It won't be news to you that the University of Cambridge is a pretty old place - 800 years old, in fact. In those eight centuries, it has acquired a lot of character; a glorious history, a string of grand names, and a range of traditions and regulations. Some are lovable, some are quirky, and some are downright annoying. But we are sure you will find your way through all this and get to enjoy yourself a lot along the way.
The University Library
The University Library is located directly opposite of Robinson, in a massive industrialist brick building by Giles Gilbert Scott. It is one of five Copyright Libraries in Great Britain, meaning that it is entitled by law to receive a free copy of every publication published and sold in the country. So, in short, you really should be able to find that book you are searching for over there. The library is open to the public (via request), and all Undergraduates, Graduates, alumni and academic staff of the University are entitled to check out books. To get access to the library, you may need to activate the library account on your University card the first time you visit the library.
Large parts of the library's collection are stored in various dependencies, like departmental and specialised libraries scattered over town. For many of those, you need a special registration before you can check out books, which might take a few days to process, so it is a good idea to sort this out in your first days to avoid disappointment once you really urgently need that one special book for your work.
University and NUS Cards
The University issue all staff and students with University Cards. If you are a student that card acts as your library ID, College ID, cafeteria payment, department access, and often also as your room key, so you really don't want to lose it. The card can also get you discounts at many shops and services in town, and at Scudamore's punt hire (see here for more details). Cards should be ready for collection from Keisha Sharp (in the Tutorial Office on V staircase) in the first few days of term. If you do happen to misplace or lose your card, speak to Keisha and she will order you a new one.
Separate NUS cards, identifying you as a member of the National Union of Students, are issued by the MCR (usually during Freshers' Week) and they entitle you to discounts at restaurants and shops in town and the Vue cinema complex. These cards are not generally recognized outside of Cambridge, but you may like to purchase an NUS Extra Card for £12, which is more widely accepted. See their website for more details.
CUSU and GU
Robinson Students are all members of CUSU (Cambridge University Students' Union), which is affiliated to the National Union of Students (NUS). The sabbatical CUSU committee play a vital role in protecting the rights and interests of students within the University.
All Robinson Graduates are also members of the Graduate Union (GU). The GU represents Graduates on University committees and provides a range of services for its members; for example, cheap gown hire, computing, printing and photocopying facilities, thesis binding and a cafe in the centre of town. The GU office is at 17 Mill Lane and the GU lounge is open for anyone to use. You can contact them on (3)33312. They also provide a welfare officer (jointly funded by CUSU) to provide welfare support to any graduate that needs it not matter how big or small your problem may be. For more details about the GU, its work and the services it provides, see its website or talk to the Robinson External Officer, Ji-Yoon An (jya2) who sits on the GU and CUSU Councils.
The GU Handbook for 2013/14 can be found here.
There is a huge variety of Societies run by students within the University, including a wide range of sports and social interactions. They all present themselves at the CUSU Societies Fair, which is held in the Kelsey Kerridge Sports Hall (on the Mill Road side of Parker's Piece) during Freshers' week. During the fair, they are not allowed to ask for any money, so you can safely put your names on a wide range of email lists and decide afterward whether you really want to join. Remember that if you join a University society which does not have a College equivalent, you can claim 50% of the subscription fee back from the RCSA. If there is no society catering for your interests, start your own! The RCSA or the MCR may be able to help you out financially so speak to one of the treasurers for more details.
The University Centre
The University Centre (which formally was known as the Grad-Pad) allows all members of the University access to its facilities. It is situated just behind the Mill pub on Laundress Lane (next to Silver Street Bridge), over looking the river. All members of the University are automatically members of the Centre. The University Centre has several dining facilities - a cafeteria in the main Dining Hall, a formal restaurant (Riverside restaurant) and a coffee lounge on the third floor. open seven days a week. It also has a gym for members and is home to the Gates Scholars Lounge. The University Centre has a number of public meeting rooms available for hire at fairly competitive prices. Contact 01223 (3)37751 for more details. Facilities are open all year round and the cafeteria is open when the college kitchens shut during the summer vacation.
Bureaucracy and Red Tape
The collegiate structure of the University can, at first glance, make things look confusing. However for graduates it is really quite straightforward: generally your faculty or department looks after the academic side of things and your College the pastoral and social side. Overseeing the whole process is the Student Registry (formally BOGS - Board of Graduate Studies), based in Mill Lane. They aim to coordinate your time here as a Graduate. Unfortunately, the Student Registry have a reputation for slowness, getting thesis titles wrong, and even the occasional mis-registration. Usually these mistakes are quite harmless and easily rectified, but it is best not to let them accumulate. If you are continuing an Undergraduate course (veterinary science, medicine), then you can probably relax: your registration is almost certainly sorted, and your department deals with most of the administration. The same applies to 'taught' one and two year courses such as Architecture. However, if you believe that you are studying for a Masters or PhD then you should take care to find out exactly what your department has registered you for. This is particularly important if you are studying for a research based Masters degree and are considering continuing for a PhD. You should check whether you will be able to count your Masters year towards your PhD. This is becoming increasingly difficult, but if you will have suitable material to carry over then try to make sure that you can. Finding out your position early on is essential, particularly if you will be paying the university fees. PhD students are often not at first registered for any degree. Don't worry too much about this - it means that on successful completion of your first year (usually a viva or exam is held) you will be registered for the PhD with one year already completed. Another possibility is that after one year of successful research / study you will be awarded the CPGS (Certificate of Post-Graduate Study) which basically says that you are fit to carry out research work. On finishing your course / research, you or your department will have to contact the Student Registry. Some departments may require you to do this yourself, so check. Until all of the paperwork has been passed by the Student Registry, you won't get your degree. You can follow the progress of your registration and status on the self-help system, CamSIS.
Awards and Prizes
There are a wide range of awards and prizes offered throughout the university, some purely on academic merit and others for doing things like writing poetry or essays. These are advertised in the awards issue of the Cambridge University Reporter.
Once you have passed your exams (taught M.Phils) or your thesis and viva (research M.Phils and PhDs), you can graduate. You may choose to graduate in person or in absentia. If you choose to graduate in person, the College will invite you (and your guests) to lunch on the day of your graduation prior to walking you down to the Senate House to present you with your degree. You will need to contact the Praelector's Secretary, Linda Hunns ((3)39142) in the Tutorial Office, to arrange this. She will be able to answer any questions you have about graduating and arrangements on the day.
You must wear full academic dress to receive your degree in a ceremony at the Senate House. This is very dark suit/skirt, white shirt/blouse (with white bow tie for men), black tights/socks, very dark shoes, gown and the appropriate 'hood' for the degree that you are taking. Gowns and hoods can be hired from Ede & Ravenscroft or from Ryder & Amies. National or official dress may also be worn by permission.
There are a number of graduation ceremonies throughout the year, and you can, to some extent, choose at which ceremony you wish to take your degree. Graduation in June is restricted to Undergraduates. Popular Graduate graduation dates are late summer and around Easter.
It is relatively easy to earn some extra money to add to your grant. All of the obvious part-time jobs exist within the city (pubs, shops etc.), and there tends to be an abundance as Undergraduates of the university are not allowed part-time jobs. However, most people manage to get by with some combination of teaching and College-related work. The main difficulty is making sure that your teaching commitments do not eat into your research time too heavily.
Supervising (teaching small groups of Undergraduates) can be a very rewarding and challenging experience. It pays relatively well - about £30 per hour (depending on group size) spent teaching (but you do not get paid for the hours spent preparing or marking). You should typically reckon on 2 hours preparation the first time you give a supervision. Graduates are restricted by the university to 6 hours of teaching per week. Supervisions are arranged on behalf of each College by individual Directors of Studies, usually a few weeks before the start of each term. For this reason it is worth getting to know them some time in advance by making some inquiries so that you are on their lists of interested supervisors. It is often also necessary to make sure you are on your department's list of approved supervisors. Good supervisors are highly valued, so if you do a good job in your first year you have a good chance of getting repeat business in the future.
Most science courses include demonstrations or classes of some kind. These are usually organized by the relevant department, and as with supervising it is worth asking early on. Although demonstrating pays much less than supervising, the hours are predictable and there is less preparation required.
The many College and department libraries are often in need of part-time help. This work is usually advertised on notice boards around the university.
Throughout the year, there is a demand for exam invigilators. The University is quite good at advertising this work, but you need to be of 'MA status' (i.e. to have a Cambridge MA or be at least 24 years of age). There may also be opportunities to invigilate in College especially during admissions season. Details of opportunities to invigilate are usually propagated via email.
Housekeeping and Catering
If you are on a taught course that does not run throughout the vacations you might want to consider a holiday job in the Housekeeping or Catering Departments. They almost always employ students during the conference periods to cover for staff who are on holiday. See Julie Allen in the Housekeeping Department or Sarah Harold in the Food Services Office (bottom of K staircase) for more details of opportunities in Robinson or look on individual college websites for other opportunities.