Skip to main content


Classics infographic - c. 83 admitted per year at Cambridge, 3 year course - Latin or Greek A Level required, 4 year course - no specific subject requirements, c. 5 admitted per year at Pembroke

The most rewarding way to study the ancient world is to learn to make connections between what might appear to be quite different aspects of its study. Our discipline considers a whole culture (or  cultures), and thus each text, each inscription, each philosophical idea, each pot and piece of sculpture has a rich social and intellectual context which can be explored in ever-widening circles. In the early stages of their course, therefore, Pembroke classicists are encouraged to investigate the whole range of studies available in the Faculty - literary, philosophical, historical, philological and archaeological - so that they can start to make these connections for themselves. With time it is both inevitable and welcomed that different tastes emerge, and students are encouraged to pursue particular interests in depth rather than follow a very tightly controlled schedule. Thus, for example, literature work may cover any period of Greek and Roman antiquity from Homer to the fifth century A.D., rather than being concentrated on a few more familiar authors; some students may prefer philosophy and history, others archaeology and philology.

Classics at Pembroke

The Classical community at Pembroke is exceptionally strong. It includes Dr Torsten Meissner (Director of Studies, University Senior Lecturer in Classical Philology and Linguistics), Dr Renaud Gagné (University Reader in Greek literature and language), Dr Moreed Arbabzadah (College Praelector and Affiliated Lecturer in Classics), Dr Rebecca Lämmle (University Lecturer in Classics)  and Professor Michael Reeve, emeritus Kennedy Professor of Latin. At any one time there are several graduate students studying for the MPhil or PhD degree. The College has a large contingent of Classics students, whose performance in University examinations in recent years has been among the very best in Cambridge. Furthermore, individual Pembroke classicists have regularly topped the examination list.

In the first year, there is also a termly 'get- together' of the whole group in College with the Director of Studies to discuss particular topics and issues arising from lectures and supervisions, to air matters of a general, methodological kind, and to monitor how the course is going.


Pembroke aims to take four or five undergraduates to read Classics each year, though the numbers vary to mirror the quality of the field. It is possible to do Classics at the University without Latin or Greek A Level, or equivalent, and a special four-year course has been designed for this. Please contact Dr Meissner for individual advice if you have neither Latin nor Greek at A Level. At Pembroke we strongly believe that the necessary structures are firmly in place to give students all the necessary academic and pastoral support. We were among the first colleges to admit students for the four year course and are keen to maintain our high and diverse profile.

For the four-year course, the minimum requirement is normally Latin or Greek GCSE for those who have had the opportunity to study the ancient languages although this is somewhat flexible. Applications from candidates who have not had the opportunity to study Latin or Greek at GCSE are equally welcome. Such candidates are encouraged to contact the Director of Studies, Dr Torsten Meissner, directly for individual advice. For the three-year course, applicants should have studied at least one of the Classical languages to A Level, or IB Higher level, or equivalent.  No other A Level, or equivalent, subjects are stipulated or deemed inappropriate.  There are no fixed quotas for the three- and four-year course respectively. Potential applicants studying for other qualifications (e.g. applicants from outside the UK) should contact Dr Meissner for advice.

The admissions process consists of interviews with two College subject representatives, and an Admissions Tutor or an academic from another discipline. Applicants will also have an external interview at another college which is allocated by the Faculty. Beforehand, applicants are asked to submit two essays of their choice written for their A-level subjects.  Those studying Greek and/or Latin for A-level, or equivalent, are expected to submit at least one essay in one of these subjects; four-year course applicants should submit an essay from an area as close to Classics as possible (for example, Ancient History or literature in a modern language).  If in doubt, please contact Dr Meissner.

For those with Latin at A Level, interview applicants will sit a one hour written assessment, involving translation of an unseen passage of Latin; those without Latin A Level but with Greek A Level will be asked to sit a written assessment, involving translation of an unseen passage of Greek. This assessment is administered by the Faculty but sat in College. In addition, all candidates will be given preparatory reading before the subject interview. This reading consists of an unseen passage of Latin for candidates with A level Latin (or equivalent); candidates with Greek A level (or equivalent) only (i.e. not studying for Latin A level) will get an unseen passage of Greek instead. Candidates will be asked to translate the passage and answer grammatical and content questions. Candidates  without either language, that is four-year applicants, will sit a language aptitude test and will undergo a central assessment process operated by the Faculty. An example paper for the Language aptitude test can be found here, and the solutions here. Further details about the at-interview written assessment can be found on the University of Cambridge website.

A few undergraduates reading Classics at Pembroke take a year off after completing school before coming to university, and the College encourages this if applicants have firm plans for that year, although understanding that it is not always possible or desirable. Further enquiries should be addressed to Dr Meissner at Pembroke. For further information please see the page about Classics on the University website. 

Go to the Classics faculty website