it’s a great place to come and study this summer. At the top end of the range are outstanding restaurants, such as Midsummer House which boasts two Michelin stars. But if your tastes don’t run to fine dining and tasting menus, there’s no shortage of delightful places to eat on a lower budget. From traditional tea rooms like Harriet’s, where you can enjoy a pot of tea or some scones with jam and clotted cream while a pianist plays gently in the background, to hipster-friendly cafes like Novi, where you can sit on the roof terrace eating an Instagram-perfect brunch, you’ll be able to find somewhere that suits you no matter what your preferences.

Cambridge is also a particularly good place to eat if you have a restricted diet – for instance, Stem and Glory offers amazing vegan food, while you can get dairy-free milk in every cafe, and gluten-free bread and cakes virtually everywhere as well. With food from all over the world represented in Cambridge, maybe you can introduce your new friends to the kind of things you eat at home, and they can do the same for you.

9. Inspiring teaching

Image shows students sketching in the Botanic Gardens.
Oxford Royale Academy teaching provides plenty of opportunities to get out of the classroom and learn things interactively.

Teaching is at the heart of everything we do at Oxford Royale Academy, and our teaching faculty in Cambridge are here to ensure you learn as much as you can while growing your passion for and interest in your subject of choice. Inspired by Cambridge seminars, our classroom environment is interactive: every student gets to share their opinion, but every student also gets to challenge, discuss and debate the opinions of others – all in a respectful and constructive manner. This enables students to develop their ideas and learn from their peers as well as from their teacher.

Our teachers are often themselves graduates of the University of Cambridge, or other leading institutions within the UK, such as the University of Oxford, so they know precisely the environment we aim to create for our students to thrive. Alongside learning more about their chosen subject, students will develop valuable study skills, such as how to structure an essay in the style that British universities require, how to give an effective presentation, or how to get the most out of working in groups.

10. Life-long friends

Image shows a group of friends; two are wearing Cambridge University hoodies.
In Cambridge, you’ll meet people from all over the world.

Perhaps the best thing about studying in Cambridge will be the friends that you make here. When you look back at your time at summer school here, you probably won’t think about the food, or the architecture, or the culture – you’ll think instead about the friends you met studying with Oxford Royale Academy. Our summer school is structured in such a way to make it easier for you to form friendships, with icebreaker sessions to start off your time with us, and excursions, activities, parties and free time all allowing a range of different opportunities for socialising.

Studying at our Cambridge Summer School, you’ll meet fellow students from all over the world; at our 2019 summer school, we were joined by students of over 170 different nationalities. You might find yourself making friends with someone from a country that you previously couldn’t have placed on a map with any confidence. These will be the people who will make your summer school experience so special. We can’t wait to see you in Cambridge next summer so that you can have the opportunity to meet them.

Image credits: PeterhouseMuseum of Earth Sciencesmotherboardthe BacksSt John’s CollegeXu ZhimoStrawberry Fairbrunch. All other photos were taken at Oxford Royale Academy summer schools.