Clare College Cambridge

Teaching at Clare



In Cambridge, responsibility for teaching is shared between the Colleges and the University. The Faculties and Departments structure the courses offered, organise lectures, practicals and classes, and set, invigilate and mark the examinations. Since the courses are offered by the University rather than the Colleges, all students in each subject take the same course, whatever their College.



The academic role of the College is different from the University's. Colleges arrange the small-group teaching (supervisions), that are such a special characteristic of Cambridge. Students attend lectures, practicals and classes organised by the University, but then in supervisions have a chance to explore their content in much greater depth, to make connections with other areas in the field, to have problems discussed and written work marked. Supervisions therefore provide unique opportunities for students to receive personal help and feedback and often to work very closely with supervisors who are themselves leading scholars in their field. It is this aspect of the teaching in Cambridge that attracts many students to the University, and makes students’ time here intellectually memorable. Supervisions also offer an opportunity to get out and visit other Colleges. This is because students in Cambridge are not supervised entirely within their own College, but are rather sent to the best supervisors available in each subject specialism, whichever their College.

Clare is committed to making the supervision system work for the best possible benefit of its students. All students are assigned a Director of Studies in their subject, who is responsible for their overall academic progress and wellbeing. The Director of Studies advises on subject choices, arranges supervision teaching for each student, is available to help sort out problems, and liaises generally between the College and the University on the student’s behalf. Often, a Director of Studies will act as supervisor if a student is studying a subject in which he or she specialises. Many students get to know their Directors of Studies extremely well, and at Clare we try hard to make this relationship a rewarding one. We have our own internal Directors of Studies in most subjects, and they regularly see all students under their care at the start and end of every term, as well as being readily available to give advice and deal with difficulties.

Clare College provides additional support for all its students. Studying at Cambridge is a very different experience from being at school or college, and Clare makes sure that all its students are given opportunities to receive further guidance. On the first Wednesday of Freshers’ week, graduate students run sessions on topics such as supervisions, essay writing, note-taking and time management. These are specially designed to help newcomers to the Cambridge system understand how everything works. In addition, throughout their time here, all students can receive one-on-one help from one of our two essay writing supervisors or our advisor on dissertation planning. Finally, all Clare students are strongly recommended to read the University’s guidelines on plagiarism at

Plagiarism is a very serious academic offence that may result in a student failing to gain a degree, and it is essential to understand the proper methods of academic study and presentation.