Cambridge is not only a town with a University but also a University with a town. Whoever is walking through the many small lanes of this city will ingest the history with every step – the University is everywhere. Cambridge will be my home for the next three months to do research projects and to write articles together with colleagues Bill Nicholl, Marc Winterbottom and Ian Hosking in context of our CETE-network. Three months is really not a long time but long enough to figure out a good accomodation and to get familiar with the surrounding area.
Arrival in Cambridge is easy. The residents are used to be surrounded by tourists with their cameras and guides as well as thousands of university students from other countries or visiting professors from all over the world who are learning, teaching and doing research at one of the famous universities of the world. One of the famous? – The residents would say it is the most famous university of all. They are very proud of their heritage. Only the university with the O. is also accepted (Oxford). Although you have to keep in mind that the University of Cambridge´s primary colour is a lighter shade of blue, hence the residents of Cambridge refer to Oxford as, ‘‘the others come from the dark side…!“
The best way to get to know why the residents are so proud of their University is to book a guided tour offered by the tourist information office. I did not regret the two hours tour. Guided by Sybilla (the wife of the master of the Corpus Christi College – quasi-insider) as Cambridge can only be understood by standing in the courtyard of a college or smelling the atmosphere of a buildings, such as the famous college dining halls that are literally hundreds of years old.
Already the strucure of the university is totaly different from German ones. To study or teach at the University you have to be a member of one of the 31 Colleges. The University is then a quasi umbrella, where all the Faculties and Insitutes are responsible for teaching and research.
As a quasi social backbone of the University, the Colleges are responsible for the accomodation and supply as well as student tutorials and general welfare. Thus, there is a certain amount of ‘kudos‘ associated with being a member of a particular college.
One day I walked trough Cambridge to get familiar with the University and was surprised by many male and female students walking around Cambridge with their parents. After my guided tour I do now know that this were the so-called ‘‘Volvo-Days“ where parents pick-up their children from their respective boarding schools at the end of term.
So, as you can see Cambridge has many traditions and standards and it will be a great privilege for me as a visiting professor to get to know more about the structure and administration of one of the most successfull universities in the world.