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Author Topic: Colleges in Cambridge and Oxford  (Read 9035 times)

Offline Wiley Zanzibar

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« on: 03/10/2008 11:43:17 »
Hi Oh Naked Ones,

Please can you explain the concept of Colleges in Cambridge and Oxford and I presume other UK universities. Not being from your sunny ( ;)) shores I find it very confusing. For example, if I was going to study chemistry, which college would I join?

Thanks for clearing this up.

Wiley Zanzibar...


 

Offline rosy

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« Reply #1 on: 03/10/2008 14:30:56 »
Only Cambridge and Oxford have colleges, really (and Durham, sort-of).

As I'm a grad student in chemistry at Cambridge the following only really applies here:

The colleges are independent bodies and are part of the university, but although they have some responsibility (in Oxford and Cambridge) for finding "supervisors" for small group teaching, and which college you're at will influence who your supervisor is, which may make some difference to how difficult you find it to keep up in lectures, basically all the colleges accept students to study science subjects (some only take women, others only mature students and some only grad students).

In Cambridge the only way to study chemistry as an undergraduate is to study "Natural Sciences", you do 1/4 chemistry (plus 1/4 maths and 1/4 each of two more experimental sciences... physics, cell biology, geology, materials science...) in your first year, 2/3 chemistry (plus 1/3 something else) in your second year, and then specialize for a further 2 years.

All lectures, all laboratory work, and all examinations are organised, run and marked by the departments, which are also part of the University but independent of the colleges.

Which college you go to makes little difference. Downing and Pembroke are geographically convenient but Cambridge is tiny and you'll never be much more than 15 minutes from anywhere by bike, at St Catherines, Selwyn and Robinson the directors of studies looking after chemists (who organise and in some cases give the supervisions mentioned above) are very committed members of the departmental teaching staff, I was very happy as an undergrad at my own college, Jesus, where the  current director of studies is also excellent.

I'd advise you to look at the "for prospective students" section of http://www.cam.ac.uk which will give you all the above information about Cambridge, the college system, the available courses, etc.

If you've got any more questions do ask...
 

Offline Make it Lady

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« Reply #2 on: 03/10/2008 15:50:35 »
My friend lectures, in Chemistry, at the cookie college at Oxford. What is it called...oh yes....Oriel.
 

Offline Bored chemist

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« Reply #3 on: 03/10/2008 18:13:33 »
When I was at Oxford it was much the same as Rosy describes The Other Place. The important dfifference is that you can study chemistry there all the time from day 1 (I did). IIRC it has the largest chemistry department in (depending on who you ask) The western world, Europe, or the world. I doubt it has changed much in the 20 years since I left. You could study any of the subjects at any of the colleges. They have slightly different reputations and attitudes (for example in my day Jesus College was noted for a bias towards Welsh students).
Perhaps the best answer is to let you see what the students say about themselves.
http://www.ousu.org/prospective-students/ap/
No doubt the place in the Fens has a similar website
« Last Edit: 03/10/2008 18:16:38 by Bored chemist »
 

Offline DoctorBeaver

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« Reply #4 on: 04/10/2008 11:50:37 »

No doubt the place in the Fens has a similar website

Let's have some respect, ya damned Philistine!  [:(!]

Oxford - named after a bit of shallow water where bulls could cross. And what do you get a lot of where bulls are? Yes - BULLS**T!  [^]
« Last Edit: 04/10/2008 11:52:35 by DoctorBeaver »
 

blakestyger

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« Reply #5 on: 04/10/2008 12:02:20 »
I did chemistry (not at either Oxford or Cambridge) and I'd advise against it; all that apparatus, the interminable practical exams that were like German operas (they went on for days) and the having to learn all about obscure elements and their even obscurer compounds that you'll never meet. [xx(]

Do English - pick up a good book and you're working. ;)
 

Offline Bored chemist

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« Reply #6 on: 04/10/2008 16:06:59 »

No doubt the place in the Fens has a similar website

Let's have some respect, ya damned Philistine!  [:(!]

Oxford - named after a bit of shallow water where bulls could cross. And what do you get a lot of where bulls are? Yes - BULLS**T!  [^]
Thanks for the etymology lesson, but I think a place named afer a bit of local geography is better than some place that got its name by not being able to read what the Romans called it.

Perhaps you'd like to point out what's disrespectful about saying that student unions are a reasonable place to look for information about a university and that the unions might have a website?

 

Offline techmind

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« Reply #7 on: 04/10/2008 23:26:17 »
I failed(!) an interview at Oxford (but went on to enjoy my studies at UCL in London). Some of the others can probably comment in more detail, but I got the impression that some Oxford/Cambridge colleges are more "prestigious" than others ... and possibly the more prestigious ones will have tougher entry requirements.
Within Oxford/Cambridge, much of the organised social-life happens within the college - each college has its own bars/common-room, so this may play some part in your decision too.

For the sake of clarification, it might be worth pointing out that technically the University of London is a college system (eg Kings College London, University College London, Queen Mary and Westfield College etc), although for most day-to-day practical purposes, the colleges are effectively separate universities. Imperial College "divorced" itself from the U of London a few years back, and is now a entity which awards its own degrees.

If you enjoy the practical side of chemistry, then as well as having a very large department, Imperial has a reputation for having the most hands-on practical course in the country.


The procedure might be slightly different for overseas students, but if you're a reasonable student with good grades in your previous studies, then for most of the UK Universities (even the older "red brick" universities), the "interview" often proves a fairly informal chat. By comparison, Oxbridge interviews are liable to take the form of a very rigourous oral examination (especially if you choose not to go down the entrance-exam route). You should expect to do mental calculations, derive or reason things on a blackboard, even face a panel of interviewers. One of the easier questions they asked to get me warmed up was to mentally calculate the G-forces on a mouse in a washing-machine on spin-cycle. The more input parameters you can estimate along the way, the better.
You have been warned! (I wasn't)
« Last Edit: 04/10/2008 23:42:33 by techmind »
 

Offline Make it Lady

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« Reply #8 on: 05/10/2008 00:38:36 »
If you are coming from abroad to study in Britain the most welcoming place to go is Manchester. Manchester University and UMIST have a good reputation and are not stuck up and stuffy. They took me on and I did really well, even though no one had been to university in my family before me.

Chemistry is a brilliant topic to study but if I had my time over again I would have done Pharmacy.
 

Offline DoctorBeaver

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« Reply #9 on: 05/10/2008 11:36:15 »
They took me on ...

Just goes to show they're not fussy & will take anyone!
 

Offline rosy

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« Reply #10 on: 05/10/2008 13:09:37 »
Techmind:
Quote
but I got the impression that some Oxford/Cambridge colleges are more "prestigious" than others ...

Yes and no.

Some are more oversubscribed, and some are more oversubscribed for some courses, BUT others are much less oversubscribed (the less central colleges - Girton and Homerton - and the women only colleges - Newnham and the-college-formerly-known-as-New-Hall, and others on a subject by subject basis, there's a table by subject and college somewhere on the admissions website) and a college with more good students than it can offer places to will put the remaining students (well, their forms, anyhow) in "the pool" for other admissions tutors to have a look at so it doesn't make much difference to your chances of getting a place where you apply.

Blakestyger:
Quote
I did chemistry (not at either Oxford or Cambridge) and I'd advise against it; all that apparatus, the interminable practical exams that were like German operas (they went on for days) and the having to learn all about obscure elements and their even obscurer compounds that you'll never meet.

In my experience there was much more of that in school chemistry than at degree level, so I can't imagine, if you disliked it that much why you were studying it... in a modern chemistry degree (mercifully!) you don't need to know about flame tests and (in Cambridge) there are no practical exams beyond the continuously assessed practical classes.

Techmind also mentions Imperial, and Make it Lady UMIST. In general, if you think you want to do postgrad studies later it's probably worth going somewhere with a really big research body, tho' do bear in mind that good research and good teaching aren't necessarily inextricably linked, look for tables of student satisfaction scores... also remember that some universities are much better in some subjects than others so although the reputation of any given university as a whole is important (not least for how good your degree looks on your CV later) what the student experience of the teaching (and other elements of student life) is going to be much more important.

Look hard at university websites, students' union websites etc and, if you possibly can, go to some open days and visit the universities in person.
 

Offline DoctorBeaver

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« Reply #11 on: 05/10/2008 13:11:32 »
Good advice, Rosy.
 

Offline techmind

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« Reply #12 on: 07/10/2008 21:26:36 »
Look hard at university websites, students' union websites etc and, if you possibly can, go to some open days and visit the universities in person.

Yes - you'll learn a lot from the open-days.

One non-London University (who should know better) really made a bad impression on me when I visited for openday/interview. They sat every one round hexagonal coffee tables, then someone proceeded to address everyone from a position sat on a windowsill. Half the prospective students had their back to the speaker, and the windowsill position was too slovenly. But to top it all, their attitude (being mid November - relatively early in the interviewing season) was that we were all applying to Oxbridge so wouldn't be going to them anyway!

Some universities have more of a walled "campus" environment while others are more distributed around the town/city.
On a visit you'll also pick up on the quality/condition of the laboratories and equipment - and havea chance to talk to some present students. All good stuff.
 

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« Reply #12 on: 07/10/2008 21:26:36 »

 

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