The Violet guide to unofficial Cambridge colleges

False Cambridge stereotypes could not be more wrong. Violet’s very own Danny Wittenberg comes up with some decidedly better ones

Danny Wittenberg

Daniel Gayne

Cambridge, apparently, has 31 colleges – and you probably haven’t heard of a fair few of them. I mean, we all know Trinity and St John’s, King’s and Queens’, Gonville and Caius, but have you ever met anyone from Darwin? Are you certain Clare Hall isn’t part of Clare? And is St Edmund’s just another HSPS social construct?

You can’t trust the university advice. That fake news is written by the same admissions tutors who tell us Girton is a welcome escape from the city centre, liked Milo Yiannopoulos at interview, and deny Cambridge has any institutionalised racism. You can, of course, trust Violet. We aren’t just a famous name. We’re also a colour.

So, if these half-dozen virtually anonymous architectural retches can claim the mantle of colleges, what about the institutions we visit day after day? What of the actual places where we learn the hard-knock lessons of life and are guaranteed to bump into at least 17 people every bloody time? These unrecognised Cambridge colleges are out there, and you don’t have to look very hard to find them…

Sidney Sainsbury’s College

This college, in fact, is one of the smallest in Cambridge but also the best established. The atmosphere may be intense and its students often seem in a rush, but Sidney Sainsbury’s has everything you could ever need on one self-contained campus. Plus, it’s a stone’s throw away from the city centre and the nearest food vendors.

Despite the popular refrain, “I’d rather be at ALDI”, Sainsbury’s is a relatively modern college. It still holds on to some archaic traditions, however, such as checkouts with people working at them, and a points-scoring system like other colleges use for rooms ballots, where you have to put a lot in but the rewards are minimal.

"Are you certain Clare Hall isn’t part of Clare? And is St Edmund’s just another HSPS social construct?"

Kuda College Cambridge

Once one of the more accessible colleges in Cambridge, with its diverse cohort and decent gender ratio, Kuda (pronounced ‘Life’) has become the hardest to get into. The main quad may be dribbling with vomit and jaeger and the atmosphere hormonally charged, but its sheer popularity gives them no problem attracting applicants.

The admissions process is long and draining. Prospective students suffer sleepless nights in anticipation. On arrival, the Porters are particularly unpleasant and, for an elite so hard to enter, it is surprisingly easy to find yourself kicked out. For those who make it, visiting fellows such as Emma Thompson offer an enriching experience.

Amateur Dramatics College

Known as the ADC, this college competes with John’s in the privilege stakes. The community here is tight-knit and vibesy. Drama, in every sense, has been the most popular subject at Stephen Fry’s alma mater long before the days of trigger warnings, LGBT+ and a tolerant society. Instantly recognisable for its broken fourth wall.

ADC students are throbbing with arrogance, but mostly because they know their college is amazing. Everyone seems to be an enviable mixture of clever, talented, and good-looking.

St Fitzbillies

Boasting the perfect combination of a down-to-earth atmosphere, warm aesthetic and great location, St Fitzbillies is a model Cambridge college. Students here tend to be sociable, though the majority of the people never seem to venture outside the college doors.

Courses offered for undergrads include early morning coffee, brunch, lunch and afternoon tea. However, the bar is basically non-existent, and you have to be pretty well-off to afford the food.


Mountain View

Varsity’s comprehensive guide to Cambridge vocab

Haze Hall

Quite consciously, Haze Hall is the most intensely different of all the colleges. Teeming with Marxists, Radfems and anarchists, this fervent environment is not for the faint-hearted or Blairite. Yet, if you can’t ride the waves of fashion you’re never going to fit in.

Haze charges extortionate rent for rooms similar to other colleges (see Kuda College Cambridge), except smaller and stuffier. Many students only socialise with other members of the college, and if that wasn’t bad enough, their formalwear is 3/4 length trousers