St Edmund's College, Cambridge

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St Edmund's College
University of Cambridge
St Edmund's Norfolk East Wing
St Edmund's Norfolk East Wing
St Edmund's College crest.png
Arms of St Edmund's College
LocationMount Pleasant (map)
MottoPer Revelationem et Rationem (Latin)
Motto in English"Through revelation and reason"
Named forEdmund of Abingdon
Previous namesSt Edmund's House
Age restrictionAged 21 and older
Sister collegeGreen Templeton College, Oxford
MasterMatthew Bullock
Endowment£16.2m (as of 30 June 2017)[2]

St Edmund's College is one of the 31 constituent colleges of the University of Cambridge. It is the second-oldest of the four Cambridge colleges oriented to mature students, which only accept students reading for either masters or doctorate degrees, or undergraduate degrees if they are aged 21 or older (the oldest being Hughes Hall and the others being Wolfson College and Lucy Cavendish College; additionally, Darwin College and Clare Hall admit graduate students only).

Over three-quarters of St Edmund's students are studying towards higher degrees, usually the PhD, MPhil or LLM degrees. The college is named after St Edmund of Abingdon (1175–1240) who was the first known Oxford Master of Arts and the Archbishop of Canterbury from 1234 to 1240. The college is located on Mount Pleasant, about 10 minutes' walk northwest of the centre of Cambridge, quite near to Lucy Cavendish College, Murray Edwards College and Fitzwilliam College. Its campus consists of a garden setting on the edge of what was Roman Cambridge, with housing for over 350 students.

St Edmund's sister college at Oxford University is Green Templeton College, Oxford.

History and buildings[edit]

St Edmund's House was founded in 1896 by Henry Fitzalan Howard, the 15th Duke of Norfolk, and Baron Anatole von Hügel as an institution providing board and lodging for Roman Catholic students at the University of Cambridge. After Catholic Emancipation, in particular after the repeal of the Test Acts in 1873, students who were Roman Catholics were finally admitted as members of the university. In its early days the college functioned predominantly as a lodging house, or residential hall of residence, for students who were matriculated at other colleges. Most of the students, at that time, were ordained Catholic priests who were reading various subjects offered by the university. The college was established in the buildings of Ayerst Hostel, which had been set up for non-collegiate students by the Reverend William Ayerst in 1884. In 1896 Ayerst Hostel had to close due to lack of funds.[3]

Attempts to make St Edmund's House into a fully-fledged constituent college were made at various times after foundation, but were met by continuing hostility by the predominantly Protestant body of Cambridge MAs, graduates of the university who had the right to vote in the Senate House. These occasions often involved large numbers of MAs (who otherwise had only a tenuous connection with the university) congregating in Cambridge to scupper any attempt to uphold what they believed was a "papist" institution. One of the insider jokes, referring to an unsuccessful attempt by St Edmund's to get official recognition from the university, ran as follows: Two Cambridge MAs meet on a train. One of them asks: "Where are you going?" The other answers: "I'm going to bury St Edmund's!"

Meanwhile, the development of the college continued. The chapel was officially consecrated in 1916. A new dining hall was painstakingly constructed in 1939 and the membership of the college increased steadily. The college was now a recognized "House of Residence" of the university, which in Cambridge tradition is typically just below official college status.


Brian Heap Building
Norfolk West Wing

In the early 1960s the university finally established several colleges primarily for postgraduate students. St Edmund's House became one of the graduate colleges in the university. Today, it also admits mature and affiliated undergraduates. In 1965 the college was permitted to matriculate its own students and new fellows were elected. In 1975 it acquired the status of an "Approved Foundation", in 1986 the name was changed from "St Edmund's House" to "St Edmund's College" and in 1996 it finally received full collegiate status. The college was granted its Royal Charter in 1998. The college now accepts students of all faiths and none; the Catholic character of the foundation is, however, still reflected in the chapel, which is unique among colleges of the universities of Cambridge and Oxford in following the historic Roman Catholic tradition.


In 2000, a new residential building housing 50 students was opened, named after Richard Laws, one of the former masters. In 2006, two new residential buildings, including rooms for 70 students as well as apartments for couples, were opened; these were named after the former master of the college, Sir Brian Heap, and the former vice-master, Geoffrey Cook.

In 2016, major plans were announced for the development of two new courts and several buildings which will expand the college and provide modern, world class facilities for the scholars and students of St Edmunds College. While contemporary, the buildings external features and material will be in the traditional architectural vernacular that is found elsewhere in the college. Large brick buildings with close detail will form the perimeter of the two new courts and a new multi-million pound student centre will frame the west side of the college. The expansion plans were approved by Cambridge city councillors in June 2017.[4][better source needed]

Academic profile[edit]

St Edmund's is one of the most international colleges of the university, with students from over 70 countries (2008-2009 academic year). The full spectrum of academic subjects is represented in the college. The fellowship of the college (academic staff) represents many academic disciplines, spread across arts, humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, medicine, and veterinary medicine.

The college has two research institutes: the Von Hügel Institute founded in 1987 to carry out research on Catholic Social Teaching; and the Faraday Institute which explores the relationship between religion and science. The Von Hügel Institute is another link with the Roman Catholic origins of the college.

The overall examination results of the college's comparatively few undergraduates tend to be lower than at most other Cambridge colleges, with St Edmund's consistently featuring towards the bottom of the Tompkins table with the other colleges that only admit mature students.[5][6][7][8]

St Edmunds College, Dining Hall

Student life[edit]

The college is younger than some of the older, more traditional colleges of the university. Despite this St Edmunds maintains many ancient Cambridge traditions including formal hall, albeit with some college modifications. Fellows at most Cambridge and Oxford colleges dine at a "high table" (separately from the students), however St Edmund's has no such division, allowing undergraduates, postgraduates and Fellows mix over dinner and other social activities. St Edmund's students are still strictly required to wear their academic gowns during formal halls, ceremonies, and college occasions. The St Edmund's gown is fashioned from distinctive black cloth with close detailing around the neck and sleeves. The robe may only be worn by members of St Edmund's College, Cambridge

The college has a long sporting tradition, including the St Edmund's College Boat Club. In recent years members have competed in varsity teams representing Cambridge University against Oxford University in a wide variety of sports, most notably, at The Boat Race and The Varsity Match.

On 15 September 2017, a team of four rowers from the college broke the World record for the ‘Longest Continual Row’ in the male 20-29 small team category by over an hour.[9] The following year, on 13 April 2018, a team of ten rowers from the college went on to set the British and World record for "One Million Meters" on the indoor rowing machine in the male 20-29 large team category.[10][11]

People associated with St Edmund's College, Cambridge[edit]

List of Masters of St Edmund's College[edit]


  1. ^ University of Cambridge (6 March 2019). "Notice by the Editor". Cambridge University Reporter. 149 (Special No 5): 1. Retrieved 20 March 2019.
  2. ^ "Accounts for the year ended 30 June 2017" (PDF). St Edmund's College, Cambridge. Retrieved 3 August 2018.
  3. ^ E Leedham-Green 1996 A concise history of the University of Cambridge. Cambridge University Press: 171-2.
  4. ^ St Edmund's College, Cambridge
  5. ^ Garner, Richard (14 July 2009). "Trinity reclaims place as top Cambridge college". The Independent. London. Retrieved 11 May 2010.
  6. ^ "Cambridge Results 2011 - Tompkins Table - Education News - Education". The Independent. 2011-07-18. Retrieved 2015-03-02.
  7. ^ Richard Garner (2013-07-07). "A trinity for Trinity College as it again tops university league table for undergraduate degree results - News - Student". The Independent. Retrieved 2015-03-02.
  8. ^ "Tompkins Table 2013: The Results". Archived from the original on 4 June 2015. Retrieved 2 March 2015.
  9. ^ "St Edmund's College rowers break world record".
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^ "M&C Saatchi". Retrieved 21 November 2018.

Further reading[edit]

  • Garret Sweeney, St Edmund's House, Cambridge: The First Eighty Years, Cambridge, 1980 (ISBN 0-9507177-0-3)
  • Michael Walsh, St. Edmund's College, Cambridge. 1896-1996: A Commemorative History, Cambridge, 1996 (ISBN 0-9507177-1-1)

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 52°12′47″N 0°06′31″E / 52.212943°N 0.108675°E / 52.212943; 0.108675