It’s called what? Term names and other unique words used at Cambridge

King's College chapel

For those of you who grew up in the UK, this next bit may not be new. But, if like me, you did not grow up here, the names of the terms may be a bit confusing for you. Not to worry, it’s fairly simple.

The official University of Cambridge term dates are:

  • Autumn/Fall Term = Michaelmas (and this academic year it runs from Tuesday 4 October – Friday 2 December)
  • Winter Term = Lent (and this academic year it runs from Tuesday 17 January – Friday 17 March)
  • Spring Term = Easter (and this academic year it runs from Tuesday 25 April – Friday 16 June)

As many of you already know, your programme might have slightly different term periods, be sure to have a look at your programme page to double check the dates of your programme.

Outside of the term names, there are a lot of other unique words or words that are used uniquely at Cambridge. Here’s a partial list, culled from the links below:

  • Admission – the act of granting and receiving a degree (not the process of being accepted into a College).
  • The Backs – the area of Cambridge, around the river Cam between Silver Street and Bridge Street. Also known as Queen’s Road.
  • Bursar – a College administrative officer (for example a Senior Bursar or Domestic Bursar).
  • Buttery – place in a College where students can purchase provisions.
  • Hall – the dining hall in College; hence the meal taken in the evening, as in “meet after Hall”.
  • Heads – a collective noun for Masters of Colleges, as in: Heads of Houses (also known as Master, President, Provost, Mistress or Warden).
  • Induction – orientation/introduction.
  • Intermit – to interrupt an academic course, with the intention of resuming it later.
  • Master – at most Colleges, the head of the College.
  • Oxford – a beta-test for Cambridge.
  • Pigeonhole – (noun) a personal mailbox, typically in the Porters’ Lodge; (verb) to leave a message for someone in their pigeonhole.
  • Porter (or Gate Porter) – a College staff member who tends the gates of the College. Not someone who carries your luggage. From the Latin porta, meaning door.
  • Porter (or Outside Porter) – a College staff member who carries things around. Not someone who looks after the gates. From the Latin portare, meaning to carry.
  • Supervision – a tutorial held by a Supervisor.
  • Supervisor – person appointed by the College to teach students.
  • Tutor – a College officer who does not teach you. A bureaucrat and a shoulder to cry on. Supposedly, students never deal with the University authorities directly, but only through their Tutor.

If you’re confused about other words, there are many more Cambridge words at these links:

Melendra Sanders

Melendra Sanders

Deputy Information & Library Services Manager