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Learn this lingo to understand Cambridge students

Updated: Jul 1, 2023

Many places have their professional jargon, i.e. a special, "secret" language that outsiders and uninitiated probably wouldn't understand. For example, there's an infamous corporate jargon with words like “disrupt”, "game changer" and "ASAP" and a secret lingo of pilots who use incomprehensible words like “George” (it stands for a plane’s autopilot system). But did you know that some universities have their own special jargon as well?

One of them is Cambridge University, ranked amongst the world's most prestigious universities and renowned for its rigorous academic programs, particularly in the fields of science and engineering. It turns out that for Cambridge freshers (students who have just started their first year at university) adjusting to university life includes learning a new vocabulary as well. Here're some of the most commonly used words:


Someone whose career is in academia, and researches and/or teaches at the university.


Themed disco in one's College, or “Big Organised Parties”.


A College is a mini hall of residence. There are 31 Cambridge Colleges in total.

CompSci, NatSci, LandEc, Asnac, Mathmo

Nicknames for Computer Science students, Natural Sciences students, Land Economy students, Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic students, and Maths students.


Intercollegiate sports knockout competitions.

Director of Studies

A Director of Studies (DoS) is a tutor in one's subject who monitors a student's progression, helps with her academic choices and organises a small-group teaching, known as supervision.


It is a Cambridge term for an organised social event in College – for example, a party or comedy night.

Formal Hall or "Formal"

A three-course waiter-served meal in the College hall.


Another name for a College kitchen.


Committee of students within a College. Their roles include running welfare schemes, organising "ents", and much more.

May Week

A week of parties at the end of Easter Term (in June!) in celebration of the end of exams.

Michaelmas term, Lent Term, Easter term

Names for the first, second, and third terms of each academic year.

Porter, plodge

Staff members - wardens of College. A porters' lodge (nicknamed "plodge") is generally located at the entrance of the College.


Supervision is a one-on-one or small group teaching method that allows a student to focus on particular aspects of the course, receiving detailed feedback along the way.


A social event where one college/society goes out with another college/society, i.e. meeting ("swapping") for alcohol and/or food.


Anyone who doesn't go to Cambridge University.

Want to know more about what it's like to study in the UK and how to get into the best universities in the country? LEO International Online School offers a diverse and intensive two–year A-Level programme designed to prepare students for university entry in the United Kingdom. Learn more about this programme and our other courses here, and don't hesitate to contact us at

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