The official Cambridge University undergraduate prospectus contains useful information on how the University works, and is an excellent place to start if you are thinking of applying to the Spring Semester Programme.
The supervision system is one of the distinctive features of the Cambridge undergraduate teaching system. Cambridge students attend lectures and seminars offered by the University but also typically attend a one-hour weekly supervision, either individually or in small groups, with an expert in the course, or Paper, they are taking. The supervisor will set weekly essays based upon lengthy reading lists and material from relevant lecture and seminar courses. The emphasis is not on ‘contact hours’ but on closely guided, research-based essay writing and problem-solving.
Director of Studies
All students are assigned a Director of Studies to look after their academic welfare. The Director of Studies is involved in the admissions process and prepares incoming students for the courses, organises supervisions, monitors progress and deals with any academic problems that might arise.
Most Cambridge degrees have two sections, known as Part I and Part II, and you can generally choose courses from both Parts. Cambridge is about depth: this programme should not be used as a way of fulfilling general requirements, and therefore you are expected to take courses in the subject area of your major. In addition, you should note that you cannot take courses in the natural sciences, engineering, mathematics, computer science, foreign languages, law, classics, music, management or geography. Within all faculties though there will be papers that are unavailable to take. This will be discussed with you on a case-by-case basis during the application process.
You will select two Papers, one in each of the two terms which comprise the semester. There are certain limitations to the courses available to Spring Semester Programme students: some courses are suitable only if you have considerable previous training, e.g. in econometrics, while other Papers may be unviable if vital lectures are delivered in the first term. Once you are admitted to the programme you will receive advice on how to choose your courses. A list of courses can be found on the relevant faculty and department websites. If you experience any difficulties in accessing the course lists you should contact the Spring Semester Programme Coordinator.
Semester students do not take the regular University exams, known as Tripos exams, instead you will take College exams designed to reflect what you have studied during your two terms. The assessment for grading purposes is made on the basis of these exams and on your coursework.
As a semester student, you will be assigned to a personal Tutor, who will take a close interest in the progress of your studies and also in your other interests and activities. Beside an interest in your academic work, he or she is also there to help in matters of general welfare and to give guidance, advice and help when this is wanted; and to help you get the most out of being in Cambridge and Pembroke.