Student accommodation guide for Univeristy of Cambridge colleges

Student Accommodation In Cambridge Colleges: An Expert Guide 2024

If you are applying to Cambridge one of the things you need to think about is student accommodation. As an education expert, I’m often asked about the different accommodation options available at the 31 colleges of the University of Cambridge.

Choosing where to live is an important decision for undergraduate students, so I wanted to provide an in-depth look at what each Cambridge college has to offer. 

In this guide, I’ll give you the inside scoop on the rooms, facilities, and overall atmosphere of each Cambridge college.

Whether you’re looking for traditional dorms or modern apartments, this guide has all the details to find your perfect student accommodation in Cambridge colleges.

Student Accommodation in Cambridge Colleges 

The colleges are the heartbeat of the University of Cambridge. As a Cambridge student, your college will be your home away from home. The colleges provide accommodation, dining, social activities, sports, clubs and pastoral support.

There are 31 colleges at Cambridge, each with its own distinctive identity and range of housing options. You will need to choose the best student accommodation in Cambridge colleges.

The colleges vary in size too – from fewer than 100 students at some graduate-only colleges to over 600 students at larger, more traditional colleges.

Most undergraduate students will live in college-owned accommodation at Cambridge, at least for the first year of their course. The majority of rooms are single occupancy in hostels, courts or houses owned by the college. Some colleges also offer flats for couples or families.

Rent is generally inclusive of utilities, internet, basic furnishings, and access to college facilities. Accommodation costs range from around £100-£200 per week for a single room.

Couples’ flats cost £200-£300 per week. Additional charges may apply for catered meals, phone line, laundry etc.

When choosing a college preference, location and facilities are two key factors to consider. But the general environment and community may matter just as much to find your ideal home. 

Visiting the colleges in person is the best way to get a feel for each place.

Traditional Cambridge Colleges with Historic Charm

Fancy living surrounded by Cambridge’s incredible history and architecture? Sounds like a perfect student accommodation at Cambridge. The central colleges with medieval roots offer that classic Oxbridge experience.

Christ’s has some of Cambridge’s most iconic buildings from the 15th-17th centuries. Rooms are located on the main site or minutes away. With nicknames like ‘The Castle on the River’, Christ’s has real old-world charm. It’s ranked number 1 on the Tompkins table.

Clare College is known for its beautiful Old Court and charming bridges over the River Cam. Their 400 undergraduate and grad students live in rooms clustered around the historic centre, perfect for soaking up that ancient scholar vibe.

Clare college Cambridge University
Photo: Clare College University, of Cambridge

Emmanuel, founded in 1584, also provides rooms on its central site steeped in history. Striking architecture like the Front Court with its immaculate lawn makes this a classic Cambridge backdrop.

Jesus College is another photogenic central college, dating back to 1496. Rooms are based in various historic courtyards, offering that quintessential Cambridge collegiate feel. It’s one of the best Cambridge colleges

For history buffs who dream of studying in medieval lecture halls and chapels, it’s hard to beat the classics like Christ’s, Clare, Emmanuel and Jesus.

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Modern Colleges with Great Facilities

Prefer modern living and futuristic architecture over old-fashioned charm? Check out Cambridge’s newest colleges.

One of Cambridge’s youngest colleges, Robinson was founded in 1977. Its student accommodation at Cambridge has a contemporary style, with rooms located in hostels close to the college’s striking, modernist buildings.

Churchill College also has an innovative, 1960s design by architects Richard Sheppard and David Roberts. Their priority was creating a supportive environment, including welcoming accommodation with plenty of green space.

Focused on technological solutions to global issues, Lucy Cavendish College is forward-thinking too. Although primarily for female students, it welcomes diverse perspectives. The college is close to the West Cambridge Site’s cutting-edge facilities.

Lucy Cavendish College
Photo: Lucy Cavendish College

For the latest amenities alongside your studies, these new colleges all offer comfortable, 21st-century living and great accommodation at the Univerity of Cambridge.

Cambridge Colleges For Postgraduate Students

Some Cambridge colleges have an atmosphere and facilities that are tailored specifically to postgraduate students.

Darwin College only accepts students aged 21+, creating a mature environment. Their housing is located centrally or near the Botanic Garden, surrounded by greenery. Darwin boasts lots of communal areas to mingle with 500+ other grad students.

Clare Hall is also graduate-only, with less than 200 students. They emphasise informal networking and interdisciplinary conversation for mature students. Accommodation is set in secluded gardens neighbouring the University Library.

Student Accommodation at Cambridge college Hughes Hall is great
Photo: Hughes Hall

Hughes Hall has a similarly cosy, graduate-focused ambience. Most of their central housing is near the departments of languages, humanities and social sciences. Hughes also offers family accommodation, with plenty of community spirit.

For postgrads seeking a quieter, more intellectual habitat than undergrad-heavy colleges, Darwin, Clare Hall and Hughes are ideal choices.

Colleges with Extensive Green Spaces

Cambridge is beautiful, but the hustle and bustle of the city centre isn’t for everyone. These colleges located further from town provide a peaceful atmosphere.

If you are looking for a college with student accommodation at Cambridge with a lot of green spaces and gardens, no worries. Surrounded by 52 acres of grassy meadows, Girton College has a countryside atmosphere despite being only 2 miles from the university centre. The campus feels miles from the city, with acres of green lawns and a serene charm.

Set on the River Cam, Magdalene College also feels secluded but is just a 20-minute walk from the city. Its lawns stretch down to the river banks. Deer even roam freely on the college grounds (and hopefully not your room!). Magdalene is considered a top Cambridge college for law students.

Peterhouse is wonderfully tucked away too. Although still central, its gorgeous private gardens create a tranquil oasis amidst the city. The beautiful Deer Park offers more outdoor space for quiet reflection.

To live comfortably cocooned in nature but still close to lectures, Girton, Magdalene and Peterhouse offer the best of both worlds.

Cheapest Accommodation at Cambridge Colleges

Let’s be honest, Cambridge doesn’t come cheap. Especially for international students since they are paying huge tuition. But some colleges offer rooms at lower nightly rates for the budget-savvy.

Homerton set away from the city centre, provides good value for money. Their newer buildings have single rooms for just £144 per week. As one of the bigger, more modern colleges, Homerton’s prices are competitive.

St Edmund’s has economical rates too, starting around £100 per week for modest rooms with shared facilities. The college is known for its diversity, with students from 80 countries.

Although pricier than a studio flat elsewhere, Robinson is among the more affordable traditional Cambridge colleges. Freshly renovated rooms start around £110 per week, with easy access to West Cambridge.

To keep your Cambridge student accommodation costs down, check out Homerton, St Edmund’s and Robinson for the best bargains on college’ rooms. You’ll meet an international community in an unbeatable location.

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Most Prestigious Accommodation at Cambridge Colleges

A few of Cambridge’s historic colleges are notoriously tough to get into due to their prestige and popularity. Among the colleges with the most prestigious student accommodation at Cambridge are Trinity, St John’s, and Trinity.

With a 15th-century chapel and library, Trinity College is one of the grandest and the best Cambridge colleges for Engineering. Expect to pay over £100 per week for rooms in this iconic college. Competition is stiff too – Trinity only accepts around 16% of applicants.

St John’s sees even more ultra-competitive applications, accepting just 11% of students. Its Great Gate is instantly recognizable. Located by the River Cam, St John’s offers understated luxury in a prime location for a price.

Founded by Henry VIII himself, Trinity Hall is another eminent choice. Its charming courtyards come at a cost though, for both your wallet and your application. Trinity Hall receives nearly 10 applicants per place.

For students who crave the cachet of living and studying at these famous colleges, it’s worth the effort to apply. But smaller, lesser-known colleges often provide a warmer welcome and better value.

Most Sociable & Supportive Colleges

Beyond the fancy facilities, which colleges have the friendliest atmosphere for students?

Selwyn earns rave reviews for its warm, welcoming community. The college offers a buzzing social calendar and goes out of its way to help new students adjust. Both living and learning here are super supportive.

Downing also tops the charts for student satisfaction. A highlight is the MCR, or Middle Common Room, specifically for graduate students. The MCR plans social events and creates a true community feeling.

St Catharine’s has a reputation as one of Cambridge’s most easy-going colleges. With a slightly smaller student body, grads here say it’s easy to recognise familiar faces around campus and make good friends.

Looking for harmonious student accommodation at Cambridge University? Selwyn, Downing and St Catharine’s have some of the most sociable, caring communities ideal for postgrads.

Most Family-Friendly Colleges at Cambridge

What if you’re moving to Cambridge with kids as a postgraduate or researcher, a partner or other family in tow? These colleges provide the most accommodating environments.

Wolfson offers babysitting services, partners’ networks, and informal afternoon teas to include families in college activities. Their flats represent excellent value for couples with children.

Clare provides apartments, doubles and even a nursery to meet family needs. Student parents can request accommodations located close together to easily share childcare duties.

Churchill College also has enviable family housing, prioritizing community and support. Flats come with multiple bedrooms, living areas and kitchens to give families space.

For married students or those with kids, Wolfson, Clare and Churchill supply the family-focused accommodation at Cambridge and the amenities you require.

Wrapping Up: Student Accommodation In Cambridge

As you see it’s not easy to decide on student accommodation in Cambridge. Hopefully, this breakdown gives you a better sense of what types of accommodation and atmospheres each Cambridge college provides. 

While you aren’t guaranteed your first choice, browsing your options can help narrow your preferences.

The colleges offer characterful communities with history, innovative architecture, green spaces, affordability or social spirit to suit diverse needs. Visiting your shortlisted colleges can hugely benefit your decision-making.

Wherever you end up calling home, embrace the exciting new communities and experiences living at Cambridge Colleges brings. You’ll be following in the footsteps of centuries of passionate students who walked the same quads before you!


How much is student accommodation in Cambridge?

Accommodation costs can vary widely between Cambridge colleges. On average, expect to pay £120-£180 per week for a single room, and £200-£300 per week for a studio flat or couples’ accommodation. Rent normally includes utilities, internet, basics like a bed and desk, and access to college facilities. The most affordable rooms start at around £100 per week, while luxury accommodation can cost over £200.

Is it expensive to live in Cambridge as a student?

Yes, Cambridge is an expensive city for students compared to many other UK cities. London is more costly, but Cambridge student accommodation, social activities, food and transport all add up. 

That said, living in college-owned housing is quite affordable by Cambridge standards. Many students also get by without a car given the city’s size and bike-friendly infrastructure. It’s possible to live frugally in Cambridge, but the overall cost of living is higher than in other university towns.

What is the cheapest College to live at in Cambridge?

Homerton, St Edmund’s and Robinson generally have the most affordable college-owned accommodation. Homerton and St Edmund’s offer basic single rooms starting around £100-110 per week. Robinson’s weekly rates start around £110-120. Other cheaper options include Lucy Cavendish, Hughes Hall and Wolfson. But accommodation costs aren’t the only financial factor – some pricier colleges offer great scholarships and bursaries.

Is Cambridge cheaper than London?

Without question, studying and living in Cambridge is significantly cheaper than being based in London. While Cambridge is expensive for a university town, London is in a league of its own in terms of high costs and prices. Learn more about student cost of living in London.

Everything from rent and groceries to transport and nights out costs considerably less in Cambridge. The student lifestyle in Cambridge is also less fast-paced which helps reduce spending. For UK students looking to save money, Cambridge provides a higher quality of life for your budget than London universities.