In an article for one of Cambridge’s student newspapers, recent graduates were asked to describe their college in three words. Clare’s three words were: underrated, good housing, and community. Setting aside that “good housing” is surely two words, most current students of Clare would find it hard to disagree with that description.
Clare has a reputation for being friendly and welcoming, and this ethos is true of the college’s welfare and staff as much as it is the students. In terms of sites and facilities, it has its world class gardens, and some of the best accommodation across the board for undergraduate students, as well as a clean, modern library, and the most iconic student bar in Cambridge.
There are plenty of colleges in Cambridge, but we hope that the more you read about Clare, the more convinced you will be that Clare is the one for you.
All first years live in and around Memorial Court. With all of your year just across the courtyard you can quickly and easily make friends. It’s also home to the college library, and is directly next to the University Library. It’s about a 5 minute walk from the Sidgwick Site (where most humanities are based) and 10 minutes from town. This makes it easy to get to, but a peaceful place to live and study, out of the way of tourist traffic from Trinity, John’s, or King’s.
Clare first year accommodation is some of the biggest in the whole University and reasonably priced. Most first years choose to have en suite accommodation, with many of the rooms also being ‘sets’ (they have a separate bed room and study). Each staircase has a few gyp rooms (mini kitchens with microwaves, toasters and a hob) – it’s amazing what some students can cook with just a microwave and hob!
Second years live in the Colony, which is a 10 minute walk along the river towards Magdalene. Third and fourth years mostly live in the Colony too, although traditionally some take rooms in Old Court (which is being renovated over the next few years, rendering these rooms off limits). There will be a number of rooms open at the open days so make sure you take a good look round.
Great Hall and Buttery
Clare has a flexible system where you have the choice of a very cheap meal in the Buttery (the canteen), cooking for yourself, or having a 3 course formal dinner in the Great Hall.
Mostly people use the college Buttery which is underneath the Great Hall in Old Court and average costs are between £1.50 and £3 per meal. Vegetarian and vegan options are always available and the Buttery provides a full English breakfast every morning except on Sundays. Fish and Chips Friday lunch time in Buttery is always popular as is brunch on Saturdays. Students wear formal wear for Formal Hall, a three course evening meal served by waiters in the beautiful Great Hall. It’s optional, but a fun way to celebrate a birthday and fairly cheap in comparison to other Colleges (at only around £8) and with no corkage charge for bringing your own wine.
Cellars – College Bar
Clare Bar is known as the best college bar in Cambridge as it is set in the atmospheric crypt under the Chapel. Drinks are cheap and unlike most other colleges, the bar is student run. Clare students can apply to work at the bar during term time to earn some extra money.
The UCS also hosts bops (college parties) which can be a great (but by no means essential) way to meet people at Clare. Cellars also hosts comedy nights, pub quizzes, and open-mic nights, together with jazz nights run by Clare Jazz. Cellars also has a foosball table, and was recently furnished with a new pool table.
Clare Ents is the most popular weekly student run night in Cambridge. Every Friday night the crypt under Clare College Chapel becomes host to the hottest new DJs and artists from Cambridge and across the UK.
The Forbes Mellon Library is the main college library located in the centre of Memorial Court. It is really big and light and provides a perfect working environment. The library has a huge range of books and can order any book you need and can’t find so there’s never any need to buy books, although the generous Clare book grants will support those who do so.
The University Library is incredibly close to Clare (it’s the big tower out the back of Memorial Court) and is another good working environment. There are also two ‘Law Reading Rooms’ based in the ground floor of one of the Memorial Court staircases which are available to Law and Land Economy Students 24/7.
Clare Gardens and Clare Bridge
The oldest and one of the most iconic bridges in Cambridge. Walking back watching the stars over Clare bridge is a perfect way to end the night. You can hire punts at Clare for free.
Clare Gardens and lawns are some of the most beautiful gardens in Cambridge. Though access to the gardens will be restricted due to Old Court renovations from 2020 onwards, the Fellows Garden and Scholars Garden are currently open to students from early morning until dusk during autumn and summer.
The gardens are perfect for relaxing or working in during the summer and snowball fights during the winter. Students can also take their food from the Buttery and eat on the grass in the Scholars Garden.
In the last week of term a Shakespeare play is traditionally performed and directed by students in the Fellows garden.
LCR – Common Room
Just next to the library. Comfy chairs, big TV, DVD player, Nintendo Wii, and tea & coffee. The UCS stocks vending machines in the LCR to provide quick and easy snacks. A great place to chill after a night out or when taking a break from work.
Clare has a strong tradition in music, and has a large number of hugely talented musicians. Whatever your music tastes there’s something on offer for everyone from Clare Jazz to CCMS (Clare College Music Society) to CAMS (Clare Alternative Music Society) to the world-renowned Clare Choir. But don’t worry if you’re not musical, most students don’t play any instruments at all.
Music practice rooms, located near the library, are open to anyone who has an instrument and doesn’t want to disturb their neighbours.
Clare has its own modern auditorium in the Memorial Court Complex. The Riley Auditorium is mainly used for conferencing, but it is often made available to the students in the evening for film nights. It acts, essentially, as Clare’s own cinema! Recently, the UCS screened the final season of Game of Thrones in the Riley, which was immensely popular.
This one is incredibly vain and subjective but aesthetically, Clare is miles ahead of the other colleges. Our college colours (black and yellow) as well as our crest (in black, yellow, and red) mean that our stash is easily the most stylish of all colleges. One to consider for when you’re wearing your college scarf around town.
Old Court, Clare Gardens, and Clare Bridge are also particularly beautiful.
Clare is not for any particular ‘type’ of person. There are no stereotypes and the students here come from a diverse range of backgrounds. This is what makes it such a great place. The ‘friendly college’ tag line is not merely propaganda: people here are genuinely nice and willing to help each other out. This is true in freshers’ week and beyond.
Clare May Ball
One of the most spectacular May Balls in Cambridge. The ball is planned and designed by a team of Clare students and will probably be the best night of your life! This tradition seems likely to resume after Old Court renovations, and in the meantime Clare Garden Party is a very affordable alternative.
Societies and Clubs
Clare has a huge number of sports clubs and societies, which are open to members of all abilities from complete beginners to England players. Many of the sports teams enjoy success, Clare Politics invites famous political speakers in to speak at College, and Clare Actors is one of the most successful and well-funded college drama societies in Cambridge. There’s something for everyone. For a full list of societies see here.
Grants and subsidies
Clare has generous book, travel, research and many more grants. Clare societies are well subsidised by the College, so it’s completely free to get involved with most college sports and societies. You can find out more about money at Clare here. If money is what swings it for you, be aware that other, richer colleges (particularly St John’s) may have more money to offer. Clare’s offer is not to be scoffed at however.
The list could go on!