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   Sidney Sussex has over 400 years of history but is a College with clear ambition for its future. We are a vibrant and forward-looking College, with firm plans for continuing success in academic endeavour, and all sporting and cultural pursuits. This is an exciting time for the College, and if you want to push the boundaries and explore just how far your abilities will take you, then come and join us!  

Professor Richard Penty, Master at Sidney Sussex College

Every student at Cambridge is admitted by and becomes a member of a College, which becomes their home while they are at university. That's why most students feel a stronger connection to their College than to the university as a whole. The College is the place students live and the focus of their social life, but it also has an important academic role, providing the individual teaching that is a key part of the Cambridge education.

There are 29 Colleges that admit undergraduate students, so choosing between them can seem a difficult task. It's important to remember that the choice of College will not make a difference to your statistical chance of gaining a place at Cambridge. Probably the best way to choose is to pick an environment that you think will suit you, and where you will feel at home.

What makes Sidney special?

Our focus on helping you to achieve Wisteria at Sidney

  • The ethos of the College is all about achieving to the best of your potential, and you'll find that we will give you every support you in doing this. A structured learning skills programme will help develop your study and revision techniques, while supervisions give you the opportunity to develop and debate your ideas with your fellow students and academics. Our varied programme of extra-curricular talks and lectures adds to the environment, and makes Sidney a place where bright and ambitious students flourish.

Our small and inclusive student body

  • The atmosphere at Sidney is friendly and unpretentious, and our students are known throughout Cambridge for their strong sense of community. We admit around 105 undergraduates each year, and this means that everyone gets to know each other very quickly. We have an active students' union and various sports clubs, music and drama societies, and there are plenty of opportunities to meet students in other subjects and year groups. Our small size means that we value participation, and whatever your level, there will be a team or club keen to have you involved.
  • The Sidney Sussex College Student Union, otherwise known as SSCSU, run their own website and this provides a useful insight into Sidney life from a student perspective. Please visit the website to access lots of helpful information, including some personal testimonies written by Sidney students on studying their subjects here.

Our town centre location

  • We're right in the centre of town, close to university faculties and departments, and with shops, restaurants and bars all around. Despite our peaceful setting and tranquil gardens, we have Cambridge right on our doorstep.

Our excellent food

  • The quality of food at Sidney is well known, and our chefs have won numerous awards. Most students choose to eat in the College dining hall at least once a day - as well as providing a good value meal, it's an opportunity to meet friends and plan the rest of your day. Most meals are self-service, and there is always a wide choice of hot and cold meals. Three times a week there is a more formal option, where a three course dinner is served. These are popular occasions for inviting friends from other Colleges.

Our strong financial support system

  • Through the Cambridge Bursary Scheme, Sidney is able to provide a range of bursaries for students in financial need. There are also grants for study and travel, and hardship funds for students with unexpected financial problems.


The first question you need to ask is whether the Cambridge course in your chosen subject is right for you. Different universities approach subjects in different ways, so find out whether our course, the topics covered and the style of teaching and assessment, are what you are looking for. Course details are outlined on the University of Cambridge website. 

It is important to note that many universities have strict entry requirements for certain courses. At Sidney, for example, we require all applicants to have taken Mathematics at A-Level (or equivalent qualification) when applying for our Economics course. Therefore, it is important to think carefully about how your subject choices might have an impact on the courses you can apply for at university. Please refer to the 'Subject Matters' guide for further advice about selecting subjects that will give you the greatest flexibility when it comes to selecting a course to study at university.

Once you’ve decided that the Cambridge course is right for you, you should strongly consider applying if you are on track to achieve our standard offer level and if you and your school feel that you would benefit from studying at Cambridge. You can read more about our standard offer levels on our subject pages.

If you have any queries about applying, please contact our Admissions Officer, Miss Sophie Comiskey ().


At Sidney, we welcome students from every background and from all school types. We particularly encourage those students whose families and schools have little experience of applying to Cambridge to talk to us for more advice and support during the application process. We are firmly opposed to discrimination of any kind, and admit students on academic merit alone.


All applications to the University of Cambridge are made through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS). Your UCAS application must be submitted online using UCAS Apply. The UCAS institution code for Cambridge is CAM 05, and the campus code for Sidney Sussex is 3. 

At Cambridge, all prospective undergraduate students must apply to a College rather than to the department or to a central admissions office. You can choose to apply to a College directly, or you can choose to make an open application.

Once your UCAS application has been received, you will be asked to complete an online Supplementary Application Questionnaire (SAQ). In order to make a valid application to the University of Cambridge you must submit your SAQ by the deadline specified on the University of Cambridge website.

If you're currently living or studying outside the EU, you are also required to submit a Cambridge Online Preliminary Application (COPA). This requirement does not apply if your family home is outside the EU, but you are studying within the EU at the time of your application.

Many applicants will be required to supply copies of written work and this work should not be written specially for the occassion and should have been marked by a member of your school/college staff. Please check our subject pages to see if you might be required to submit written work. We will provide further guidance on the requirements for written work, and a coversheet, on receipt of your application.

If your education has been significantly disrupted or disadvantaged for health or personal reasons, you may also wish to submit an Extenuating Circumstances Form.

All courses, except for Mathematics and Music, will be required to sit either a pre-interview assessment or an at-interview assessment as part of the admissions process. Full details can be found on our subject pages and on the University website.


We are looking for students with ability, enthusiasm and commitment to the academic study of their chosen subject. In selecting students, we will consider:

  • Your academic record, including examination results taken so far and predicted grades in your final exams.
  • Your personal statement, showing your motivation, enthusiasm and wider exploration of your chosen subject.
  • Your reference from your school or college.
  • Submitted written work - in some subjects we may ask you to send us two essays written as part of your normal schoolwork.
  • Your performance in any admissions assessments we ask you to sit.
  • If you are invited to interview, your performance at interview.

All of these factors together will be used to make a final decision about your application.


Although interviews play an important part in our admissions process, it is important to stress that they are just one factor in making our final decision. Alongside interviews, we also place great importance on your academic record, the information provided on your UCAS form and SAQ, your reference, written work, and admissions assessments. We use interviews because they allow us to find out more about your enthusiasm for your subject, your academic strengths, and your potential to make the most of our teaching system.

Due to the level of competition for places at Cambridge, we are not able to interview every applicant, and some candidates will not be invited for an interview. At Sidney Sussex we interview all candidates who have a realistic chance of being offered a place, which in recent years has been around 80% of our applicants.

Most candidates will have two interviews, lasting about 25-30 minutes each. These will take place in early December, and you should make sure you are available around this time, as it is very difficult for us to reschedule interviews except in cases of illness or other serious problems.

Both interviews will relate to the subject you have chosen to study. In some cases, one interview may be concerned with your motivation and wider exploration of the subject, while the other may be more technical and focus on the analysis of some data or prompt material. For other courses, the two interviews may focus on different aspects of the subject. In some subjects you may be asked to study a short text before one of your interviews. We will inform applicants in the interview letter if they will be required to study a short text before an interview and you will be allocated a reading time and reading room.

We are aware that interviews can be a daunting experience for many candidates, and we will do our best to put you at your ease. We will not try to 'trip you up' or make you feel stupid, and we will not ask any trick questions. Our aim is to see how you perform at your best, and we will do everything we can to make sure you can do this. Please also remember that we are not looking for a smooth or polished performance - we are interested in what you say, not how you say it!

Information about overseas interviews can be found on the University website. You're strongly encouraged to apply for an interview in your home or school country if this is an option - there's no advantage to being interviewed in Cambridge.

If you would like to know more about Cambridge interviews, please look at the university's information pages for advice and tips.


What is the winter pool?

The University of Cambridge receives more than 16,000 applications for around 3,400 places each year. The ‘winter pool’ (also known as the inter-College pool) is designed to ensure that the best applicants receive an offer of a place regardless of the College to which they applied or were allocated (in the case of open applications).

If a College is over-subscribed in a particular course, strong applicants are put into the winter pool for other Colleges to consider. All Colleges can consider pooled applicants and Directors of Studies in each subject meet during the admissions period to discuss the overall standard of applications so that they can see how their own College’s applicants compare – Colleges would rather admit a strong applicant from the pool than a weaker applicant who applied directly/was allocated to them.

As a result of being placed in the winter pool:

  • some applicants may be asked to attend another interview at a different College, usually in January
  • some applicants may be offered a place at another College without further interview
  • some applicants may be ‘taken back’ by their original College and made an offer
  • some applicants are unsuccessful, in which case they’ll be notified by their original College

In a typical year, around 3,300 applicants are made offers by their preference/original College, and around 800-900 applicants are made an offer by another College through the pool.

What happens during the winter pool?

The pool takes place over three days in early January. All pooled applications are available for consideration by Admissions Tutors and Directors of Studies. Colleges seeking further applicants in particular subjects have the opportunity to review pooled applications and the option to re-interview candidates or to offer them a place without further interview. Admissions Tutors also use the pool to look at applicants from other Colleges before confirming all their offers.

What do applicants need to do?

There is nothing that you, your teachers/advisers, or your parent/guardians need to do and you shouldn’t contact any College during this time.

January interviews

If another College wishes to re-interview you, they will contact you in early January (probably by telephone or email – please try to ensure you are available on the telephone number provided as part of your application and check your emails, including the junk folder, regularly). Please note that if you’re invited to be re-interviewed you may hear sooner than most applicants about the outcome of your application.

Before the January interviews, it’s a good idea to do some research about the College that’s going to re-interview you to familiarise yourself with it – have a look at the College website ( or check the entry in the University’s Undergraduate Prospectus.

You may also find it useful to re-read your application (and any submitted work) and look at the information and films about preparing for interviews on the Undergraduate Study website at: If you have any queries about the College offering you a re-interview, you can telephone the College Admissions Office or, of course, ask questions at the interview itself. If you’re concerned about the cost of travelling to Cambridge for a second interview, please advise the College offering your re-interview.

The outcome of the pool

Following the pool, all applicants will be informed of the decision on their application. If you receive an offer from a different College through the pool, you should in no way feel that you’re somehow ‘less good’ than those offered places by their preference/original College. Bear in mind that the purpose of the pool is to ensure that the strongest applicants’ chances of admission aren’t dependent on College choice/allocation. In addition, students who were pooled do equally well academically as those who received an offer from their original College.

If your application is pooled but you’re unsuccessful in gaining a place, it’s important to realise that there may be many very good applicants in the pool who aren’t offered a place. We’re constrained by numbers (in terms of both the size of Colleges and University departments) and can’t take all those who have the ability and potential to do well at the University.

Below you will find answers to some of the questions commonly asked by our applicants. If you can't find the answer to your question here, then please get in touch with the Admissions Officer, Miss Sophie Comiskey () who will be able to help you with further information.

Does Sidney favour applicants from any particular school type?

No! We have absolutely no preference, and success rates of candidates applying from the state and independent sectors are the same. We are firmly opposed to any sort of discrimination, and select our students on academic merit.

Does Sidney prefer pre- or post-A Level applicants?

We have no preference, and welcome applications at either stage.

Are there fixed quotas of places in subjects?

In most subjects, no, and the number of students admitted in any year will depend on the strength of our applicant field in that and other subjects.

The only exception is Medicine, where Cambridge is required to limit its intake to its share of a national quota of places. In common with other colleges, Sidney is allocated a certain number of places in Medicine, and normally admits 9 medical students.

When will I know if my application has been successful?

All Cambridge colleges follow the same timetable, and you will receive a final decision in January.

If Sidney turns me down in January, is that the end of my application?

Not necessarily. Every year, some Cambridge colleges have too few strong applicants in a subject to fill their requirements, while many others will have too many excellent candidates for them all to be offered places. Cambridge operates an Intercollegiate Pool to even out this situation and ensure that across the university, the top candidates in each subject gain places.

At Sidney, we make active use of the Pool, and every year, several applicants who just miss out on a place with us are made an offer by another college. If we think that another college might consider your application, we will put your file into the Pool. A decision will be communicated to you after the Pool is complete.

What happens if I am made a conditional offer, but subsequently just miss the conditions?

If this happens to you, please ask your school to get in touch with us as soon as possible when you find out your grades. Pressure of numbers means that we cannot guarantee to be able to give places to candidates who miss their offers, but we will consider narrow misses very carefully. We will take into account examination grades, interview reports and the other information from your original application, as well as any relevant extenuating circumstances.

If we are still unable to accept you, we may place your application into the Summer Pool for consideration by other colleges who may still have places to fill. We will communicate a final decision to you as soon as possible.

Does Sidney offer video conferencing interviews?

Skype interviews may be considered for international applicants on a case-by-case basis in certain subjects. If you wish to enquire further, please contact the Admissions Office (  

The University and all of the Colleges are committed to the principle that no UK student should be deterred from making an undergraduate application to Cambridge by financial considerations, and that no such student should be unable to take up a place, or have to leave before gaining a degree, because of financial difficulties.


The University website provides up to date information regarding tuition fees.

For UK and EU students from lower income backgrounds, Cambridge offers financial support to help reduce the cost of your tuition fees through the Cambridge Bursary Scheme.

If you will be applying as an international student (ie those resident outside the European Union, including students from the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man), then there is lots of useful information about fees and costs on the University website.


UK and EU students do not pay an additional College fee, unless they are studying for a second degree. The College fee varies slightly between Colleges, but is typically between £6,500 and £9,000 per year. Sidney’s undergraduate College Fee for 2019/20 is set at £8,925.


There are various living costs you will need to consider during your studies at Cambridge. As a guideline, we estimate that a UK student will need around £9,000 a year, although this will obviously depend on your lifestyle. Living costs for EU and international students will be somewhat higher, due to the transport costs of travelling to Cambridge. The information below explains how Sidney Sussex can help you manage your living costs during your undergraduate studies. 


We provide accommodation throughout your undergraduate course, and in 2019-2020, room rents range between £1,154-£1,356 per term, depending on size and facilities (subject to reassessment for 2020-2021). Rents are inclusive of cleaning, maintenance, internet access and most bills. Since terms at Cambridge are short, the savings you make are substantial compared with paying the same weekly rent on a conventional twelve-month lease, as many students at other universities are required to do.

This College has adopted the ANUK (Accreditation Network UK) Code of Practice for the management of student housing.


Sidney, like most other colleges, charges its students an annual contribution (known as the 'kitchen fixed charge' or KFC) towards the running costs of the College kitchens. This charge is set at £180 (per term) for students living in College in 2019/20. Meals in Hall are then provided at very low prices: currently around £4.25 for a two-course, self-service lunch or evening meal, and £8.45 for a three-course, formal evening meal with waiter service. The quality of our meals is excellent, and most students eat in Hall on a daily basis.


Both Cambridge and Sidney Sussex have excellent library provision, meaning that students need to buy very few books. At Sidney, the Richard Powell Library has around 40,000 books, with core texts for all first- and second-year courses, general texts for third- and fourth-year courses, and a wide range of periodicals.

The College has a range of study grants available to help fund research, travel or other study-related expenses. We also award prizes, in the form of money or book grants, to students who have performed extremely well in University or College examinations.


Our central location means that our students have almost no transport costs. All our accommodation, and most faculties and departments, are within easy walking or cycling distance. In addition, Sidney is close to a wide range of shops, restaurants, bars and nightlife.


Both Sidney and the University have a wide range of clubs and societies. Almost all of these are open to students at little or no cost.


If you do get into unexpected financial problems during your time at Sidney, do not worry! We have generous hardship funds available, at the discretion of the Tutors, to help students who find themselves in short-term financial difficulties. Our Tutorial and Student Finance Manager is also available to provide advice to students on budgeting and money management.


Sidney Sussex provides substantial means-tested bursaries for UK and EU students through the Cambridge Bursary Scheme. There is no limit on the number of bursaries available, and all students whose household income is below a certain point will be eligible for a partial bursary. If the household income is below £25,000, students will be eligible for the maximum Cambridge Bursary.

Last academic year, nearly 25% of Sidney undergraduates received some financial support through the Scheme, and of these, just over a third received a full bursary.

We are very grateful to our alumni and other donors, whose generous support helps us to provide bursaries through the Cambridge Bursary Scheme:

  • The John Thornely Society helps us to support Law students
  • A donation in memory of Jean Young helps us support Law students
  • A legacy from Leslie Yoxall helps us support Mathematics students
  • Simon and Jill Campbell provide support for Mathematics and Natural Sciences students
  • Iain Oldcorn helps us to support Natural Sciences, Mathematics and Engineering students
  • The Sir John Fisher Foundation helps us support Natural Sciences, Mathematics and Engineering students from South Cumbria
  • The Hoare Bursary provides support for  students in Medicine
  • John Osborn helps us support arts students
  • Peter Ellis helps us support students from parts of south Staffordshire and south Derbyshire
  • Mike Styles contributes support for students from Liverpool and the North West
  • Ann Farlow helps support students from Northern Ireland


Sidney Sussex has a fantastic location in the heart of the city centre, and one of the great benefits to choosing Sidney is that the majority of our accommodation blocks are located within our College grounds, or are situated just a short walk away. We guarantee accommodation for all undergraduate students staying with us for a duration of up to four years.

In first year, each student is randomly assigned a room by the Tutorial Office. Second and third year students enter a random (rather than academic) ballot. Students can enter this ballot in groups of up to 4 to ensure that they will end up living with friends. Third year students get the first pick of rooms, then the second years get to choose. The order of the ballot in third year is the reverse of the ballot order in second year. This means that if a student gets picked last in the ballot in second year, they will get to pick first in third year. If you have the option to do a fourth year, there is a separate ballot for the fourth year accommodation.

All of our student rooms are single-occupancy, come fully furnished and contain a small fridge. Student rooms date from the late-sixteenth century to the present day, and are maintained and refurbished on a regular basis. All rooms are close to kitchens, bathrooms and laundry facilities. Kitchens are equipped with fridges and combination microwave ovens, and some also have full electric ovens and hobs.

We have a number of bedrooms suitable for students with disabilities. In addition, many rooms are served by lifts, and there is good disabled access to the library and other public rooms.

Students pay for their room for 10 weeks per term when they are living in College, unless they decide to stay on during the holidays when they will be charged accordingly for each additional night. Weekly rents include heating, water, maintenance and cleaning.

Find out more about our range of accommodation here.

This College has adopted the ANUK (Accreditation Network UK) Code of Practice for the management of student housing.


Music lovers can attend the concerts and recitals organised by the Music Society, or join a number of instrumental and vocal ensembles. A practice room is available for use by students, and the College has several pianos and a drum kit. In the Chapel we have a Steinway grand piano, a harpsichord, a chamber organ and the main chapel organ.

A number of choral scholarships are available for members of the Choir, which is run by the Director of Music. In addition to singing Evensong in the Chapel, the Choir has made some acclaimed recordings and tours regularly in the UK and overseas. Recent tour destinations have included the United States, Germany and Dubai.

The Chapel Choir is made up of six to eight sopranos, six altos (male and female), six tenors, three baritones, and three basses. During term time the Choir has a regular commitment in the Chapel to Choral Evensong on Fridays and Sundays and Latin Choral Vespers on Wednesdays.


Meals are provided on a self-service basis in the beautiful Elizabethan dining hall. There is always a wide choice, including vegetarian options, and dining in College is excellent value for money. This means that most students eat in College at least once a day, which enhances the sense of community. On three evenings a week there is also the opportunity to have a more formal, candle-lit meal in Hall. These are popular occassions to meet with friends for a convivial evening, or ro invite guests to the College. Our chefs have recently won several awards, and our formal halls are the envy of many other colleges.


The undergraduate common room (JCR) is equipped with comfy sofas, chairs, satellite TV and DVD, and lots of games! Newspapers are delivered on a daily basis. There is also a smaller common room for undergraduates equipped with a TV which is located in Cromwell Court. The JCR provides a great space for students to socialise and relax.


The Richard Powell Library is a 24-hour resource, with around 40,000 books and over 120 study spaces. The library contains core textbooks for each undergraduate course, together with a wide range of general texts, periodicals and reference books. Most books can be borrowed. The collections are updated regularly, and students can recommend books to be bought. The library is also home to a collection of DVDs and music CDs, and a growing contemporary fiction section. The University Library is a 15 minute walk away from Sidney Sussex which contains several million books, maps, manuscripts and journals, augmented by an ever-increasing range of electronic resources.

Our library is open 24 hours and aims to provide students with a comfortable and supportive study environment, with access to textbooks and electronic resources.


We have a gym on the main College site and this contains a full range of cardio-vascular exercise and resistance equipment, rowing machines and free weights, together with shower and changing facilities. We also have a squash court, and we share a large sports ground with St John's College which is a ten-minute bike ride away. We also have a boathouse on the river Cam.

Sidney has teams for athletics, squash, football, netball, tennis and rugby, among others, and there is also a thriving Boat Club.

Both serious sportsmen and women, and those just wanting to try something new or keep fit, will find a team to suit them.


 The Sidney bar is run by students in conjunction with the College management. The bar contains a pool table and a football table, and has lovely views looking out across the Master's garden. Students host parties and club nights several times each term.

All students require support from time to time, but some care leavers may have specific concerns when starting university.

The far-reaching welfare system in place at the University of Cambridge means we consistently have one of the lowest drop-out rates in the UK. As well as the support you receive through your College, there are a number of University services that provide specialist assistance should you need or want it.

In order to ensure you get the support available to you as a care leaver, you should indicate in your UCAS application that you’ve spent time in care.

If you are or have been in care, or are supporting a young person currently or previously in care and would like more information about visiting or studying at the University and the support available, please contact the Cambridge Admissions Office (CAO). The Realise Team specialise in supporting individuals with care experience and are always happy to offer advice and answer questions that you might have.

You can find out more information on the University of Cambridge website.

In addition, prospective applicants who have spent time in care should note the following:

  • The Cambridge Admissions Office provide a bursary to help Care Leavers travel to Open Days and other similar events.
  • Care Leavers will be eligible for the Interviewee Travel Fund if they were to be invited to interview.
  • Information about financial support and additional accommodation can be found at