Cambridge is one of the world’s leading universities for engineering education. According to Times Higher Education it’s in 2nd position in the UK. Its prestigious colleges provide students with an unparalleled learning experience, access to top-quality resources, and a dynamic community to support their academic journey.
We explore the best Cambridge colleges for an engineering degree. Whether you are looking for a college with a modern outlook or a traditional feel, centrally located or in a quieter setting, Cambridge offers something for everyone. Trinity, St John’s, Pembroke, Churchill, and Gonville & Caius College are among the best engineering colleges in Cambridge.
The colleges we discuss provide rigorous and innovative engineering programmes, with notable alumni including innovators, academics and Nobel Prize winners.
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The Best 5 Cambridge Colleges for Engineering
Trinity College is widely regarded as one of the best Cambridge colleges for engineering. With a strong tradition of producing world-class engineers, including three Nobel Prize winners in Physics, Trinity boasts an impressive array of resources and facilities. The largest community of Engineering students and Fellows sets it apart from other colleges. It is also in the second position on Tompkins table for an overall academic rating in 2022.
With an acceptance rate of 14.8% for the Engineering programme in 2022, Trinity is considered a highly competitive college to get into.
It has its student engineering society – Trinity College Engineering Society, which is very prestigious among engineers and students.
Typical offers get applicants with A*A*A in Mathematics, Further Maths and bas preferred subjects.
Its spacious library houses a dedicated Engineering section, and the college has its wind tunnel, 3D printers, and good workshops. Trinity also provides generous financial support for engineering students, including scholarships, book grants, and travel awards.
St John’s College
St John’s College is another excellent choice for engineering students, known for its rigorous academic standards and strong focus on research. The college has a long history of supporting engineering, with notable alumni including Sir James Dyson and Sir John Cockcroft.
It’s placed in the top 10 colleges on the Tompkins table.
The college accepts up to 15 students in the engineering programme every year. A typical offer to get into is with A-levels A*A*A or 42 points of IB for international students.
If you are starting an academic journey at St John’s you will have a chance to join the Engineering Society, which organises events, lectures, and networking opportunities.
Engineering students at St John’s benefit from personalised supervision and small-group teaching, ensuring they receive the support and guidance necessary for success.
There is a vibrant and welcoming community for engineering students. With a diverse range of clubs and societies, from the Engineers’ Society to the St John’s College Boat Club, students can pursue their passions and make lifelong friendships. The college also hosts regular social events, such as formal halls and balls.
St John’s College fosters a strong sense of community among its members, with housing and full catering. Students are encouraged to participate in college life and contribute to the inclusive, supportive atmosphere.
Engineering students can enjoy access to very good facilities, including laboratories, workshops, and computer suites. The college library houses an extensive collection of books, journals, and online resources to support students academic pursuits.
Pembroke is one of the best Cambridge colleges for engineering, with a strong focus on fostering innovation, engineering excellence and creativity. It’s the third oldest of the Cambridge colleges. They accept 16 undergraduate applicants every year.
To get conditional offers from Pembroke College requires A*A*A in A-Levels for Mathematics and Physics (or equivalent), and Chemistry.
Applicants to Pembroke’s rigorous engineering programme are expected to possess a highly proficient background in physics and mathematics.
Its engineering alumni include Sir Geoffrey Wilkinson, a Nobel Prize-winning chemist, and Charles Babbage, the “father of the computer.”
Keeping an open and friendly attitude can help tremendously in navigating this transition and making new friends.
Getting involved in campus activities, student organizations, sports teams, volunteer groups, or other pursuits that interest you is one of the best ways to meet people with similar interests and create a sense of belonging.
While you will certainly bond with those on your corridor or in your college, it is also important to meet students from different colleges and backgrounds.
The opportunities for the community at Pembroke College are abundant. Living arrangements, colleges, departments, clubs, Greek life, religious groups, and more can all facilitate establishing new relationships. Making friends is at the top of most students’ minds, but the truth is that everyone is looking to make new friends.
Do not be afraid to put yourself in social situations, strike up conversations, exchange information, and build a network of people you enjoy.
Settling into life at Cambridge may feel overwhelming, but with an open and friendly attitude, getting involved, and putting in the effort to make personal connections, you will find your place.
Pembroke College offers amazing facilities for its engineering students, including well-equipped laboratories, and IT departments. The college library provides a vast array of resources to support students academic pursuits.
Churchill College is a modern and innovative institution with a strong emphasis on science and engineering. Considered as a top Cambridge college for engineering.
Founded in 1960 by Sir Winston Churchill, with a particular mission to make excellent students in science and technology. It is a prime destination for students wishing to pursue Engineering.
Churchill boasts excellent facilities, including a dedicated engineering library, a Computer-Aided Design (CAD) laboratory, and modern workshops.
The college provides a specialised set of rooms for Engineering teaching purposes and is home to a significant number of Engineering Fellows compared to other Cambridge Colleges.
It’s modern and different from traditional Cambridge colleges.
The college’s strong research credentials and close ties with industry partners provide students with invaluable opportunities for hands-on experience and collaboration.
Churchill College is located about 10-15 minutes away from the city centre, which is convenient for students who prefer a quieter location.
While the college is relatively new and not considered prestigious, it has a strong reputation for science and engineering programmes. However, the college has a noticeable gender imbalance, with a predominantly male population.
The food quality is not outstanding, except for some days. Rent prices are comparatively high in 2023. The college is close to the University Library and offers access to back paths into town, which is a significant advantage.
The college boasts massive playing fields and its theatre, which shows films every Wednesday night.
Living in college with fellow students for three years is a unique opportunity that few other colleges can offer. The college also provides a very fast and free internet connection, and it only takes around 7-10 minutes to cycle to the town centre.
Gonville & Caius College
Gonville & Caius College, often referred to simply as “Caius” is a prestigious institution with a strong focus on science and engineering. It’s considered on many lists as one of the best Cambridge colleges for engineering.
Caius admits around 16 students for engineering each year, which positions them as a popular and relatively large college for future engineers.
Caius College is reputed to hold a prestigious position within the esteemed University of Cambridge. While the thought of as traditionally quite conservative, like all of Cambridge’s colleges, perceptions should be taken with a grain of salt.
As a first-year student at Gonville & Caius, one can anticipate living in Harvey Court housing, located near Sidney Sussex College.
While proximate to art departments, the residence also finds itself rather distant from medical and other faculty buildings along with Cambridge’s city centre, though distances remain trifling throughout the university.
The main college facilities are positioned in the heart of town with Cambridge’s other historic colleges.
Overall, we would advise against placing too much weight on any individual college’s academic standing, as the university itself facilitates the majority of instruction.
As mentioned above, Gonville & Caius College upholds a repute for excellence, particularly for engineering, natural science and medicine, though as a fellow in good standing, even Stephen Hawking gravitated to its ranks at one point.
If your choice is Caius, we are sure you will not regret that decision.
To get into Caius you will need to have a strong academic record, with A-level in Mathematics and Physics, and a 3rd A-Level in science-related subjects. These are fundamental for Engineering applicants at Caius.
Why Study Engineering at Cambridge University?
Cambridge University is consistently ranked among the top institutions in the world for engineering. Its Department of Engineering is one of the largest departments in the university, offering a diverse range of research areas and teaching expertise.
Studying engineering at Cambridge provides numerous benefits, including:
- Access to cutting-edge research facilities and world-class faculty.
- A strong emphasis on practical learning, with engineering students engaging in hands-on projects and problem-solving exercises.
- An extensive network of industry connections, providing opportunities for internships, placements, and potential future employment.
- A supportive and collaborative learning environment fosters innovation and creativity.
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Entry Requirements for Engineering Cambridge Colleges
Entry requirements for engineering at Cambridge University vary depending on the college and the specific course you wish to study.
The engineering programme at Cambridge Colleges has some fundamental requirements but beyond that, students have flexibility in crafting a course of study tailored to their interests and goals.
Math and physics at the A-level (or equivalent) are the absolutes required to enrol in an engineering degree at Cambridge.
If students have options within their math or further math, they will find mechanics and pure mathematics most directly relevant and useful for the engineering curriculum. While other subjects may complement an engineering degree, math and physics provide the mathematical and scientific foundation upon which all engineering disciplines are built.
Typical offers for admission into an engineering programme at Cambridge colleges will require at least A* grades in three A-levels (or IB Higher 40-42 points), often preferably in math, further math, and physics.
While other subjects may be considered as part of a balanced application, math and science A-levels are typically expected and desired.
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Does Cambridge have an entrance exam for Engineering?
Yes – Cambridge uses the entrance exam for an Engineering programme to evaluate applicants in pre-interview selection.
A key component of this process is the Engineering Admissions Assessment (ENGAA), which is required for all applicants pursuing an undergraduate engineering degree.
The primary goal of the ENGAA is to evaluate a candidate’s potential to excel in an academically demanding undergraduate engineering programme at Cambridge.
The assessment measures a student’s ability to use and apply their scientific and mathematical knowledge, drawing on their understanding of key concepts and problem-solving skills.
By challenging applicants, the ENGAA effectively differentiates between those who are likely to succeed in the programme, including high-achieving students with top grades in their school examinations.
The Structure of the ENGAA
The ENGAA is a two-hour examination divided into two distinct sections:
- Section 1: Maths/Physics – This section, which lasts for 60 minutes, tests the candidate’s understanding of fundamental mathematical and physics principles.
- Section 2: Advanced Physics – The second section, also 60 minutes long, consists of multiple-choice questions that cover more advanced physics topics.
ENGAA Exam Key Dates for the 2024 Entry Cycle
For students planning to apply for an engineering programme at Cambridge in the 2024 entry cycle, it is important to be aware of the following key dates:
- Registration deadline for ENGAA: 29th September 2024
- Assessment (test) day for ENGAA: 18th October 2024
The latest content specification for ENGAA is here (it’s an official PDF file from Cambridge).
Cambridge Engineering Acceptance Rate
So, how hard is it to get into Engineering at Cambridge? Engineering is in the top 3 most popular courses at Cambridge every year and is very competitive with around 2750 applicants.
The official acceptance rate for Engineering at Cambridge Univeristy is 12.4%, according to the Admission Report.
This means that approximately 1 in every 8 students who applied were accepted. However, this rate varies between colleges and can be influenced by factors such as the number of applicants, college size, and individual college requirements.
Is the University of Cambridge Good for Engineering?
The University of Cambridge is an excellent choice for engineering students looking for an intensive and rewarding programme. At Cambridge, the coursework is individually driven and focused, allowing students to graduate in four years with an Engineering degree by taking primarily engineering classes.
Students gain a depth of knowledge, even though Cambridge offers a broad range of engineering programs. They also benefit from Cambridge’s supervision system, meeting weekly with supervisors in small groups to discuss concepts and develop analytical and critical thinking skills.
These supervisions challenge students to think on their feet, process large amounts of information quickly, and apply rigorous analysis.
While the workload at Cambridge is rigorous, the opportunities it provides are vast. Graduating with an engineering degree from Cambridge opens many doors and provides skills that serve students well beyond their university studies and engineering careers.
The workload may be higher than at other universities, but the payoff is substantial.
Cambridge and Oxford have different strengths in engineering studies. Cambridge offers a wider range of modules for exploring various engineering fields, while Oxford provides more concentrated study in specific engineering topics. Prospective students should consider their priorities and learning preferences when choosing between these two prestigious universities.