Academic Life

Academic Life

Director of Studies

Your Director of Studies (DoS) will deal with all matters relating to your academic work. They organise supervisions, will meet you at the beginning and the end of each term to discuss your progress, review supervision reports, and to set you new targets. Your DoS is your main source of course information and is the first person you should consider consulting for advice. Don’t be put off by the fact that they may have interviewed you- they are very friendly and approachable. Be aware that it is not unusual to have more than one DoS during your time at Cambridge as academics change colleges/universities or go on sabbatical. If you have any problems with your DoS, you should contact the Senior Tutor, Dr Jackie Tasioulas (jt257 [at] cam [dot] ac [dot] uk).


Your Tutor is responsible for your pastoral care, and will not be a Fellow in your subject. You will be asked to attend a group meeting with your Tutor during Freshers’ week, and it is really important to go along to get to know them. They are your first port of call for any non-academic issues or questions you might have. Your Tutor is the person you should speak to if you encounter any difficulties that interrupt your studies (physically, mentally or financially), or any that require you to leave Cambridge for a short period of time, as they can sort out the necessary arrangements. Any problems concerning your Tutor can also be referred to the Senior Tutor.


Supervisions are the main way you will be taught and are commonly considered one of the best ways to progress academically. The nature and frequency of supervisions differs greatly depending on subject. You will generally be required to submit work before the supervision, which will form the basis of the supervision itself. A supervision usually lasts for about an hour and involve between one and four students. Typically, Sciences have more supervisions than Arts; for Science subjects it is likely that you will have several supervisions per week, whilst in the Arts subjects you may have only one. In Science subjects, supervisions tend to be focused on consolidating lecture material, whilst in Art subjects they may involve discussion of essays that you have written or are preparing to write. The supervision itself gives you an opportunity to ask questions to academics who are experts in their fields, to clarify your understanding and to consolidate your knowledge. The most valuable and rewarding aspect of supervisions is that they are interactive. So, make sure to contribute your views, get stuck in and enjoy the experience!


These run through the 8 weeks of Full Term, beginning on the first Thursday and ending on the final Wednesday. The role of lectures varies considerably from subject to subject. For some, lectures deliver the bedrock of your course material and should all be attended. For others, there is a set of core lectures that can be supplemented by optional extras. If you’re not sure which situation you’re in, speak to your DoS, or your subject rep.

What happens when?


You can build up your own online timetable using the online service provided by the University. To access this, you will need your Raven ID (see the Computing section of this booklet for more details on Raven). Information will be available on the timetable site for the academic year of 2018-19 from September:

If you have any difficulties with the timetable, have a look at the “How Do I…?”document located on this webpage:

Not all subjects upload their information to this timetable, but all will have lecture and class timetables on their websites. Lastly, remember that as a Cambridge undergraduate you are entitled to attend any lectures held across the University, so do take advantage of this fantastic opportunity!


These will be organised by your DoS. They may be with supervisors from within Clare or from other colleges. You might have a set weekly timetable of supervisions that is the same through the year, or this might change depending on what you are studying. Scheduling supervisions can be a real challenge due to the number of different people involved. If you end up with all your supervisions squashed into one part of the week, and this causes problems with getting your work done, let your DoS know and they will organise to change this.

Other forms of teaching

In many subjects, you will also have a mix of other forms of teaching, such as classes, seminars and practical sessions, which is a really good opportunity to test different styles of learning. Your DoS or faculty should inform you about arrangements for these.

Terms Terminology

“Full Term” refers to the 8-week teaching/lecture period and is also the time during which students must be in residence. This is part of a slightly longer whole term, which is simply referred to as ’Term.’ For example, Freshers’ Week occurs mostly outside Full Term, but within Term. You probably don’t need to worry too much about this! Remember that in Cambridge the “week” begins on a Thursday, so all the timetables count from Thursday to Wednesday!

Academic Troubleshooting

Sometimes things can get difficult with academic life at Cambridge. However, you are surrounded here by people who want to help you. You can talk to your DoS, your Tutor, any of your supervisors, or your subject rep about any problems or complaints that you have, however minor. Be sure to ask your college parents about your subject.

Some really useful sessions about study skills will be on offer in Freshers’ Week and later on in the year. If at any point you’d like more information about anything from improving your concentration, to coping with exams, to getting rid of perfectionism, have a look at the resources on suggested here by the University Counselling Service:

…and here by the Cambridge University Students’ Union: http://

The University Counselling Service also runs lots of group sessions on various useful topics, lists of which can be found on their website.

If you’re struggling with essay writing or academic work in general (or even if you’re not, but would simply like some extra advice), Clare has two fantastic supervisors who both deal with study skills and essay writing, Richard Cook (rc489 [at] cam [dot] ac [dot] uk) and Frances Payne (fp261 [at] cam [dot] ac [dot] uk). Your DoS might suggest that you get in contact with them, or you could choose to email them yourself if you feel you could use some extra help in these areas.

If you really think that your course is not for you, and that you’d like to consider changing, make sure you speak to both your DoS, and your potential new DoS, who will both be able to advise you.

For more serious general queries about the course or changes you’d like to see implemented, contact your DoS or the UCS Library/Academic Affairs Officer, Tarn Chamberlain-James (tc533), or the student representatives that will be appointed in your faculty. You can also talk to your subject reps.