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The University of Cambridge and Girton College

Information for new postgraduates

About the University of Cambridge

Cambridge is a collegiate university and is made up of University Faculties/Departments, Colleges and the University administration or Student Registry. All of this and more is explained at this link. The University’s Postgraduate Guide also gives you a good overview of the University’s structure.  

More information is available in the "Working and Studying in Cambridge" pages.  

There are alot of terms and acronyms at Cambridge and within Colleges - please don't hesitate to ask if you don't know what is being referred to.  We've also created a short list of "Englishisms" for those who are more accustomed to North American English.  

You’ll find these two guides useful, one for PhDs and the other for Masters students.  You'll also find a lot of useful information about being a student at the University here

About Girton College 

Girton College has a 150-year pioneering history that is well worth reading about here. We have a large and diverse community of Postgraduates from over 60 countries. The gender balance is fairly even and we have an intake each year of approximately 200 new students and have another 140 or so continuing students. The balance between research and one-year degrees is about one-third to two-thirds.  

Here are links to important College policies and procedures.  

The Mistress

The Mistress, Dr Elisabeth Kendall, is the Head of the College and therefore the main public-facing representative of the College.

The Mistress’s work is a mixture of ambassadorial and strategic policy in the running of the College. All new Postgraduates will be invited to meet her at drinks in Lent Term as well as around College before then.  

The Senior Tutor

The Senior Tutor, Professor Toni Williams, has overall responsibility for all academic and pastoral matters for both undergraduates and postgraduates. 

The Bursar

The Bursar, James Anderson, manages the College finances in accordance with relevant College Committees. The Bursary (Finance Office) can be contacted at  

The Financial Welfare Officer

Nicky Shevlane can help advise on financial matters and budgeting after you have arrived ( 

College Postgraduate Staff

Wendy Klein and Paula Harper can be contacted by email at

Vicky Argent is the Head of Student Services (    

The Student Services Office is Room A28 in Girton's Main Site Building. 

Each of you is allocated one of five Postgraduate Tutors for the duration of your time in Cambridge. Tutors are all senior academic members of College (Fellows) and are as follows:    

They have prepared this Welcome Letter (PDF) for new postgraduates and look forward to meeting you at the "Meet the Tutor" drinks on 5 October.  

The Tutor's role is to: 

  • support their students in matters to do with, for example, well-being and can offer sign posting to relevant bodies and/or agencies such as mental health services.  
  • Support you if you become ill, your work has been disrupted or you need to take time out from your studies for personal reasons or if you need additional time to complete your studies
  • In the rare cases when things go wrong, and you need to make a formal complaint or appeal against a University department, your Tutor may have an important role as advocate, and will guide you through the formal procedure. While we very much hope this will be irrelevant, should the need arise your Tutor can also help you with disciplinary matters. 

You will be notified when you arrive in Cambridge of your Tutor’s name and contact details, and their “tutorial office hours” held in College and/or online each week during which you may call or visit without an appointment.  There will be formal and informal opportunities to meet with your Tutor at the start of the year. If you have any difficulty at all with your Tutor, you may contact the Fellow for Postgraduate Affairs c/o the Postgraduate Administrator.  

More information is available at this link.  

The Lodges at Main Site and Swirles Court are staffed 24-hours per day and can be emailed at or telephoned at +44 (0)1223 338 999 (main) or +44 (0)1223 760021 (Swirles). 

It's a good idea to add these phone numbers to your phone contact list. The College Porters will be able to answer many of your questions, or signpost you to the appropriate person.

They also deal with incoming mail, issue keys, keep records of room bookings and events, are responsible for fire safety and generally help to keep an eye on what is going on.

They are all qualified First Aiders. If you have an emergency within normal working hours, please contact the Porters in the first instance and they will help by contacting the relevant person who can help, be it your own or the Duty Tutor or a College Nurse.  

Out of normal working hours, in an emergency, porters will be able to contact a Duty Tutor for you.

The College café/bar is called the Social Hub and is open all day for drinks and light snacks, while the Dining Hall cafeteria provides full meals for lunch and dinner. Menus are posted on an internal College site to which you’ll have access after arrival.  All the options are outlined here. Formal Halls are covered below.  

Meals are paid for using your University card via UPay; the charges are then charged back to your College Bill. Meals are sold at a subsidised rate for Girton members and can cost between £4.00 - £7.00 for a main meal.  

Postgraduates with families are welcome to eat in various areas of the College and Girton holds a number of family-friendly events. View more here.

Vegetarian and vegan dishes are provided at every meal but if any students have special dietary requirements not currently catered for, they should consult the Catering Manager (

  • Gluten-free and other special diets can be regularly catered for.
  • No vegetarian or vegan meal contains meat or animal fat, and cross-contamination is avoided.
  • Vegetarian and vegan meals are therefore suitable for those requiring halal food and also for some kosher diets. 

If you have a serious or unusual allergy (e.g. nuts) you should contact the Catering Manager as soon as you arrive (or before if that is helpful) to discuss how the College can help you, by emailing

The College is very keen to foster a lively and integrated college community and Formal Hall is a major part of this support. Formals are typically held every Thursday during term time. (This is occasionally altered when special events are running).

Postgraduates are invited to join any Fellows that are dining on high table.

  • A seat for Formal Hall can be booked by using the web booking service (UPay) by 12 noon on the Tuesday prior to Hall. Booking opens on the Friday prior to each Formal Hall. Please specify whether you would like the vegetarian option at this point.
  • You may bring up to two named guests to Formal Halls where guests are permitted. Charges are debited directly from your University card account.
  • Tickets are non-refundable and not transferable.  
  • Formals are usually preceded by drinks starting around 6.45pm, the meal then begins at 7.15-7.30pm. 
  • Formals are a great opportunity to wear your academic gown. 

Currently, the cost of a Formal is £14.75 and £20.00 for each guest.  

In addition to the normal Formal schedule throughout the year, all first-year students who have not previously matriculated at Girton will receive an invitation to the Matriculation Dinner in November. and final year postgraduates (PhDs invited in the 3rd of their 4 years) will be invited to the College Feast in June. 

Any problems with booking/UPay, contact the Catering Office;

Swirles Court has excellent self-catering facilities:

  • Each shared kitchen has sinks, hobs, ovens, microwaves, prep area and fridge space suitable for the number of users. There are no dishwashers. 
  • Each student has a designated cupboard for storing food.
  • Cupboards and fridges must be kept clean.
  • Out of date food will be disposed of by kitchen staff.
  • Kitchen cupboards are cleaned out when the associated room is vacated, so we recommend that you don’t store belongings in any cupboard other than your own. 
  • College does not permit other electrical appliances than are provided in the kitchen.

The Grange has shared kitchen facilities.  

MCR (or Middle Combination Room)

The is the Postgraduate Student Society at College. It is an elected body from within the Postgraduate community – why not think about running for a position on the committee – it could be one that exists already or one in an area in which you’re passionate. The MCR Room is on the main floor of Swirles Court. Positions include:  President, Vice-President, Treasurer, Secretary (these 4 are the Executive Committee), Social Secretary, Welfare Officer, Dining Officer, BME Officer, LGBTQ+ Officer, Women's Officer, Academic Officer, Green Officer and Communications Officer.  The Executive Committee are happy to entertain new posts if you have a passion for something in particular.  

You can always email the MCR President on, if you have any questions or suggestions.  If you arrive early, please don't hesitate to contact the President with any questions you might have.  

Members of the MCR represent the interests of the postgraduates at many of the College’s strategic meetings. 

Activities (Sports, Societies and Music)

All postgraduates, whether living in or out, are welcome to use all of the facilities at Girton free of charge.