The beautiful city of Cambridge has an enviable reputation as one of the world’s greatest universities as well as being an agreeable place to live and work. The inhabitants enjoy low unemployment, a cluster of good schools and plenty of green spacious parkland. The river Cam provides a focal point in the summer with its flotilla of punts gliding around gentle bends overhung with lush willows.
Two vibrant communities
Cambridge is a city of two vibrant communities, that despite a chequered past of friction and confrontation now seem to co-exist with ease. Both the students and locals go about their business, almost independent of each other. Many scholars are completely unaware of the ...view middle of the document...
An ever-changing third community should be added to the list: visitors. Cambridge attracts international tourists in droves all year round but especially in summer. Before the 1970’s the majority of colleges had open access to their grounds, but the sheer weight of visitors passing through what are essentially the homes of students became an increasing problem, disturbing the peaceful atmosphere that had been carefully constructed to promote academic excellence. Most colleges still welcome visitors but impose restrictions that should be checked. Tourists are expected to respect privacy and preserves tranquillity. Understandably the exam season closes many a college gate. Staff feel the collective stress levels of students rise to heights that need to be carefully monitored and do all they can to protect their young charges.
Visitors should also take into account that ancient buildings, some as old as 800 years and many over 500 years old, need to be restored periodically and may well be hidden under a cocoon of scaffold and protective net.
Cambridge students now come from all walks of life
Uninformed public opinion believes that both Cambridge University and its sister university, Oxford – referred to collectively as Oxbridge, are locked in a never changing time warp that protects the privileges of the nobility, but if this was ever true it certainly isn’t now.
In 1336 Clare College only had 10 students, all described as poor. Later they had a scholarship in place for orphaned bankers sons, Jesus College had a similar award for the sons of dead clergy. In 1352 Corpus Christi College was founded by town’s people (not the ruling class), and the 16th century records of Gonville and Caius show many of their scholars were not from aristocratic backgrounds but East Anglian farming stock. Lucy Cavendish is a more recent addition to the university and is unique in that it specialises in educating mature women who had thought previous commitments had resulted in a Cambridge education passing them by.
Ha… I hear you muttering under your breath! You know that Cambridge only exists for the world’s privileged aristocratic youth strutting their arrogant stuff with expectations of easy wealth and power. You think it is rare that a state educated pupil makes an impact in these hallowed halls and cloisters? Think again!
Both Oxford and Cambridge are vibrant, diverse and complicated places that defy a ‘pigeon hole’ description. Yes, there are still pockets that try and preserve that aristocratic perception. Socially exclusive drinking clubs still exist, full of well dressed men in specially tailored uniforms, who are said to hold immature...