Wolfson College, Cambridge

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Colleges of the University of Cambridge

Wolfson College

The Lee Library, Wolfson College
Named after Sir Isaac Wolfson
Established 1965
Previously named University College (1965–1972)
President Sir Richard Evans
Undergraduates 110
Graduates 650
Sister college St Antony's College, Oxford
Location Barton Road, Cambridge (map)
Wolfson Collge Crest
"Ring True"
College website
Student Association website
Boat Club website
Bredon House
The Chinese-style Lee Hall
Lee Gardens

Wolfson College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge in Cambridge, England. The majority of students at the college are postgraduates, with around 15% studying undergraduate degree courses at the university. The college was founded in 1965 as "University College", and changed its name to Wolfson College in 1973 in recognition of the benefaction of the Wolfson Foundation.[1] Wolfson is located to west of Cambridge city centre, near the University Library. Wolfson was the first college in Cambridge to admit men and women as both students and Fellows.[2]

The architect was Michael Mennim of York.

As one of the more modern colleges in Cambridge, Wolfson does not follow all of the traditions of some of the University's older colleges. For example, since the college's founding there has been no "High Table" reserved for Fellows at Formal Hall dinners; students and Fellows mix and dine together, although the tradition of wearing academic gowns to such occasions is still preserved. Both Fellows and students at the college have access to all the facilities. With students from over 70 countries, Wolfson claims to be one of Cambridge's most cosmopolitan colleges.[3]

The current President of Wolfson College is the historian Sir Richard Evans.


After the Second World War, the number of graduates of other universities who came to Cambridge to do research increased significantly. The university therefore decided to found University College in 1965 to help accommodate these students. The college was based at Bredon House, a property built in the early twentieth-century by John Stanley Gardiner, who was a Professor of Zoology at the university from 1909 to 1937. He donated the house, with its long narrow garden running from Barton Road to Selwyn Gardens, to the university upon his death in 1946. The college then purchased further property on its eastern boundary.

In the early-1970s, a major benefaction from the Wolfson Foundation provided capital endowment and helped fund the construction of the central buildings around Bredon House and the college's East and West Courts. In recognition of this, the college was renamed Wolfson College on 1 January 1973.

The new buildings were opened by Queen Elizabeth II in 1977. Though most of the college's buildings are modern, the design of the campus is similar to that of the university's older colleges, with buildings grouped around two main courts. The floor of the entrance hall to the main building is made of thin slices of granite taken from the old London Bridge (the main section of which was taken to Arizona to be rebuilt in the late-1960s).

Further acquisition of neighbouring properties continued into the 1980s, culminating in the purchase of a house and garden owned by Sir Vivian Fuchs on the western side on the college. Plommer House on the northern side of the college was also left to the college in his will by Dr Hugh Plommer, a founding Fellow of the college. The acquisition of property has allowed for the building of a number of new facilities, mainly funded by donations from philanthropic foundations and individuals. A major donation from the Singaporean businessman and philanthropist Dr Lee Seng Tee enabled the construction of two major buildings – the Lee Seng Tee Library and the Lee Seng Tee Hall.

In May 2013, a college fellow, Tim Winter was caught in controversy when video footage came to public attention in which he stated that homosexuality was a sinful and "inherent aberration", with gays being "ignorant people who don't know what their bodies are for". A number of Cambridge students called for his resignation, but Winter claimed that the videos were over fifteen years old and reflected views that he no longer held.[4]

Student life[edit]

The college is known for its entertainment events and performances, which attract visitors from many other colleges of the university. These activities include formal dinners, concerts, dancing nights, music displays, etc.

The Club Room, at the heart of the college, includes the college bar and a dance floor space. It is the main communal space for students, and is the venue for many entertainment events.[5]

Wolfson College Boat Club is a popular society, and Wolfson is one of the strongest graduate rowing colleges in Cambridge.[6]

The library is open 24 hours a day, and the college itself is a short walk from the University Library.[7]

People associated with Wolfson[edit]

Notable alumni[edit]

Name Birth Death Career
Song Sang-Hyun 1941 President of the International Criminal Court
Rupiah Banda 1937 President of Zambia
Conor Gearty 1950 Professor of Human Rights Law at the London School of Economics and Political Science, Director of the Institute of Public Affairs, and former Director of the Centre for the Study of Human Rights
Shahid Aziz Siddiqi 1945 Vice Chancellor of Ziauddin Medical University and
former Federal Secretary in the Government of Pakistan
Cristina Bicchieri 1950 Philosopher and S.J.P. Harvie Professor of Social Thought and Comparative Ethics in the Philosophy Department at the University of Pennsylvania
Matthew Fisher 1946 English composer
Ken Yeang 1948 Malaysian skyscraper architect
Susan Kiefel 1954 Justice of the High Court of Australia
Tharman Shanmugaratnam 1957 Deputy Prime Minister of Singapore
Sabiha Sumar 1961 Pakistani film maker
Zhang Xin 1965 Chinese business magnate and seventh richest self-made woman in the world[8]

Notable Fellows[edit]

List of Presidents of Wolfson College[edit]

The head of Wolfson College is called the President.

See also[edit]


External links[edit]

Coordinates: 52°11′54″N 0°06′03″E / 52.198349°N 0.100914°E / 52.198349; 0.100914