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Studying in Cambridge

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Cambridge is an ideal place to study the History of Art. The city and university are home to some of the most important examples of art and architecture in the world, from the Middle Ages to the twenty-first century. These are housed in the amazing museums, libraries and college art collections where you’ll spend a lot of your time. Cambridge boasts internationally-renowned and dedicated academic staff with whom you’ll have close contact through the university’s world famous supervision system. In supervisions, you’ll be taught in groups of two or three, meaning that your lecturers, themselves world leading researchers, will have a deep understanding of your individual needs and interests and you’ll be carefully supported throughout your studies. Cambridge students also have access to leading scholars from around the world through our visiting lecturer programmes such as the Slade Lecture series and weekly research seminar and Medieval Art seminars.


The Department forms part of the Faculty of Architecture and History of Art, situated at nos. 1-5 Scroope Terrace in Trumpington Street, Cambridge, where it has a lecture room, seminar room and supervision rooms. It has additional accommodation in the building opposite, 4a Trumpington Street, the graduate centre of the Faculty, above the famous Hot Numbers café. The Faculty has a well-stocked library with over 35,000 volumes, including many rare books. But as a History of Art student you will also be out working in one of Cambridge’s over 100 libraries, or analysing artworks and architecture at our seven museums, as well as our wide range of college art collections.

The Colleges

Every student is a member of a college. The college system is one of Cambridge’s greatest assets because it means that students live in relatively small, friendly communities, each with a wealth of resources for both academic and social life as well as for student support.

The colleges interview and admit undergraduates and have the primary responsibility for students’ welfare and academic progress once they are here. Colleges are made up of members of academic staff (called ‘fellows’) as well as undergraduate and graduate students from across the disciplines. They are a means of getting to know people from across the university well.

Each college is self-governing and has a wide range of resources to support you whilst you are here, including libraries, dining halls and cafeterias, common rooms and bars, computer officers, nurses, chaplains, and counsellors, students societies and sports teams, and funds for travel or to support students who experience financial hardship. Your college will also appoint a personal tutor for you, who is your first port of call for pastoral support.

Each college has its own character and it is worth looking at a number to see which most attracts you. More information on the colleges can be found here.

Most colleges (except Girton, Robinson and St. Catharine’s) accept History of Art students, and there is not one particular college for History of Art students. Instead, colleges will try to ensure that each year is made up of students from a range of different academic departments. As the Department of History of Art only accepts approx. 25 students per year, this means most colleges will only have one or two History of Art students in each year. This means that you’ll be living with people who are on a variety of different courses, and that you get to see lots of different colleges for your supervisions and to visit your coursemates. It also means that there is a chance that you may find yourself receiving an offer from a college that is not the one you originally applied to, through a system called ‘the pool’. You can read more about this in the applying section.

The Department

While the college manages your welfare and living arrangements, the department is responsible for organizing and delivering the course, providing lectures and seminars, and managing exams.

Most members of academic staff in the department will also be a fellow of a college, so there is a lot of cross-over between colleges and departments.

Many colleges that do not have a fellow in the subject still accept History of Art students, so the most important thing to think about is what sort of college would suit you.

Student Support

Study at Cambridge can be demanding, but the level of support offered to students is strong. Whilst we aim to help you become independent learners and to develop the self-confidence to make a valuable contribution to society in whichever way you choose, we also understand the vital importance of providing a comprehensive system of help and support for all our students.

The first line of support will often come from one of the two members of academic staff appointed by your college to have a special concern for your personal progress and well-being: your director of studies and your college tutor. Your director of studies will be an art historian (or work in a closely related field) and will have the primary responsibility for your academic progress. Your tutor will usually be a fellow of your college working in a different discipline and will have primary responsibility for your pastoral welfare. You will meet with both your tutor and your director of studies regularly, and they will act as your principal advisors and advocates.

Each college at Cambridge also has a substantial infrastructure of student support. Headed by the Senior Tutor, the tutorial office provides help and advice on everything from accommodation and travel grants to the resolution of any financial difficulties you might experience. In most colleges pastoral care is augmented by a team of professionals such as college chaplains, nurses and counsellors. You will receive additional support from other members of the college staff, such as the porters and housekeeping staff, and from peer supporters drawn from the student body.

Further resources are available at a university level, whether it be in learning and teaching (developing your foreign language skills via the Language Centre, for example), or of a more personal nature. All undergraduates are required to register with a local doctor, and the university has a free and confidential University Counselling Service for the use of all its students and staff.

The department works equally hard to support our students throughout their time here. Being a small department, everybody knows one another. The academic and support staff are friendly and approachable and at all levels the department fosters an ethos of mutual respect, encouragement and support.

Finally, there are your fellow students. Most people find that at university they make friends for life. The close-knit nature of the History of Art course means that you get to know your course mates very well, as you share a mutual love of your subject. Your peers will come from all sorts of backgrounds and from across the world. They will challenge and support you and you will learn much from one another. The colleges and departments of the university help make Cambridge one of the world’s most vibrant and diverse centres of excellence in both teaching and research.